Monday, July 6, 2009

THE ROCKY BALBOA OF WRESTLING

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The following article appeared in a local Airheadzona newspaper I happened to pick up and read one day. Something about the story touched a place in my heart that I try to keep out of reach. Well, dogged if now I don’t feel like I want to make a modest donation to this wrestler’s impossible dream. Read this brief article and see if that hidden wallet in your own hidden heart isn’t also touched:

OLD WRESTLER REVIVES DREAM OF COMPETING

By Randy Camacho

Staff members at Ira Murphy Elementary School in Peoria noticed the gradual weight loss of Assistant Principal Sammy Chagolla.

His friends and family had observed the physical change, as well. Sammy's ill-fitting clothes were beginning to hang from his shrinking body. But, no one could build up the nerve to ask the simple question, “Sammy, are you all right? Are you dying?”

For Sammy, the story begins in July 2008, when his wife, Carrie, gave him a letter she happened upon while both were looking through some old wrestling photos.

Sammy had written the letter to himself in 1988 at age 23, after he failed to make the U.S. Olympic wrestling team.

The letter was full of regret and second-guessing. He believed he should've wrestled in a lower weight class. He also believed he had let his coach, family and teammates down.

This sinking feeling of a dream unfulfilled prompted Sammy to write the letter.

Sammy wrote, “If I'm healthy at the age of 45, I will train to wrestle in a big national wrestling tournament. Maybe if I'm healthy and daring, I can just enjoy the battle of the sport of wrestling. I don't know if this will happen, but I'm a dreamer. … I hope God will help me get past the failure of the Olympics Trials.”

He also promised to become a wrestling coach for Peoria and guide them to a state championship; which he did.

So that evening, Sammy located his old jogging shoes and began training privately. For months Sammy concealed from everyone the dream that had thrust itself upon him.

He's a private person and didn't want the added pressure. By November, Sammy had shed nearly 40 pounds. He was weighing in at 138, one weight class lower than the weight he wrestled at in the Olympic Trials. Interestingly, Sammy lost the weight naturally by eating and training properly, a far cry from his training method 20 years earlier, which consisted of starving himself to make weight.

Looking back, had he trained this way and wrestled in a lower weight class it might have made the difference in making the Olympic team.

Sammy would go public with the wrestling news in April. But not before he was on his way to Las Vegas to take part in the Veteran's National Championships in an effort to undo 20 years of regret. It meant a great deal to Sammy to have his former high school coach in his corner.

Sammy would go on to place second in the 138.5 weight class, ages 40-48. Greatly elated, Sammy felt a tremendous weight lifted from his shoulders.

Sammy's journey was supposed to end in Las Vegas. But, placing second in the national tournament qualified him to participate in the World Championship Tournament in Turkey in August. Sammy is wrestling with raising $5,000 to cover the cost of the trip. A fundraising Web site, http://www.samchagolla.com/, has been created.

The “Little Wrestler Who Could” has proved he has one more in him and his arduous long journey serves as an inspiration to all who believe they have one more in them, as well.

Randy Camacho can be reached at
randycamacho @cox.net.

~ Stephen T. McCarthy (can be reached by a bribe).

Postscript: The links above take you to a page explaning how to donate.
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