*Photography by Wesley Herrera
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the letter
My world changed on July 19, 2008. Carrie and I were looking for some old wrestling pictures for a former wrestler of mine. As we were looking, she found an envelope in a box of pictures. I had written this letter to myself on April 26, 1988. It was a letter that I had written after coming back from the Olympic Trials. I had written five letters to myself and told my mother to place them in an area that I would find them someday. She placed this one letter in a folder of pictures. I haven’t found the other four, but this one was found. The following is the first letter written at the age of 23.

To myself
April 26, 1988 Open after age 40 Sam Chagolla

I just finished coming back from the Olympic Trials. My father brought me to Las Vegas to help coach me. I weighed in at 142 and felt that cutting down to 136.5 was just too hard. I didn’t have the workout partners to really accomplish the goal. It was difficult doing the teaching full time and trying to train hard. I basically failed!

Yes, I failed to accomplish the goal of representing my country and state. I don’t make excuses for my losses, but they were just too big for me at 149.5. These guys were cutting from about 185 or more to wrestle 149.5. I just felt I could hang with them regardless of the weight and I was wrong. I looked at the 136.5 pound wrestlers and I had beaten some of them earlier in my career. I think I could have made the final wrestle offs, with John Smith and whoever was there. I don’t think I could have beaten them, but I would have had a better shot at the lower weight.

It will never feel like I accomplished my very best. My father saw me get hammered by these wrestlers that I should have beaten. It was a humbling day for me.

The question is what is next? I don’t know! I keep asking myself…am I successful? It’s hard for people to understand that I need a challenge in my life or I feel empty. Mr. Koury has made me an analyzer. I hope if I stay coaching wrestling that I become a better coach because of Mr. Koury. I want to be the best at whatever I do in my life. My goal is to help win a couple of state championships for Peoria High School. It’s my time to retire from the wrestling arena and start to develop champions. I hope my nephews will eventually wrestle. My dream is to help them become better than me. I know if they listen, it will happen. I want them to get an education and become successful people, because life is so tough. My family has always supported me in my career. I hope they will continue to do so. I just wonder what they think of me now. I have sacrificed a lot to be where I am today. I hope they respect this about me.

I have always been quiet and to myself because people have never understood me. I didn’t need the drugs or parties to be happy. I just needed the workouts to feel good. It will be interesting how my high school classmates see me on my 10 year reunion. I’m a loner that just wants to win in life.

I’ve never really been able to keep a steady relationship because I’m so serious about what I do in life. I just want to be successful. I’m driven to be the best that I can be in life. I don’t have a lot of guy friends because they don’t understand me. Girls just seem to understand that I have a vision of doing the best I can in life and I don’t want to fail. I want out of poverty.

Whoever I get married to will have to understand that wrestling is a big part of my life. I hope God finds the right person for me. I’ve had some tough relationships, but all things work out for the good. I’m sure I’ll meet someone who has never seen me wrestle, but I hope she hears about who I really was in my past. If I’m healthy at the age of 45, I will train to wrestle in a big national wrestling tournament. Maybe if I’m healthy and daring, I can just enjoy the battle of the sport of wrestling. I don’t know if this will happen, but I’m a dreamer. I hope someday my nephews and my wife will support me in this endeavor.

Lastly, I hope I have not let Mr. Koury down. I have gone to college and now I will help him produce champions. He did this for me so it’s my turn to give back. I hope God will help me get past the failure of the Olympics Trials. It’s tough writing this, but I hope this will help me heal. I hope to read this after the age of 40. I will always be an athlete, but helping others will be my life goal.


Sam Chagolla
April 26, 1988

P.S. God will provide!

I hope my wife gets to see me coach and wrestle some day. My health will depend on this goal.
about sammy
My Profile
My name is Sammy Chagolla. I have lived in the Peoria area for over 40 years. I have taught Social Studies for over 20 years in the Peoria Unified School District. I am now at Marshall Ranch Elementary School trying to help Marla Hobbs make a difference in this community. Our main goal is to create great leaders of all our students. We believe that MAGIC is our main focus. Modeling good behavior, accepting responsibility, giving respect, improving yourself through goals and cooperating with everyone. MAGIC is the foundation to our success. It takes a village to raise a kid. Every person on our campus is made to believe that without MAGIC, we're missing something in our lives. It’s important that everyone, including the parents of our students believe that anything is possible.

Sammy Chagolla's History
Sammy started wrestling in the 2nd grade here in the Peoria High School Wrestling room when Joe Hunter was the first wrestling coach. Sammy watched his brothers wrestle and was convinced that this would be his way to success in school and life. There would be one person that would mold his beliefs and attitude about hard work and determination and that person would be Mr. Michael Koury. Mr. Michael Koury transferred from Holbrook High School as an assistant coach in 1975 and mentored Sammy as a wrestler and eventually to his success as a high school coach. Sammy wants you to know that if it wasn’t for Mr. Michael Koury he wouldn’t be successful today in life. Sammy says, “Mr. Koury is the reason for his success as well as the Peoria Wrestling Program. He brought to this school the magic of believing in the possibilities of what could be accomplished if you work harder and smarter than your opponent. Some of Sammy’s accomplishments are as follows:

