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Old 04-28-2009
Wrestling Media
Join Date: Jan 2005
Location: Chicago
Posts: 18,963
Three-Time World Champion Ready to Share How to Win Formula

Lee Kemp Opens New Facility In Palatine

Dare to Dream Big, Illinois wrestlers. There is a unique opportunity for the Illinois wrestling community brewing in Palatine. The most decorated American World Champion has set up shop to teach the sport he loves to all comers.

Leroy Kemp Jr. began a quest in 1970 that took him to the highest level the sport has to offer, World Champion. A simple belief that he could believe in his dreams and make them happen fueled Kemp to be the best in the world, bar none.

Today most high school wrestlers start wrestling at a very young age and have tons of tournament experience on the mat. Freshmen entering high school have been traveling all over the country and get plenty of top notch training prior to high school. 7th and 8th grade wrestlers are now beating high school state champs. It is hard to imagine in this day and age of wrestling schools and kids private coach tutoring that a teenager could walk into a high school wrestling room and not have immediate success.

Kemp, born Darnell Freeman, and adopted by Lee Kemp Sr. and his wife Jessie, his new parents changed his name to Leroy Jr. The Kemps moved to the farming community of Chardon, Ohio, about 30 miles northeast of Cleveland following Lee’s 6th grade year. The new rural setting began to shape Kemp’s character and his athletic career.

Once Kemp walked through the door of his high school wrestling room that faithful freshman year in 1970, the wrestling world changed.

Looking to find an outlet for his athletic talents, and not having a lot of success at basketball tryouts Kemp thought he would give wrestling a try. The first thing he noticed and liked about the sport was that there was individual aspect. He was in that circle alone. He was in control of his destiny. Win or lose.

“When I moved to a rural area from the city I moved to an area where wrestling was promoted,” Kemp said. “I was trying out for basketball but noticed that there was a lot of time sitting on the bench if you were not good but the wrestlers were all competing and participating. I was not very good at basketball and that was the bottom line. I just had never played before. The wrestling coach was also the gym teacher and I had a different set of friends. One of them that I played football with was John Taylor who was second in the state the year before. He encouraged me to go out for the team. I just decided to go out after the second day of basketball tryouts. I don’t believe in luck I believe in God’s divine ordinance. God’s will sometimes takes over man’s man-made will.”

His first two wrestling seasons were filled with moderate success. “I was lucky to find wrestling,” Kemp remembers. “At first I didn’t like it, I was getting beat up a lot. The room was hot and sweaty. Once I got a chance, I got my face pounded into the ground a lot. But after awhile I started to hold my own. I guess I must have had good genes because I was strong.”

'The thing that kept me out was the coach told me that if I kept coming out that I would be the number one guy right away. I had never had a coach tell me anything like that. It was kind of exciting to know that I would be representing my school even though it was the freshman team. I had never had that experience being the guy, the number one guy. As I started to win, I started to like wrestling more. The winning was more interesting to me than how tough the practices were.”

Kemp’s last two seasons in high school were masterpieces with undefeated (55-0, 24 falls) championships and adulation by his hometown with a parade. His sophomore 11-8-3 record was the last time Kemp would do anything in wrestling that was mediocre. By the end of the summer of 1978 his senior year in college, he had won 2 state titles, 1 junior national title and beat the legendary Dan Gable as a 18 year old college sophomore. In addition, he was an alternate on the 1976 Olympic Team, won 3 Division-1 NCAA titles (was a finalist as a true freshman), and won the 1st of 3 World Titles. Kemp would go on to the highest of plateaus in wrestling becoming the only three-time American World Champion and an Olympian. He was selected to be one of three 2008 Beijing USA Olympic coaches.

