Episode 125 - The Grit of Being World Champion with Lee Kemp
Our special guest this episode is Lee Kemp, a three time World Champion in Wrestling (1978, 1979 and 1982 all in the 74 kg weight class) and held the record for being the youngest World Champion. In addition to being a champion wrestler, Lee is a father, a wrestling coach, a public speaker, and an author. He learned many of the skill sets needed to navigate his life on the mat. A child of the 60’s, he was adopted at the age of 5, before adoption learned how to find his own contentment in the situation he was in. From a young age Lee learned how to focus on what’s important and tackle whatever he needed to get done.
Lee’s childhood with his adoptive family involved a lot of hard work. His family moved from the city to a rural neighborhood and he worked on a farm. There was a certain strictness his father held, if farm work needed to get done it had to get done. Over the summers of Lee’s youth, he learned about finding contentment in hard work and became comfortable being uncomfortable. Lee started wrestling in high school in the 9th grade and made the varsity team in the 10th grade, his first season in varsity he won as many matches as he lost. The summer between the 10th and the 11th grade year was the turning point for young Lee. He attended a Wrestling Camp that the wrestler Dan Gable was at right before the Olympic games of 1972, what he learned from Dan Gable at that camp became the catalyst for Lee becoming a different wrestler and different person. Lee gained a new mindset from that wrestling camp with Dan Gable. Coach Lee went on to win the state championship as a junior in high school, defeating the defending state champion.
As the episode progresses, Ron and Chris ask Lee about his philosophies on consistency. Lee describes that at each point in his journey to be a champion wrestler he took every opportunity to learn more about his game and his opponents. While Lee was in wrestling camp with Dan Gable, he was the only willing volunteer that would allow Dan to try out wrestling moves on him. Lee knew that if he could understand how one of the greatest wrestlers performed offensively and defensively he could at a minimum learn something new and potentially incorporate it into his style. Lee’s determination has always been contagious and a positive influence to his community. An example that Lee shares is the story of his wrestling teammate Pat Christenson. Before defeating Dan Gable, Wisconsin had a drought of national champions in wrestling. Pat Christenson shared with Lee after defeating Gable he realized he could aspire to become a world champion also.
Impactful Moments During The Episode
01:30 - Welcome back to the Hacker Valley Studio.
01:56 - Introducing the three time world champion Lee Kemp.
03:04 - A child of the sixties and learning how to give back.
04:18 - Understanding where you come from and learning to be content.
07:01 - Characteristics of grit.
08:43 - Overcoming the biggest roadblock to success.
11:08 - Finding a worthwhile goal as a high school wrestler and learning from the best.
12:26 - The inflection point towards success for wrestler Lee Kemp
14:24 - The fateful wrestling camp experience of 1972.
16:25 - Watching your camp coach from the summer with Olympic Gold.
17:28 - Lee Kemp finds the opportunity to wrestle against his former wrestling camp Coach, the gold medal winner Dan Gable.
19:05 - How Lee stayed focused on wrestling Gable despite detractors and distractions.
21:20 - Finding a different mindset, finding a different Lee Kemp.
22:51 - Taking little steps of confidence towards goals.
24:11 - Lee Kemp being in the moment wrestling in the last 30 seconds against Gable.
25:53 - From being in the moment to being part of the moment.
27:30 - The reaction to breaking expectations
29:00 - A rivalry that couldn’t be played out in competition, an unofficial match between Kemp and Gable
31:00 - Moving mountains
32:57 - Inspiring future wrestling champions at University of Wisconsin
34:30 - Having a mindset and attitude for making things possible
36:30 - Thank you for listening to Part 1 of Lee Kemp on Hacker Valley.
Learn more about Lee Kemp and pick up his book Wrestled Away.
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