He was an 8 time Freestyle and Greco Roman State Wrestling Champion.
He was a National Freestyle Wrestling Champion in 1980.
He was a 4-time Peoria Invitational finalist winning it 3 times.
He was a 4-time Arizona State Wrestling Champion.
He appeared on the Wheaties Breakfast of Champions Box in (1989) for his wrestling and school accomplishments.
He is a member of the – All Time Wrestling Team for Northern Arizona University.
He was named the 4A Arizona Coach of the Year in 1996, 1997, 1998 and 1999.
He is the only 4-time High School State Wrestling Champion in the United States to also coach 4 Consecutive State Championship Teams as a coach.
He was an assistant coach for Show Low High School in 2002 and 2003 where he helped them win two (State Championships in 2002 and 2003). He increased their takedowns from 236 to over 1400 in one season.
He was named the Veteran’s of Foreign War Teacher of the Year in 2004.
He’s currently a Wrestling consultant for schools around the state. He also helps coach the Arizona Champions Wrestling Club.
He has been giving motivational presentations to schools since 1983 about what it takes to be successful in sports and in the classroom.
He’s currently an assistant principal at Marshall Ranch Elementary School in the Peoria Unified School District.
He’s the 2009 Silver Medalist—Freestyle World Wrestling Championships in Ankara, Turkey.
He’s the 2014 Silver Medalist—Freestyle World Wrestling Championships in Belgrade, Serbia.

Sammy wants everyone to know that “Everyone wants to be a champion…but not everyone is willing to pay the price to be one.” There is no magic pill to success…it’s just hard work that no one else is willing to do! If you work hard and listen to those individuals in your life that care about you, your life will be much easier. “Believe in your dreams because anything is possible! The journey and destination of your dream may change in life…but your purpose and focus must remain steady.” Finally, life is way too short so continue to dream and enjoy life! God Bless!


After reading the letter with my wife I really didn’t know what to say to her. I was in shock myself that we had found the letter. I have four other letters that were given to my mother to hide for me. I gave my mother specific instructions to hide these letters in a place that I could fine later in life. I guess the shock is just setting in right now. I have thought about the letter we opened and it’s the scariest thing I have written down. I was hurting tremendously at the time of writing this letter. I do remember coming home and not wanting to see or talk to anyone for a while. The disappointment was so much that I couldn’t even look at a wrestling room or wrestle. My heart was broken as well as my spirit. I don’t expect many people to understand my devastation, but it was very difficult for me. Reality would set in quickly. I told my wife that this wasn’t a mid-life crisis, it’s reality for me. I’m the type of person who sees the destination, but wants to now enjoy the journey. So with this being said, I have decided to follow through with my goal of wrestling again. I want my wife to see me wrestle one healthy match. I will train for the Veteran’s National Wrestling Championships in 2009. It will be held in Las Vegas at the Las Vegas Convention Center. It begins on April 9, 2009. I will not tell anyone until the time is right. I don’t need the extra added pressure of competing again. It’s hard enough to just begin the process of working out to accomplish the goal. It’s the journey that I want to enjoy with my wife. The hardest part will be losing the weight, getting flexible again and doing the training the right way. I will get down to 138.5 or I will not wrestle. I won’t make the same mistake I made in 1988. I haven’t been down to this weight since 1985. Like I told my wife, “I’m not who I used to be as an athlete. What once was will never be again. I will do the best I can to reach this goal.” The main objective is to compete when I’m healthy. I promised Carrie to stop training if it affects my health. My age is a factor and I don’t want to risk getting injured. Mr. Koury (my coach) has given me his blessing. He just wants me to be prepared and do it for the right reasons. I hope and pray that my wife, family, friends and colleagues will support me in completing this goal. If I place in the top three at the Veteran’s National Tournament, I will go to the 2009 Veterans World Freestyle Championships in Ankara Turkey on August 14th 2009.

I placed 2nd in both Greco Roman and Freestyle at the Veterans National Tournament in Las Vegas on April 8th and 9th 2009. The next goal is to compete in the World Championships in Turkey on August 14th. I will need all the support possible to accomplish this goal.

I went to Turkey on August 14th, 2009 and placed 2nd in the Veteran's Freestyle World Wrestling Championships for the United States.  My journey is over and I'm happy to have represented the City of Peoria, Arizona and the United States.  The story of my final match is interesting.  My opponent was from Iran.  He was a prisoner of war during the Persian Gulf War in 1991.  The Gold medal will give him and his family an opportunity to get an education because of his win.  My wife Carrie said, "Your destiny was to get Silver not Gold.  You have given him what we believe in, an education.  You have both won.  He gets to go home and help his family and you get to go home accomplishing your dream of representing your country."  Thanks to everyone who helped me accomplish my goal.  Without you believing in me, this wouldn't have been possible.  I also want to personally thank my wife, Mr. Koury and Wes and Pat Herrera for going to Turkey and supporting me on my journey.  My dream of having Mr. Koury coach me in the World Championships was a life time dream.  Lastly, thanks to Tim Haverluck for helping me with this website so people could read my story.  Tim and his wife Rachel are the real hero's   They are helping improve Ira A. Murphy Elementary School through the booster club.  Without their help, times would be much tougher for everyone.  Thanks again to everyone who helped support me


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