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“Four Days to Glory” chronicles two Iowa high school wrestlers in their most important season

In February 2005, Jay Borschel's and Dan LeClere's lives changed.

Borschel and LeClere, who live about twenty minutes apart from each other near Cedar Rapids, Iowa, found themselves trying to achieve what few have done in Iowa's history; become four-time state champions in wrestling.

Every moment of their final season of high school wrestling was documented by Mark Kreidler in a book titled "Four Days to Glory: Wrestling with the Soul of the American Heartland."

The concept for the book came from an article Kreidler read about the Iowa High School State Wrestling Tournament in Des Moines, Iowa.

"It is the largest event of its kind," said Kreidler. "I thought it would be a great magazine article to go to the tournament in Des Moines and describe the events."

After discussion with a colleague, the idea of writing a book about the tournament was more fitting.

"I couldn't do a book unless there was a story to go with it," said Kreidler. "It was total serendipity that these two guys, high school seniors, were looking to be four-time state champions. I started to realize I could do this. I could tell both their stories with peaks and valleys and explain the larger picture of how important the sport is in Iowa. It was pure luck that both these kids were on this adventure."

Kreidler wanted to expose wrestling to a larger audience. He said the sport is sometimes profiled glibly and colleges have been cutting some programs. Kreidler researched and found few books that featured wrestling, mostly instruction manuals.

"It is a great time to celebrate wrestling. It is a killer sport," said Kreidler. "You can't do it half way and do it well. It was obvious how much time the wrestlers put into it. Most of my career has been devoted to professional sports. I watch these athletes at such a high level and they lack the quality, purity, passion and determination that the athletes in amateur sports have."

Wrestling has an important history in Iowa. Kreidler attended a little league tournament and described how even from a young age, parents are enrolling their children in wrestling clubs, in hopes of their children becoming champions later in their life.

"I never thought that I wouldn't include that chapter. It explains a lot about how wrestling is regarded in Iowa," said Kreidler. "It was a great way to illustrate the feeling about wrestling by getting started early in life. Wrestling teaches kids life lessons right from the start. I was told that I would find the most involved and manic parents while visiting the younger tournament."

Even before Kreidler had the chance to ask the Borschel and LeClere families to participate, the book had been sold to the publishers. Kreidler met with the families in December and moved to Iowa to stay near the families during January and February 2005. Kreidler said the families were very helpful from the beginning and never looked back about agreeing to do the book.

"From the first minute that I was in Iowa, I was treated with nothing but friendliness and openness. They are gracious and wonderful people," said Kreidler. "The Borschels and the LeCleres made it easy to be there because they are kind."

The book doesn't end with the final match of Borschel's and LeClere's high school career. The original ending of the book described how the boys left Iowa to wrestle for Virginia Tech. When the manuscript was already finished, a change of events made Kreidler add a different ending.

Borschel and LeClere had decided to follow former Iowa assistant coach Tom Brands to Virginia Tech to continue their wrestling career under Brands lead. However, when Brands returned to the University of Iowa to become head coach, the boys followed.

"When Tom took the job in Iowa, it was a toxic fallout that is still rattling on," Kreidler said. "There was no way I could leave the book hanging. It was a controversial move for the wrestlers, but it circled back to the place they thought they would be. It was a frustrating year for them and with the release of the book it reminds them of what they aren't doing this year, wrestling. There is noting worse than when athletes get used as a ball and get caught in the middle of a situation like this."

Virginia Tech didn't release the boys from their scholarship, which made them ineligible to wrestle during their sophomore year of college.

If Kreidler could have his wish, he wishes people would read the book and come away appreciating the sacrifice and dedication it takes to participate in the sport. He wants people who maybe aren't wrestling fans to say 'My gosh, these are a bunch of battlers.'

"I want people to realize there are places in America where it is not fashionable to be cynical but to be loved for doing something well. The pressure for these kids is that they are representing their community," said Kreidler.

After its release on January 23, the book was the No.1 selling sports book on Kreidler said the book has been well received by readers, especially the families.

"Both families are thrilled with the book," he said. "They are proud of their sons. They will have the chance to pull down the book from their shelf in 20 years and be able to read what happened over and over again."
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