Ivan Korske and Bobby Zane couldn't be more different—they come from different backgrounds, different lifestyles, and they have very different values and ways of looking at the world and dealing with people. Yet they both have the drive, determination, and commitment to self-sacrifice necessary to become a champion. In the end, though, only one will stand in the center of the mat with his arms raised in victory. Has each boy prepared enough? Sacrificed enough? Does each want to win enough? All the training, pain, running, and cutting weight ultimately comes down to a few short minutes on a wrestling mat—leaving one boy the victor, the other devastated.
About the Author
ALFRED MARTINO is founder and president of Listen & Live Audio. Pinned is his first novel. He lives in New Jersey.
Read an Excerpt
By Martino, Alfred C.
Harcourt PaperbacksCopyright © 2006 Martino, Alfred C.
All right reserved.
Wind rapped against the bedroom window. Ivan Korske stared beyond his reflection, into the shadowy woods that surrounded the family's farmhouse. November, and its chilly prelude to winter, had long arrived. Ivan stretched a thermal shirt over his back, then pulled long johns up his thighs. A plastic rubber-suit top that crinkled when he slipped it over his head came next. Sweatpants and a sweatshirt followed.
Downstairs, a grandfather clock chimed eleven. Ivan vaguely noticed, grabbing a pair of weathered running shoes on the floor of his closet. While most Lennings High School seniors spent Sunday night on the phone, piecing together memories of the weekend's parties, Ivan prepared for his evening run.
Every night, regardless of how tired or hungry he was, Ivan ran. When his running shoes were soaked from rain, he ran. When his fingers were numb from the cold, he ran. The night his mother died last April, he ran.
The final judgment of his high school wrestling career hinged on whether he stood victorious in Jadwin Gymnasium, site of the New Jersey State Championships, the second Saturday of March. Each run, Ivan was certain, brought him that much closer to the dream of being a state champ and a chance to get away-far away-from Lennings.
Anything less would befailure.
Ivan sat at the end of his bed in the sparsely furnished room, dog tired from an afternoon of splitting logs behind the shed out back. There was a dresser and bookshelf, a wooden chair to his left, and the red and white of a small Polish flag coloring one of four otherwise bare walls. Ivan leaned over to tie the laces of his running shoes, then looked up at the photograph of his mother as a teenager in the old country-a sturdy young woman with soft, rounded cheeks and bright hazel eyes. Ivan was proud to have the same. The silver frame glinted from his meticulous care, even under the dim light of the bedroom lamp.
Ivan imagined his mother sitting beside him, as she often had the last months she was alive. "Too many chores for you," she would say. "Your father forgets you are only seventeen. I will speak with him. I know you have other interests..." She would smile and give a knowing nod toward the house across the street. "Even besides this wrestling sport."
Alone, in the chill of his bedroom, Ivan closed his eyes. He could hear her words, soothing and familiar, and see her face, robust and healthy, as they once were. He remained that way for some time.
"Ivan." His father's voice bellowed from the first floor. "Are you running now?"
Ivan held back the sadness and hardened his face with unflinching resolve, the same glare he gave opponents before a match. "I'm going."
"Yeah, Papa, now."
He grabbed his jacket from the chair, walked out of the bedroom and down the stairs, its floorboards creaking and the radiator clanking from the rush of hot water through the metal piping. The scent of chimne bottom of the staircase, Ivan zipped his jacket and stepped out the front door.
It was a clear night. A crescent moon hung just above the tree line. Ivan looked across the street at the Petersons' house. In a second-floor corner window, he saw Shelley's silhouette, head propped on an elbow, at her desk. Finishing her homework, he knew. Ivan breathed in deeply. Cold wind pressed against his body and slipped beneath his clothing. He felt alive, intensely aware of every inch of his skin, nostrils, and the full expansion of his lungs.
This is gonna be a good run.
With a shiver, Ivan started down Farmingdale Road. His running shoes bounced off the pavement edged by fields of withered grass, beyond which miles of woodlands passed in darkness. Ivan traveled back in time, as he did during every evening run.
