Published in 1979, Davis’ book served as the basis for the 1985 movie “Vision Quest” which helped propel the careers of actors Matthew Modine, Linda Fiorentino, Daphne Zuniga and Forest Whitaker … and introduced the wrestling community to Frank Jasper, who made the role of Shute his own, and has made Jasper an iconic figure in social media and at major wrestling events throughout the nation.
Terry Davis, a retired English professor at Minnesota State University in Mankato, is still writing from his home in southern Minnesota. In fact, he just penned an essay for the Mankato Free Press titled “It’s Not What I Did for Wrestling; It’s What Wrestling Did for Me.”
Here’s how Davis explains the title of his essay: “The movie introduced people to the book. Over the years, quite a few people — mostly wrestlers — have gotten hold of me about the story, or asked me to sign a book, which I’m always honored to do. In the past few months, for some reason, the men — some of them coaches now, and all of them former wrestlers — have thanked me for ‘what you have done for wrestling.’ What I think they mean is that because of the movie Vision Quest — and especially because the movie treats wrestling as a respectable sport and wrestlers as decent guys and committed athletes as opposed to the moron bullies so many movies make wrestlers out to be — wrestling is more widely known now and to a degree better understood. It would make me enormously proud to think I’d ever done anything for wrestling. The truth — and the subject of this little essay — is that wrestling did close to everything for me.”
Davis discloses that, as a grade schooler, he wrestled with bipolar disorder. He openly shares the ongoing cruel humiliation he suffered at the hands of one particular teacher. The future novelist developed a stutter in sixth grade.
Then Davis shared his salvation.
“In my sophomore year of high school; some of my old pals from early in school were wrestling, and I was sitting with them at lunch listening to them talk about it and envying them. I had a ton of pent aggression, and it dawned on me that wrestling just might be the way to jettison it. I walked into the little, narrow wrestling room on the second floor of the gym and introduced myself to assistant coach Bill Via and asked if I could try out. He said, ‘You bet,’ and I jumped in with the neck drill.”
Davis goes on to share more details on what wrestling did for him.
Davis’ compact essay could do much to connect potential wrestlers with the benefits of participating in the oldest and greatest sport.