by Joyce Sweeney

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Being a pro wrestler takes talent, guts, and hard work—can Kyle make it to the pros and live the life he wants?

Kyle Bailey is a normal high school senior with a secret ambition: to be a wrestling superstar with the WWE. When he hears about a wrestling class at the local gym, he knows this may be his one shot at making his dream come true. The only problem is that no one in his life understands his love of wrestling, so he can’t tell anyone what he’s doing—especially not his grandmother, who has raised him since he was a kid.
As Kyle’s talent becomes increasingly apparent, his instructor takes notice and invites him to wrestle in an upcoming professional match. With his newfound success—and his beautiful wrestler girlfriend—Kyle feels like he’s finally exactly where he belongs.
But when his grandmother’s health takes a turn for the worse, Kyle is torn between needing to care for her and wanting to follow his dreams. He isn’t ready to give up on being a pro wrestler, but he can’t abandon the woman who has taken care of him his entire life.
Headlock is a heartwarming novel about the strength it takes to let go of what you love and the courage it takes to ask for help.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781504004336
Publisher: Open Road Media
Publication date: 02/10/2015
Sold by: Barnes & Noble
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 216
File size: 1 MB
Age Range: 12 - 16 Years

About the Author

Joyce Sweeney is the author of fourteen books for young adults. Her novel Center Line won the first-annual Delacorte Press Prize for a First Young Adult Novel. Many of Sweeney’s works have appeared on the American Library Association’s Best Books for Young Adults list. Her novel Shadow won the Nevada Young Readers’ Award in 1997, and Players was chosen by Booklist as a Top 10 Sports Book for Youth and by Working Mother magazine as a Top Ten for Tweens. Headlock won a silver medal in the 2006 Florida Book Awards and was chosen by the American Library Association as a Quick Pick for Reluctant Young Adult Readers. Sweeney also writes short stories and poetry and conducts ongoing workshops in creative writing, which have so far produced forty published authors. She lives in Coral Springs, Florida, with her husband, Jay, and cat, Nitro.

Read an Excerpt


By Joyce Sweeney

Henry Holt and Company

Copyright © 2006 Joyce Sweeney
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-4668-7443-5


There are seven of us — including a girl! — spaced widely apart on the hard bleachers of the Coral Springs City Gymnasium, shivering, because the AC is really cranked, and nursing our private dreams of being a WWE superstar. No one in my real life knows I am doing this.

While we wait for our instructor, I look around the shabby beginner's group, scanning for potential friends or rivals. The girl is out of my league, case closed. Muscles and curves, so she could not only turn me down but flatten me as well. Hair like a waterfall of curly gold. She looks tense, like she's holding her breath.

There's a big, blond farm-boy type with a neck as big as my waist, who I would bet is an amateur wrestler and therefore feels superior to all of us. I hope they won't go into backgrounds, since I'm a gymnast and I don't want the others to think I'm gay or just somehow not tough enough.

A big black guy sitting way at the top of the bleachers is reading a book, so I put him down as having friend potential. There's an older guy, maybe in his thirties, who I figure will be the first to wash out. Down in front, there's a little geek, wearing a Matt-itude T-shirt, trying to talk trivia to everyone. No one has a clue what he's talking about, and he has to keep changing seats, looking for a new victim as old ones brush him off. Right now he's next to this unbelievably sickeningly perfect-looking guy who reclines on his elbows as if the effort of becoming a wrestler is only going to take up a little of his attention.

"Did you see AWA just signed David Rocker?" Little Geek says. "They're in for trouble. I hear he shows up drunk and that's why McMahon fired him."

The sickeningly perfect guy rolls his head to the side to view this minor annoyance. "Blow off, kid," he says, almost gently.

Mercifully, our trainer comes in. He carries a clipboard and a cordless mic like they use on TV.

Little Geek jumps up and does the unworthy bow. "Jeff, Jeff, Jeff, Jeff!" he barks, like an annoying little terrier.

Yuck. I mean we all know our trainer is Jeff Broadhurst, who wrestled for three years in the WCW as Jeff Bravura until a back injury sidelined him. Even he seems to think Little Geek is out of line and gives him a snarky look before hopping through the ropes and stepping into the ring set up on the gym floor.

