Press Sheet  (Please contact us via our contact page to request a copy of the Press Sheet.)

Title:  Wrestling with the Devil, A Story of Sacrifice, Survival, and Triumph, from the Hills of Naples

           to the Hall of Fame

Publisher: Gemelli Press LLC

ISBN-10: 0988478455

ISBN-13: 978-0988478459

Cover Price:  Hardcover:  $28.95      Paperback:  $19.95


Wrestling with the Devil follows a Southern Italian boy, Antonio Russo, on a journey across nations and into the far reaches of his soul.  He is separated from his family at the age of ten and placed alone on an ocean liner in the Bay of Naples- sacrificed for his parent’s dream of a better life.

In Italy Antonio runs through the fields, works on his family’s farmland, and roasts chestnuts over the fire in the evenings with his grandmother.  But his parent’s goal was to rise from the impoverished life they were living. They found a way to do this but it would mean parting with their eldest child.  They did the unthinkable, and thus begins the journey of this young boy’s life.  

He steps onto New York soil in 1951 alone, without a word of English, and his oversized jacket stuffed with salami and provolone cheese.  He recalls the promise from his mother that in America he would find family members to take care of him and the trees blossoming with gold- both promises would fall flat.  As he is passed from one family member to another in the small cramped apartments of the concrete jungle called New York, Antonio, now Tony is trying to understand how this new life is better.  He knew it was what his parents wanted but being a child, all he understood was that he left the only family and the only land he knew and loved behind.  

In a turn of fate, an uncle who emigrated from Italy and then moved across the country to Portland, Oregon sent for his nephew.  This uncle was newly married to a young American woman they had no children, and were starting anew.  Tony would join their family.  He was given his own bedroom, enrolled in school, and as baby cousins arrived on the scene he found himself becoming their “son.” As idyllic as it sounds, there was darkness. Tony battled his internal demons daily, still never understanding his parent’s choice to send him away.  And when the day came (four years later) to reunite, it was agonizing for him to leave his newly established family in Portland and travel back to New York where his parents had decided to settle.

At this point, Antonio was nearly fifteen-years-old and teenage angst had set in.  Friends were hard to come by, he had a chip on his shoulder that presented itself as anger in nearly every encounter, and here he was reliving the pain of being separated from family.

In a new turn of fate, Tony is involved in a fight that leads a high school coach to see his anger as passion and drive. This eventually leads him to the sport of wrestling.  With wrestling the anger could be channeled.  After a terrifying encounter with the law a new light is shed for Tony.  He begins to realize that he has a purpose, that his difficult journey has not been in vain, and that through hard work he can succeed.  His passion and drive would end up taking him all the way to the 1964 Olympic Trials.  He would become a champion wrestler winning high-ranking tournaments including the Western Athletic Conference and attaining a position as an alternate on the 1964 Olympic Team.  

Later, Tony Russo would become an inspirational coach, challenging and encouraging others to accomplish things they never dreamed possible- and they did.  After retiring, Tony was inducted into the National Wrestling Hall of Fame as one of the winningest coaches in the history of the state of Oregon.


"Wrestling with the Devil is an entrancing tale of perseverance, hard work and the pursuit of the American Dream, all wrapped in an exciting, dream-like story that tracks one of Oregon’s wrestling legends from the hills of his native Italy, to bustling New York, and finally Portland. My reverie was broken only by surges of inspiration to make the best out of my life, like Russo has stressed throughout his Hall of Fame coaching career. But this is not so much about takedowns and pins as much as it is about the importance of family, pursuing goals, and never quitting. Wrestling fan or not, I bet you can’t put it down.'' --Jason Quick, The Oregonian

“Tony’s story is a compelling look at the everyday wins and losses that accompany the pathway to being one of the best in collegiate and freestyle wrestling.  This work also shares his career move into coaching with its many rewards in preparing future wrestlers.  Written in an easy-to-read narrative style, this work is an important contribution to the world of wrestling and a must-read for enthusiasts of the sport.” --Curley Culp, Professional Football Player; NCAA Wrestling Champion 1967, Arizona State University

"With roots in the old world that flowered in the new, this wonderful book captures the whole of the emigrant experience in America, the bravado, the ingenuity, the struggle for survival and, most of all, the grace and strength of the Italian-American family. Oral history at its most thrilling.”--Merridawn Duckler, Senior Fellow, the Attic Writing Institute, Portland, Oregon


Wrestling with the Devil captivates, inspires, and empowers readers.  It has a high interest level and has found a niche with high school students, boys and girls alike.  It makes a powerful addition to any 9th through 12th grade Language Arts curriculum.  This book presents a relatable story through the main character’s journey and struggles, from being an outcast and trying to assimilate in a new country without language skills or his core family unit to being forced to make difficult choices along the way.  Readers are taken on a journey from another culture and experience the depths of despair and then continue on the journey as they work their way back up and out to find that success and happiness is attainable no matter what circumstances life has dealt you.