...Lennings' first freshman varsity starter-108-pound weight class. Going against the captain from Westfield-fourth in the state the year before. Everyone talking about me. Lots of articles. Always spelling my name wrong...Scared to death in the locker room before the match...
Forgetting what to do for the fifty-four seconds it took the guy to toss me all over the mat. Struggling to get off my back, while he squeezed the half. So tight my lungs couldn't expand. Can't breathe! Can't breathe! Panic scrambling my head until, finally, giving in. Letting my shoulder blades touch the mat. The referee calling the pin, ending the nightmare...
I gave up...
To Ivan's right, Sycamore Creek snaked its way through the woods before emptying into a pond, a stone's throw wide, where he and the Scott broth played ice hockey as kids. Six years ago, the township's new irrigation system began siphoning off water for a nearby corn farm, leaving the pond a bed of damp silt. Not that it mattered to Ivan. Shortly after, the Scotts moved away. He never heard from them again. No letters or postcards, no phone calls. They were just gone. To somewhere in Minnesota was all he knew.
A car came up behind him-illuminating the road ahead, stretching his shadow-then passed by, leaving the crimson of its taillights and the hum of its engine fading into the night.
And his wrestling memories, still raw years later, continued.
...first sophomore region champ at Lennings. Dreams of going farther. Riding a nine-match winning streak-all by pins...Quarterfinals of the states-122 pounds. Whipped by some guy from Newton. Hit a switch, and hit it hard. But the guy steps across and catches me. On my back. Fighting to get out. Then finally do. I score a reversal, later a takedown, but nothing else.
Time runs out. The humiliation of getting beat 11-4. Walking off the mat, the crowd staring at me like I'm some loser. No escape. Freezing-cold nights running. Drilling moves for hours and hours and hours. Thousands of push-ups. Thousands of sit-ups.
But I lost...
Losing tastes like crap...
Passing Wellington Farms, Ivan counted 564 steps along the length of the wooden fence. The night before it had been 573. He had logged so many miles on this road, he could run, eyes closed, and avoid all the potholes and broken pavement. Sweat coated his body, while heat trapped within the layers of his clothing insulated him from the cold. Ahead, a row of street la Street.
The center of town was desolate. Ivan passed Mr. Johnston's Florist Shop, a fixture in town for decades; Burley's Automotive; and the Starlite Deli. In the deli's front window a poster read: IVAN-BRING HOME THE STATE CHAMPIONSHIP! A little farther, Ivan passed Hometown Hardware, then, at the corner, a neon sign blinked above Evergreen Tavern. The gravel parking lot was nearly full. Drinking away the last hours before another dreary week of life began, Ivan figured. He crossed the intersection, and soon, the center of Lennings was behind him. All Ivan could hear was the beat of his running shoes on the pavement and his steady, comfortable breathing.
...junior year, undefeated after twenty-four matches-fifteen by pins. Named one of the top 129-pounders by the Star-Ledger...Gonna be Lennings' first state champ. Everyone says so.
Too many newspaper articles. Too many interviews. Too many people wanting me. Too many distractions. Semifinals of the states, against last year's champ, from Highland Regional. So damn close...
Got caught in the first period, but came back in the third. Time running out. Needing a two-point reversal. Sat out, then hit the switch. Leaning back hard against the guy. He's gonna collapse. Ten seconds left...nine...
Four- The buzzer goes off as the guy collapses.
No, there's three seconds left! How'd the buzzer go off too soon? They said the timekeeper made a mistake. That's it. End of discussion.
The timekeeper screwed up.
Lost in the state semifinals.
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What People are Saying About This
"Unsparing and told with such visceral acuity that the reader can almost feel the burn of the mat, author Martino meticulously details the kind of guts it takes to get the glory."Kirkus Reviews "Many teens will identify with the boys' struggles both on and off the mat."School Library Journal
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Great book, its like real life wrestlung eveyone should read
Takes you inside the world of high school wrestling.
