Iowa Alumni Magazine | June 2007 | Reviews

Four Days to Glory: Wrestling with the Soul of the American Heartland by Mark Kreidler

By Shelbi Thomas
Four Days to Glory

"They no longer see it as enough to get their hands raised in the air at the end of the match," says Sacramento Bee sports columnist Mark Kreidler of Iowa's high school wrestling champions. "They have identified levels of competition beyond mere winning and losing, pushed through to some parallel universe to which only the elite are admitted and within which only thorough domination is acceptable."

Welcome to the world of the Iowa State High School Wrestling Tournament. Every year, the state's finest wrestlers gather at "the Barn" in Des Moines for one of the largest events of its kind in the country. Some 8,600 Iowa high school wrestlers start each season dreaming of a state title; a mere 42 emerge as victors. In Four Days to Glory, Kreidler follows the cream of Iowa's crop—Jay Borschel and Dan LeClere (now Hawkeye wrestlers)—as they toil to become only the 15th and 16th four-time champions in more than 80 years of state tournament history.

Through the lens of Borschel and LeClere's senior years, Kreidler gives readers an insider's look at the often under-appreciated sport that thrives in Iowa's small towns. Candid remarks from parents, coaches, and grapplers help present a gripping tale of the sacrifices made even to get on the mat. The wrestlers face exhaustion, hunger, and the urge to quit. Kreidler's account shows why these and other hardships are a small price to pay on the road to glory.