It seemed that Kemp’s learning curve was very steep for his age and in contrast to today’s youth that start out wrestling so early. “I loved the sport so much that I made up years of time in a one or two year period,” Kemp said. “I wound not say that I was a natural. I redeemed the years as the saying goes. I was on the mat literally almost every day. This was in the seventies when there was not wrestling clubs all over. My high school principal would come up to the school just to let me and another wrestler in just so I could get a workout in on Sunday after church. That is how much support I had in the town of Chardon. I redeemed the years just because I put the time in. My high school coach use to have to put me out of the room because he had to go home to his family. I just could not get enough of wrestling. I just picked it up because I was always on the mat trying to figure things out. In addition, my high school coach gave me the time.”

Although he was a two-time Ohio high school state champion, the NCAA college coaches were not knocking down his door. Only two school’s offered scholarships and one offered on the day after he had agreed to wrestle on full scholarship at the University of Wisconsin. “When I was competing Ohio State was not at the level that they are at today,” Kemp said. “There just was no emphasis on wrestling there at the time. I just could not see myself going there at the time. The closest big time school to me was Michigan State and I did want to go there. For some reason they said they did not have a scholarship for me after at first offering me one. I was committed to going there but they balked on the scholarship (I think they thought they had me) to give money to someone else. I went there on my own as a junior but I actually had to call them to arrange my senior recruiting trip. So, when I sent my Letter of Intent to Wisconsin, the very next day Michigan State called with a full scholarship for me. When I told them I had decided to be a Badger, there was silence on the other end of the phone, which seemed like an eternity. But as it turned out we (Wisconsin) never lost to Michigan State during my career.”

Kemp established himself on the national stage the summer before starting college, winning the equivalent to today’s Fargo freestyle championship – the 1974 Junior National Freestyle title. He beat future 3-Time NCAA Div I National Champion, Mark Churella, 5-1.

The Badgers received immediate benefits from their young budding star when Kemp marched into the 158 pound DI finals as a 18-year-old true freshman. Losing on a split referee decision in overtime, Kemp scored the only offensive points in the match on a 1st period take-down.

During his sophomore in college, Kemp beat the defending Olympic champion and legend Dan Gable 7-6 at the Northern Open. "I owe most of my success in wrestling to Dan Gable for changing my thinking around. I got a chance to go to a camp with Gable prior to him winning his Gold Medal. It was a great camp. After the camp Gable took the time to work with me, one on one for an hour. He taught me some skills, how to think and how to prepare myself. I prepared myself like Gable would and everything I did was as how he would.”

At this point in only his sixth year of wrestling experience and 43rd career collegiate match, Kemp developed his “Dream Big” philosophy. Although his coach had tried to convince him to change weight classes to avoid Gable, Kemp would have none of that. Instead, Kemp took the attitude of why can’t I wrestle and beat Gable. Sure, he was good, a legend, NCAA champ, Olympic champ, etc. but Kemp wanted the experience of wrestling Gable, not the memory of running from him.

“My sophomore year my coach asked me my goals”’ Kemp said. “I told him my goal was to go undefeated. Our opening tournament of the year was the Northern Open, the first one right after I had just told my coach I wanted to go undefeated. I had heard that Gable might enter but I didn’t give it a second thought other than he coached at Iowa. Well, he entered at 158, my weight class.

“My coach said you should go down in weight so you can keep your dream of going undefeated. I wanted to dream bigger”’ Kemp recalled. “I was like Why? I thought I was going to win. If nothing else, I thought it would be a great experience to wrestle him. So I walked out of that meeting a little disappointed in my coach but at the same time I didn’t want to cut to 150 so no way was I cutting weight.

Competition is competition, as an athlete and a wrestler you want that no matter who it is. I thought it would be kind of neat to wrestle him. Who would not go back (in time) and if they were a baseball pitcher, face Babe Ruth? It’s like facing Goliath.”

