The story of our guest this week belongs in a book and thanks to some hard work, now it is!
Last on his bucket list, Ray Coca’s book, Elite U.S. Dream Team, A Wrestling Story brings to life his amazing and inspiring story.
“When you don’t have much of anything, you look for something that you can do and do well,” said Coca, reminiscing about his challenging childhood.
Schooling began at Whitman Elementary. Then in 1956, a sport perfect for Ray: wrestling.
“And they were asking all the kids to come out for a new sport called amateur wrestling and I decided to go out. And I got beat and I quit and decided to give it another shot in the eighth grade and I won the district championship in the eighth and ninth grades,” said Coca.
Who knew a meeting of an American Businessman and Japanese sports official at the 1960 Olympics would so affect Ray’s life?
“They scheduled the Japanese to come here and wrestle and we would send a team to Japan,” remembered Coca.
Circumstances, hard work and intense training led to the elite team taking 17 year old Ray to places he never dreamed of.
“When we went to Tokyo," he remembered, "I was the first one out on the map in a foreign country representing the United States and I was fortunate enough to win.”
When the Japanese team came to Grand Junction High, well, you could say it was huge.
“There was five thousand five hundred people packed into the gym and not only that, but a thousand of them were turned away in a town that was at the time only fifteen thousand people.”
Soon high school was over and that meant it was time for Ray to move on.
“I went to work for the newspaper where I was sportswriter and sports editor and then worked for the city of Grand Junction for twenty five years as a recreation superintendent. And then, fortunately, I had the honor of working with at-risk kids for Mesa County Partners," Coca said.
After retirement, finally the last on his bucket list: a book?
“I found a publisher that believed in me and she says, ‘I want you to write a chapter on your childhood,’ and I said, ‘I don’t want to do that’ and she convinced me that I should and it’s probably the most significant thing in the book.”
What’s the life lessons and advice for others from this man we so admire who never gave up, took the right path and who, by the way, looks so darn good and healthy!
“Best advice I could give to any parent is to get your child involved in something positive, something that has carry-over values,” he said.
You know, we always like to find out something about the people you think you know but maybe you don’t know at all. Well, Ray left a little something out of his book and that was:
“I went to college on a football scholarship and my favorite sport is baseball!"
Now you have the rest of the story. Thanks to Ray for sharing it with us.
Ray's book can be found at the Walgreens at 1st and Patterson in Grand Junction
Author Contact: Ray Coca – 970-243-0504 or you may contact Brass Frog Bookworks – 909-239-0344 – Contact: Patti Hoff, Dir. of Operations – email@example.com