June 1991: End of the Road

Jen and I just got home from Colorado. We spent a week there for my sister April's wedding. It was fun. World Team Trials were at the same time, and I debated for several days about which was most important, and in the end decided that family should win out this time.

My brother Brad told a story at the reception about April getting bucked off her horse at one of her first horse shows, when she was probably 10 years old. She got back on and finished the show, and he said he was very proud of her. Who knows if it's even a true story or, if it was, whether he was actually there. But he makes a good toast, and that's the important thing.

I'm coaching two camps with Barry this week, one in Des Moines and one in Wisconsin. The Iowa camps start at the end of the month.

I'm in Illinois at Jen's parent's house. We decided to spend a couple of days here before wrestling camps start.

Last week I went to Ben Peterson's camp in Wisconsin with Barry. It was way up in the woods, on a nice little lake. We stayed five days, and--in addition to wrestling, obviously--we went swimming, canoeing, and fishing. We even saw a bear and the Northern Lights.

The only slightly weird thing was that it was a Christian camp. I curse like a sailor and like to quote Bertrand Russell and Nietzsche a lot. So I felt a bit like Judas infiltrating the disciples. I did mention to Ben one night that I thought it was great that he was offering these kids a good role model, regardless of whether they became devout Christians. He said, no, he wanted them all to become devout Christians. Okay. So my attempt at finding common ground was unsuccessful, and I slinked away into the night to read my science books.

The Iowa camps started this week, and they're going okay. We've got a lot of kids. I'm an Assistant Coach, so I have to run with the kids every morning at 6:45am. At this point I'm used to it. And I'm getting paid for it, whereas they're shelling out $400 for the privilege.

I got accepted to Yale business school.

It feels great to say it. The guy from the admissions office called early this afternoon to tell me. I'm supposed to get stuff in the mail on Monday or Tuesday. It caught me off-guard, to be honest, because I had already resigned myself to staying one more year at Iowa and finishing my MBA here. But when I hung up the phone I was kind of shaking, and I felt like running outside and yelling, "I got accepted to Yale!"

So...Jenny and I are going to New Haven.

I will miss wrestling. I'm know I'm in the twilight of my career already, but I'll miss it. I wrestled with Zaputil last week at camps and beat him twice in a row, 9-3 and 9-2. In front of the camp kids.

But it's time to move on, and I know that.

When I was at my lowest point, a few years ago, when I was struggling to find TV production jobs and trying to decide what to do about my wrestling career, I remember writing a letter to my grandparents. I said I guess I'll never be an All-American wrestler or graduate from an Ivy League college, but life goes on.

When Gable introduced the camp coaching staff to the kids last week, he said, "This is Todd Tarpley. He's a 2-time All-American." I thought, wow, I am.

There are so many better wrestlers than me here, and so many opportunities to be humbled if not outright humiliated on a daily basis, that I've never allowed myself to take a breath and be proud of what I've accomplished.

So...I'm smiling as I write this, and I hope my grandfather is smiling down on me too.


  1. Thanks for sharing your journey.

  2. Brilliant read....thanks for taking the time to share this!

    Can I ask what you're doing now, 25yrs later?

  3. Thanks, JC. Jen and I have two sons and live in NYC. I work in digital media and write children's books. I'm no longer involved with wrestling, but I still follow the Hawks. My blog is ToddTarpley.com.

  4. Extremely enjoyable read and my hat off to you for your tremendous accomplishment. I haven't wrestled in over 40 years and this story brought back a world-wind of both good (e.g., winning a high school Christmas tournament on Long Island) and not-so-good (e.g., being pinned by Wade Shalles in around 15 seconds in a summer AAU tournament) memories.

  5. Tom, thanks so much for sharing. As an ex-wrestler and huge fan, I was mesmerized reading your entire diary from way back in the day. That said, I have a feeling anyone would enjoy following your story. I was hoping you would marry her. :-) One question: Are you still in touch with some of guys?

    1. Thanks, Stewart. I stay in touch with several teammates, mostly via Facebook. It's always nice to see someone in person, although I'm always shocked that they're, like, old. I still want to believe that when I left Iowa, time stood still and everyone else is still there, exactly the same age, like Field of Dreams. I should probably also mention that I've even run into Alger a few times, and he has graciously not kicked my ass. So I am particularly appreciative of that.

  6. Todd I know high- and-sight is 20/20, but I could tell in your thinking pattern that your were conflicted, about being "totally committed". In my humble opinion your goals weren't high enough. Why settle for placing at nationals. Why not win? Why not Olympic gold? Gable is right dominate, crush them! Never let them forgit the beating you gave them. I hope you can see that through what the Brands accomplished even though Terry came up short his goal never changes. If you beat him in practice and then read his journal it would say " tarply beat up on me today, but I will kill him next time. I own his butt" you may have beaten him physically but he was never beaten mentally. I'm glad you shared this it was cool to read about you hanging in there with the best our county has/had to offer. I learned a lot.

    1. I think you are 100% right, Ben. I was very lucky to achieve my goal because it was by the skin of my ass both times. If you really want to be an AA you have to set your sights on being a national champ. Because there are maybe 5-6 guys who are really vying for the title, but 20 guys who are vying to be AA. That only leaves 2-3 AA spots for the guys who aren't vying to be champs. Those are long odds. On the other hand, I sometimes think about the fact that I'm pretty pleased with my 2 AA performances, whereas Terry is pretty pissed about his Olympic bronze. That is irony. Every goal is kind of arbitrary in the end. You just have to decide what yours is going to be, then stick to it. (BTW, Terry's journal wouldn't say "Tarpley beat up on me today." It would say "That pussy Tarpley refused to go 2 out of 3 with me today." And I would reply, "That's because I got it done in 1.")

    2. Thanks Todd. Really enjoyed this!