West Virginia Wrestling


by Dr. Bill Welker

... on John Irving: An Author's Love for Wrestling

John Irving's personal and professional success in life encompasses far more than the written word--and he attributes it to his experiences as a wrestler. If his fame escapes your memory, John Irving is best known for such novels as "The World According to Garp" and "The Hotel New Hamshire." Irving also has numerous literary accolades which include the American Book Award (1979) and the O'Henry Prize for Best American Short Stories (1981). Now allow me to share his love and respect for wrestling with you.

John Irving started wrestling when he was 14 and entered his last tournament at the age of 34. As a high school senior, Irving went undefeated in dual meets and placed 4th in the All-New England Championships. Although he never won a scholastic tournament, his devotion to wrestling inspired him to compete at the collegiate level.

John Irving wrestled for the University of Pittsburgh under the legendary coach Rex Peery. In later years as a writer-in-residence at Iowa University, he was a team member of the Hawkeye Wrestling Club. But as a parent, he had his greatest joy regarding the mat sport. John Irving had the thrill of coaching his two sons to New England State Titles. He is quoted as saying, "I had even more gratification from wrestling as a coach to my two boys. It was very rewarding to see them become much better wrestlers than I ever was."

As an author, John Irving believes that his dedication to the sport of wrestling deeply assisted him in becoming a better writer. His detailed explanation is as follows. "What I got out of wrestling has proved invaluable. I learned discipline--and considerably more than my fellow writers. I see myself, as a writer, much in the way I saw myself as a wrestler: not very talented, not at all 'naturally endowed.' I never was a natural athlete, but I was very disciplined. From wrestling, I learned to work harder than most of my more talented teammates; I had to, in order to compensate for my innumerable weaknesses. Likewise, I don't think I write better than my fellow writers, but I believe I rewrite better. I work longer hours as a writer than any other author I know. Good writing is rewriting, and I have the discipline for it. That discipline came from wrestling."

In closing, John Irving was appropriately selected as one of the charter members of the 1992 "Hall of Outstanding Americans" in the National Wrestling Hall of Fame in Stillwater, Oklahoma.

Return to the West Virginia Mat Thoughts Index Page
Return to the WV-Mat front page

Updated January 5, 1998