Movie Reviews

Appalachian State University

by Professor Alan C. Utter

Reversal: The Movie

As a former wrestler and coach at the University of Pittsburgh, now professor at Appalachian State University, and father of a 3-year-old daughter (whom I wrestle on the living room carpet), it is my personal opinion that Reversal is a “must see” movie — a movie that tells a story about the sacrifices one must make in order to achieve not only in athletics but also in life.

Wrestling is a sport that requires a tremendous amount of sacrifice. But it is these sacrifices that teach lessons that are then applied to many other areas of an athlete’s life. Reversal presented a very realistic and believable view of not only the sacrifices a wrestler makes to compete, but also what sacrifices a parent makes in trying to provide what is best for their children.

The performance of James Petulla — who plays father and coach Edward Leone in the film — was brilliant, even award-winning. Edward feels that through hard work and discipline his son will be able to have more opportunities in life than he (Edward) had. This element of the movie reflecte my own experience on a very personal basis. My parents (neither has a college degree, and only one has a high school degree) did whatever it took to provide my bother, my sister and me with opportunities so that we could have more in life than they had. My parents found time and made many sacrifices so that we could participate in sports and other extra-curricular activities, and somehow found a way to give us all the opportunity at attend college if we wanted. Being the oldest of three siblings, I took advantage of the sacrifices my parents made and went on to receive an athletic scholarship in wrestling, a college degree (the first in my immediate family), two Master Degrees, and finally a Ph.D. I have absolutely no doubt that if it were not for the sacrifices that my parents made — and the sport of wrestling — none of that would have been possible.

The movie also touched on the weight-loss issues in wrestling. While extreme weight-loss practices do still exist in the sport today, recent rule changes enacted by both the NCAA and the NFHS have assisted greatly in removing these unhealthy behaviors. I commend Petulla for including the trailer statement at the end of the movie on this point. As a Professor who has been studying weight-loss issues in wrestlers for the last 10 years, I can attest to this fact: science has demonstrated that weight management in both high school and collegiate wrestlers has improved significantly. However, the scenes depicted in Petulla’s film are very truthful to what has gone on in our sport.

Using real athletes in some of the key roles made the film much more realistic than any other major studio sports film I have seen. And the acting from the kids in the film was spectacular. I think this film will continue to have huge theatrical box office success. Its views are heartfelt, touching and universal. Frankly, this is one of the best films I have seen in a long, long time.

In summary, I think Reversal is a terrific piece of work. I would like to congratulate James Petulla on a film that is long overdue.

In health,

Alan C. Utter, Ph.D., M.P.H., FACSM

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