“They laughed at me for wanting to wrestle Gable. So, I just stayed away from everyone. I didn’t want to be around anyone. Because no one took me seriously. They wanted to believe that Dan was just going to walk through everybody. It wasn’t that I knew I was going to win. But I kind of new I was going to give it my best shot. I had no idea I was really going to win. The last thirty seconds of the match was the match. It shows me in on a shot and him trying to defend a shot. And there is me defending his shot to hold on for a 7 to six win.“

“ There was a point in the match at the end where Gable had a chance to win,” Kemp remembered. “Gable got me in a bear hug. My mind I felt like he was going to win I said Okay, now Gable is going to take me down and win. And everyone will say you did a good job Lee. I could see a newspaper article that said, Kemp gives Gable a scare. Probably the same amount of press if I beat him. But then a thought flashed through my head. Why lose. Win this. I learned so much from that match. Just going the distance. It was like Rocky going the distance against Apollo Creed. Except I didn’t get pinned, and I didn’t get beat up. I beat him. I won against my hero. That match gave me lots of confidence.”

Following the Gable victory and with youth still on his side Kemp won the next three NCAA Div I Championships, going undefeated while compiling 110 wins. During that three-year span, including freestyle, he racked up 143 total career wins, 6 losses and 47 falls, a 95% win clip. Simply put he was the most dominant college middleweight wrestler during his era.

In 1978, Kemp captured his first World title at the age of 21 just months after graduating from the University of Wisconsin with a Bachelor of Business Administration degree. Until Henry Cejudo captured Olympic gold in 2008 Kemp held the distinction of being the youngest to ever win a world championship for the Americans. He would go on to win two other world titles (1979, 1982) and Pan Am Games Gold as well. Kemp only lost one match in his World Championship competition, finishing with a 111-11 International freestyle record. His overall record at all levels of competition and styles finished at 424-37, for an impressive 91% win-loss ratio.

“It was impressed upon me to in order to be a champion you had to take people out," Kemp points out. “I don’t think of freestyle or International style as a different sport. Most wrestlers think they can’t win at freestyle or don’t like freestyle because they think it is something different from what they are use to doing. In fact, Gable said it; just take people down. That’s what it is. You have to learn how not to get turned. And once you accomplish that you are good to go. That is how I looked at it. I am just taking people down, nothing more or less. That is how I won my three world titles. I got 1 point take-downs.”

“Back then we wrestled truly for the love of the sport,” Kemp said. “I did not even get issued a USA warm up for my third world championship. They said I got one the year before and they told me to use that one. They would not issue me a new pair of shoes either for the same reason. Today the International wrestlers, especially the ones overseas are professional wrestlers. They are wrestling because they are truly professionals. We are not! Here we wrestle for one Olympic cycle and then our best start to coach or get out of the sport to make real money. The thing that has happened with Cael Sanderson going to Penn State for that large sum of money, maybe this will change things in America. But he will have to do the job for that type of money. They are not going to make it if they don’t do the job”

Kemp’s biggest disappointment of his competitive wrestling career was the 1980 Olympics. Projected to win the Gold Medal, Kemp’s Olympic dreams were cut short when then U.S. President Jimmy Carter authorized a boycott of the Moscow Olympics. Kemp never got to compete in the games at his prime but did get to face the eventual Olympic gold medallist Valentin Ratchiev from Bulgaria, defeating him in the Super Champions title match in December 1980.

He retired from active competition and refocused his energies on the business world. In 1985 Kemp became an Assistant Account Executive at Burrell Advertising, Inc., the largest black owned advertising agency in the United States. Over the next two decades, Kemp stayed away from the wrestling world working for several companies (Clairol, Inc., Lever Brothers) before being accepted into the Ford Motor Company Dealership Program. By 1991 Kemp became President and Owner of his own dealership, Forest Lake Ford in Forest Lake, Minnesota. The dealership was extremely successful. It was named one of Black Enterprise Magazine’s Top 100 Minority owned business in 1995, ’96, ’97 and 2004.

With his success both on the mat and off there was still something that Kemp felt was missing and that he had to offer. The lure to get back involved in teaching the sport came when a friend suggested that he get back involved in wrestling. Camp Kemp is inside the Fitness Arts studio in Palatine. Kemp offers training focusing on the three wrestling disciplines, folk style, freestyle and Greco along with a Mixed Martial Arts component.

