Readers of Carl Deuker’s sports stories will likely enjoy T. Glen Coughlin’s latest book. One Shot Away: A Wrestling Story follows the narratives of three wrestlers in Molly Pitcher, New Jersey, during their senior year: Jimmy O’Shea, Diggy Masters, and Trevor Crow.
Although not the typical wrestler’s build at 6’2”, Jimmy is ranked best 160 pounder in the county and slated for the Wall of Champions if he can avoid the distraction of his dad’s dastardly deeds. Mr. O’Shea’s PhD in post hole digging, predilection for thievery, and passion for alcohol threaten to jeopardize Jimmy’s goals.
At 152 pounds, Diggy is living in the shadow of his wrestling dynamo of a brother and starving to make weight. Even though he knows guys make mistakes when they’re angry, Diggy wears anger like a second skin. That his father, Coach Randy, rides him incessantly and is an abusive fanatic doesn’t help Diggy’s cause. Diggy is also unwilling to admit what his teammates know: he’s a slouch in the workout room.
A Penobscot Indian and the only Indian in Molly Pitcher not from India, Trevor endures relentless teasing for his differences. As if his life weren’t already off-kilter, when his father is killed in a freak accident, Trevor’s world is permanently tilted. In debt, the family is forced to move to a motel, where Trevor’s mother cleans and works the desk. Trevor finds release in weight-lifting and in his plan to dominate the mat—a tribute to his dad’s memory and a way to secure posthumous pride.
Under the power of Coughlin’s pen, wrestling moves beyond the dieting and the dislocations. Rich with terminology, the book teaches readers that wrestling is cerebral, physical, and strategic. It is about skill, strength, determination, and courage—not luck. As the athletes perform their moves: double leg take down, half-nelson, cradle, bridge, or whizzer, the reader—who knows the struggle and the strain each has endured—wants the pin, the win, as much as the boy. And each boy has his own agenda. When Coach Greco asks Diggy what he wants from wrestling, Diggy responds “To win, to get a scholarship” (127), but Greco invites him to refocus: “How about getting prepared mentally and physically for life? How about becoming a good sport? How about leaving this program in better condition and a better person?” (127).
Besides following their wrestling careers, readers also follow the boys on their journeys with girls and to maturation—a circuitous path littered with poor choices and secrets that distract and threaten to destroy them, a path with temptations that test their loyalties to family, friends, team, culture, and self. Ultimately, the three boys know that all it takes is one shot, one properly executed shot, to win, and all it takes is one bad choice or one distraction to lose.
- Posted by Donna