Wrestled Away: The incredible journey of the greatest wrestler in the world


Season 1 Episode 3: Wrestled away: The LEE KEMP story (The incredible journey of the greatest wrestler in the world)

Lee Kemp is known as one of the greatest Olympic style wrestlers in United States history. Lee rose to fame when he beat the great Dan Gable and during this interview Lee and I have a very candid conversation about his journey to greatness, his fall to rock bottom and his rise again back to the top in life. This is the truly unbelievable story of excellence; achievement and finding your place in the world after the big lights of fame go out.

LEADERS: This interview is both a celebration and a cautionary tale about what it takes to be exceptional and the pitfalls and challenges that can sometimes accompany you along the way.

Lees accomplishment include:

  • 3 X Gold Medalist in the World Championships,

  • 4 X Gold Medalist in the World Cup of Wrestling,

  • 2 X Gold Medalist in the Pan American games,

  • 7 X US National Champion and

  • United States Wrestling Federation “Man of the Year

  • Hall of Fame: USA Wrestling

Key takeaway:

· 3:32 – How Lee got into wrestling

· 10:44 – When Lee wrestled Dan Gable

· 21:38 – How Lee processed not being able to participate in the 1980 Olympic Games

· 27:40 – Doing more than your opponent and earning your right to win

· 38:51 – Dealing with fear

· 46:06 – Lee’s transition to being a coach

· 59:16 – What Lee is doing now

Notable Quotes:

  • “I loved the idea that it was just my skills against another person’s skills. I would take all the victory or all the defeat.”

  • “When I had that triumph my junior year, that mentally set me up for the rest of my success.”

  • “There are situations in life that seem impossible. How do you go into those situations? What type of mindset do you need to go into an impossible situation?”

  • No one is invincible. We are all human beings.”

  • “Anybody can be beat.”

  • “I disciplined myself and in that discipline I felt like I was sacrificing a little bit more.”

  • “You have to coach within that nucleus of talent that an individual has.”

  • “The successful coaches are the ones that can find a way to lead a team of people in the same direction.”

  • “You can always finish your MBA, but you can’t always be a world champion.”

  • “Wrestling taught me so many things about life and resilience…it showed me what I could become.”

Connect with Lee Kemp:

MOVIE: Wrestled AWAY: The Lee Kemp Story (HIGHLY recommend)

Connect: Your Corner Man:

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Detailed show notes:

On this episode of the Your Corner Man podcast, Coach Bruce interviews 3-time world champion wrestler Lee Kemp. After growing up in the foster care system for the first 5 years of his life, Lee was adopted into a warm and welcoming family in the Cleveland area. They moved to a more rural area of Ohio after a few years and Lee started wrestling in 9th grade, which is quite a late start considering where his storied career would eventually take him.

Once he started wrestling, he fell in love with the individual achievement aspects of the sport and he grew and improved as a wrestler quite quickly. In the summer between his sophomore and junior years of high school, he was able to attend a wrestling camp where he heard from Dan Gable and got to watch him in action. From that day forward, he started to dig more and more into Dan Gable’s career, techniques, and mental toughness in his quest to become one of the greatest wrestlers in the world. Lee went undefeated and won the state championship during both his junior and senior years of high school and he went on to wrestle at the University of Wisconsin during his college years.

Lee started to gain national attention when he beat Dan Gable in a match at the age of 18. He continued to excel in wrestling, eventually winning 3 world championships. After winning the 1978 and 1979 world championships, he was being coached by Dan Gable in preparation for the 1980 Olympic Games when he found out that the U.S. would be boycotting the Olympics that year. Lee went through the grieving process for this unrealized dream and has had to revisit that loss every 4 years since then as he watches other athletes get to represent their countries on the international stage.

Lee dabbled in coaching and also got his MBA during the 1980’s and 1990’s before finally getting back into wrestling as a coach in 2006. In 2008, he was finally able to walk in the opening ceremonies of the Olympic Games representing the U.S., this time as a coach. In 2010, he reconnected with his kids and was able to get his son involved in wrestling as well, eventually moving to California where his kids went to college. He has worked with Team Alpha Male and he is starting to do motivational speaking in addition to helping with the release of the documentary about his life entitled “Wrestled Away.”


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