Saturday, June 2, 2007
The third time was NOT the charm for Jay and Dan in Four Days to Glory: Wrestling with the Soul of the American Heartland by Mark Kreidler. Both of them are three-time Iowa State Champions in wrestling and while this is no small feat, it is not enough to raise either boy from the ranks of the "merely good" to "excellent." For that distinction they will need to become "four timers" and join an elite group of Iowa wrestlers who achieve mortality on a social and athletic par with that of Olympian gods. In addition to struggling with the pressure to exceed in the ring and the classroom, both student athletes face added pressures. Jay is an exceptional wrestler who feeds off his criticism from Internet fans and local sports journalists. Dan is a legacy--his own father was a wrestling champion. Dan's brother, Chris, is entering the sport in Dan's shadow but without Dan's talent. Jay is virtually ignored in his school and town for his prowess and Dan is pointed out as his rural town's one chance for notice on a regional scale. The author does an adequate job of bringing both boys, their families, friends, school mates and other community figures to life, but rarely, and without much interest, examines their lives in other arenas besides the gym. Otherwise the writing is very accessible and flows easily. The suspense is marginal for a story told with a straight reportage tone rather than a breathless narrative one. Not as memorable as Friday Night Lights by H.G. Bissinger, but fans of that book will find something to like in this one.