Although I no-longer wrestle, this novel was a great display of how one must desire to be a champion. Martino is clearly an expert on the subject of high school sports, particularly wrestling, because he was able to show this through his knowledge of the many wrestling moves and the conditioning necessary to succeed in the sport. I am personally a fan of most sports books, but this is up there with some of the best I have ever read.
This is the story of two high school senior wrestlers, each with his own story and each determined to win the state championships. The boys do not know each other, but through the author's use of alternating chapters, readers learn how their stories are actually quite similar.Bobby is from an upper middle class family and his parents' marriage is falling apart. Ivan's mother died less than one year ago and his father has been very distant since then. Both boys struggle with these familial relationships and with romantic relationships.In order to be successful wrestlers, they do horrible things to their bodies. The author is a former high school and collegiate wrestler and his experiences lend a great deal of credibility to the novel. The book is set in New Jersey. There are a few cultural references to class differences, but not many. The plot is sometimes slow because the protagonist switches between Bobby and Ivan in every chapter. Mature topics include sex and references to bodily functions related to "cutting weight."Highly recommended for middle school and high school libraries.
Martino gets to the heart of what it means to be a true competitor in high school wrestling, all the while keeping the story grounded in how some teen-agers' lives unfold: the complications, the unrest, the pressures, the anxieties, the risks, the health issues, and whatever relationships which can often tie up a wrestler worse than any opponent on the mat. The structure keeps the story moving forward incredibly well, breezing through weeks at a time, but plotting the development of his two main protagonists confidently: disparate backgrounds and different reasons for coming into wrestling, but drawing a recognisable parallel between how teen-agers experience an isolation or detachment from their parents during this natural and turbulent rite of passage. This last might help young readers see that they are not alone in their experiences, and may open paths for communication; at the same time reminding parents of what they went through as teen-agers. This is a fairly simple story, but I give it extra points for the inner-dialogue peppered throughout its pages, lending the novel its verisimilitude. Also, some of the unexplained wrestling terms may confuse some readers, but not wrestlers. That said, some minor editing wouldn't have gone amiss. Character archetypes (e.g., both sets of parents) may mirror their counterparts but feel rather under-written. Still, this is a novel about two boys, and how they're viewing their respective worlds, so this two-dimensionality fits that profile. Now, I liked the ending, it fits the novel in the sense that it is about the journeys these two lads take to get to the States - but it did remind me of another wrestling-novel, Vision Quest by Terry Davis. Then again, that's not a bad thing either.
Wrestling, have you heard of it? Ivan and Bobby have two different lifestyles. Ivan has a dad that does not push him. Bobby, on the other hand, comes from a wealthy family that cares about everything he does. The two boys have never met yet and will only meet for six minutes if they both make it to state title. Everybody knows that in wrestling only one can walk off the mat with the state title. To make it to state the boys have to put in long, grueling hours of hard work at practice. The hardest thing every wrestler will say is that the cutting the weight is the hardest. You will see that it is the hardest and that the boys will starve for long periods of time. From the pain and grueling hours of hard work, who will walk off the wrestling mat with the state championship in their hands? Read on to find out. I loved this book because it explained what we wrestlers go through to do the sport that we love. I thought it was confusing at first because I did not realize that the book was talking out two separate boys. So when they switched stories, it got confusing. But once I figured that out, it was easy to follow along with. I can relate to this book because I am a wrestler myself. I know that it is hard to make weight so you can be in the weight class that you want to be in for the season. If you are still debating on this book take these thoughts into consideration. You will like this book if you like wrestling or most sports or if you enjoy action books. Remember to choose what you want to read and have fun with it.
My 15 year old wrestler read this book and thought is was great. He is looking for a sequel - it is not often he is looking forward to reading. Thank you for your contribution to literacy and helping students understand different cultures and values.
I wrote this novel with two primary objectives in mind: To offer wrestlers (current and former) and sports fans something fresh and interesting to read, and to put the sport of amateur wrestling in a positive light. I believe I have done both. I hope you enjoy 'Pinned.' Thanks, Alfred C. Martino