Kemp has returned to the International and national wrestling scene with a new sense of purpose; sharing his vast wrestling knowledge and life's philosophies with wrestlers, athletes, parents and coaches. Much like his refusal to dodge competition with Dan Gable thirty years prior, Kemp is now ready to go forward with his sharing of his Dream Big philosophy that placed him at the top of the world. Kemp wants to focus on developing young wrestling talent in the northern suburbs.

When asked what makes Club Kemp different from other training facilities in the area Kemp is quick to point out that as the most decorated wrestler in America, his school is the only one run by a three time World Champion. Kemp feels he has been on stages in places that no other teacher of the sport of wrestling can offer his students.

“Wrestling really helped me get through some difficult times, “ Kemp recalls. “I had opened a wrestling school in Georgia, coached the Junior World team with David Taylor, Tyler Graff and Bubba Jenkins, so I had some (coaching) experiences that I liked. I realized that I want to stay in wrestling. I was selected to the Olympic coaching staff in 2006 and it has been fun. I worked really hard to develop a skill set and I am going to carry this through as far as I can. Everyone gets to a point when they don’t want to do something anymore and that is when I went into business. I had a business career that was very rewarding but I wish I had stayed in wrestling from the very beginning of my business career. There is a way with the different wrestling schools to make a living at wrestling. Ken Chertow does well, Cael does well, John Smith does well, Sean Bormet does well, Joe Williams and others do too. I think I have some unique things to offer the wrestling community because of my experiences as a wrestler.”

Although 52 years young, Kemp is in peak physical condition and has even thought about plans to offer classes to former college and International level wrestlers who maybe up in age but still want to keep that competitive shape and mind frame. And he wants to share his knowledge to anyone.

“Wrestling has always been dominated by people that donate there time to teach the sport”, Kemp noticed. “A guy like Mike Singletary, a Super Bowl champion and a NFL Head Coach gets $20,000 a speech but it will never happen in wrestling, yet. But in wrestling, it is a different lifestyle. I just want to share what I know. I focus a lot on fundamental techniques. I teach in order to prepare for the next level or the next two levels. For instance, I don’t teach shooting on my knees. It was very rare for me to shoot from my knees so I don’t teach that. I am teaching my athletes to attack and score without being on their knees. I was able to win on the International level because I was not in a lot of positions that the European wrestlers scored from like crotch – lifts.”

Kemp’s training includes a solid nutrition component along with teaching mental strategy for both in and off-season preparations. The nutrition training Kemp offers features how to handle the seven phases of wrestling: maintenance, corrective, recuperative, training, weight management, weigh-in and competition.

“Of all of the sports a wrestler should have the most knowledge about nutrition, and they are not,” said Kemp. “I think the one of the most key things that allows a wrestler to win is the ability to put themselves in a place mentally that they believe they can win. Or that they should win. I won a lot of matches just because the athlete thought Lee Kemp was suppose to win. And I did not want to give them any reason to think differently. I wanted to make it as easy as possible for them to lose.”

The Fitness Arts facility in Palatine that host Club Kemp is excellent and the brand new and spacious wrestling room is the crown jewel. Upon entry to the room you file past Kemp’s three World Championship medals, four time NCAA All American titles awards, his Pan Am Gold medal, and other memorabilia. It is impressive to say the least but after watching Kemp’s love of wrestling you realize it all began with his ability to believe, he could dream big.

For more information on the amazing career of Lee Kemp Jr. and his Club Kemp, use the following links;

Video matches of Kemp in action including his 3 World titles, 3 NCAA titles and the win vs. Dan Gable

The Psychology of Winning Wrestling

Club Kemp

Lee Kemp Fitness Weekly Radio Show

Last edited by MR TWISTER; 05-28-2009 at 10:29 AM.
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Old 01-06-2011
miketyson986 miketyson986 is offline
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