BASED ON A TRUE STORY
LOGLINE: A HIGH SCHOOL COACH TRAINS TWO LATINO BROTHERS TO BECOME CHAMPION WRESTLERS. WHEN TRAGEDY STRIKES, THE RURAL COMMUNITY AND THE BOYS FAMILY COME TOGETHER IN THE FIGHT TO SAVE THE YOUNG SPORTS HERO’S LIFE.
”Fighting Spirit” is a true story. It’s a “feel good” movie that begins with the plight of a newly widowed Latino father who is forced to relocate his family to find work in the fields. The story is set in a rural Central California town where farm workers and landowners know their respective places in society.
Two brothers, Gilbert and Ernie, from this struggling family find their way onto the high school wrestling team where the driven coach, Al Kiddy implements unorthodox methods to attain victory. Coach Kiddy pushes his wrestlers beyond safety as they practice in torturous conditions that would not be accepted in today’s schools.
Coach Kiddy sees talent in the brothers, especially the younger brother Ernie, and grooms him to become the next champ. Ernie does not disappoint Coach. Wrestling is big in this farming community and soon the small gymnasium is filled to capacity each time Ernie is set to wrestle.
Weaved throughout the story is the deep bond between the two brothers, the dedication of the grieving father thrown into the role as a single parent, and the drama of young love as Ernie meets the girl of his dreams. A key component to this tale is the incredible respect and love that Coach Kiddy’s players have for this tough man with a hard-to-please demeanor. Coach Kiddy’s character is further explored as elements of his drinking problem and subsequent issues with anger management are uncovered.
Then comes a dramatic turn when Ernie becomes critically ill with hepatitis during the early part of his junior year. He falls into a coma and clings to life. With no regard for racial or economical boundaries; Ernie’s family, the wrestling team and the entire community come together with one focus – saving the life of the town’s wrestling hero.
What follows are grim reports from the physicians at the hospital; medical updates published daily in the local newspaper; the plight of the struggling family - faced with another untimely death; and the unexpected, yet completely genuine, devotion Coach Kiddy’s dedication to his wrestler.
The story reaches a climax when, late one evening, Ernie’s family is told that the only hope for his survival is a complete blood transfusion. Risky at best, the procedure is complicated further by the pneumonia that has now set in. The doctors’ level with the distraught father – it is doubtful that young Ernie can live through the night to receive the transfusion. Family, friends, teammates, the coach, and the entire community come together as one as they gather side by side to offer prayers at the town’s church. It is obvious that it will take a miracle for Ernie to survive.
Once again, Ernie does not disappoint us when he awakens just hours before the transfusion is set to begin.
An announcement is made over the loud speaker at the school and the entire school erupts in cheers. Coach Kiddy and Ernie’s teammates, especially his older brother, Gilbert, celebrate the miracle. But only momentarily then it’s business as usual as the team goes back to practicing for their next match.
Fast- forward to Ernie's senior year in high school with wrestling season is in full swing. Nicknamed the “Comeback Kid” by the locals, Ernie shows every ounce of his fighting spirit by fully recovering from the devastating effects of the illness that nearly robbed him of his life just one year before.
In a predictable, but satisfying ending, Ernie rewards his fans by winning the California High School Wrestling Championship in 1973, the very first time the statewide competition was ever held. The final scene of the movie depicts the headline of the town paper… “COMEBACK KID IS CALIFORNIA KING!”…Soon to be a Motion Picture!