"Hey, kids," he says. He's not looking in our faces. He's already scanning our bodies to see if we measure up. I'm not sure I do. He still looks good, lean and muscular, with the same brown ponytail from his glory days. But his voice is a shocker. He used to growl his speeches on TV. Now he sounds like Mr. Glass, my biology teacher.

"I'm Jeff Broadhurst. I was a professional wrestler for fifteen years. First in Ohio Valley, then in ECW, then in WCW. I've had a total of twenty broken bones in my career and six torn or strained ligaments, and I have six permanent scars on my body. I'm unusually fortunate that I still have all my original teeth. At home I have a little collection of those plastic bracelets they give you in the hospital. I have sixty-one of them. If any of you would like to leave now, you're free to go."

It gets a laugh, but a very nervous laugh. Jeff walks up and down, clearly very comfortable in the ring, on the mic. "There are two instructors here at Fort Knocks. If you hang in, you'll work with both of us eventually. But I teach all the beginning classes. Want to know why?" He looks up at us.

We don't know why.

"Because I'm gentle and nurturing? Nope. Because I'm good with young people? Nope."

I remember now what great promos he used to do.

"It's because I'm the best one here at spotting washouts. And we like to get the washouts — the fools, the hot dogs, the dreamers, the slackers — out of here as fast as we can, because people who don't belong here are a danger to us all."

He pauses and glares at us like we're walking hazards.

He starts pacing again. "Your first lesson. There are always at least two people in the ring. Two people doing really dangerous things together. That means the most important thing in our business is trust. I will be testing you from this moment on. If you can't learn what you need to learn, you won't get a second chance. Clear?"

We make a collective sound like a small animal sighing in its sleep.


"Sir, yes, sir!" calls out Sickeningly Perfect.

It gets a laugh, but Jeff just studies him for a second and then goes on. "Okay, I'm not going to have you doing any moonsaults today. I just want each of you to come down to the ring, take the mic, and talk to me. Tell me your name, your age, your athletic background, and what makes you think you can be a professional wrestler. You can go first."

He holds the mic out to Sickeningly Perfect. The guy smiles like, Well, of course I'm chosen to go first. He slowly hoists himself off his elbows and glides down over the bleachers. Ever see anyone look graceful walking down bleachers? This guy does. He has the kind of sinewy muscles that keep you out of the freak category, long black hair like an Indian. He must be six-three, six-four. I'm about five-ten.

He takes the mic from Jeff, mounts the stairs, and then, when he goes to get in the ring, he misjudges the tension of the top rope and it snaps down and almost decapitates him. We all, including Jeff, enjoy a good laugh. While Mr. Cool recovers his dignity, Jeff sits on the front bleacher next to Little Geek and picks up a clipboard. Oh, great. He's going to take notes.

"I'm Daniel Battaglia. Danny." He leans his elbows on the ropes like he's just too cool to stand up straight, and cocks the mic at an angle. I could never pull off a stance like that. "I'm nineteen. In school I played basketball, and I was a sprinter on the track team. I want to be a wrestler because I like to hurt people." He tosses his hair back like a stallion and smirks at Jeff, waiting for applause.

Jeff walks up to the ring and holds his hand out for the mic. I never realized before how symbolic that thing is. Danny looks diminished the minute he gives it away.

"You have a nice look, Danny," Jeff says. "And clearly shyness is not a problem for you."

We all laugh.

"In fact, cockiness like yours could be a great gimmick. Promoters will want to make you a heel because the audience will want to see you get your comeuppance. Get ready for a career of one humiliation after another."

Danny smirks like, I don't think so.

"Basketball and track tell me you have quickness, aggression, and good reflexes. That's a great place for a wrestler to start. Your comment about hurting people? Well, I don't know, Danny. If that was your beginner's attempt at kayfabe, it was very cute."

Little Geek, who has somehow sidled up to me, whispers, "Kayfabe means it's not real, it's just for the script."

"I know it!" I hiss at him.

"But if you really mean that, Danny, you could be one of the first people out the door because of what I said earlier. So from now on, I'll be watching you very carefully."

Danny smiles in a way that's more like an animal showing its teeth. "Whatever makes you happy."

Jeff writes a note on his pad. "Be careful getting out of the ring," is his only response.

Next in the spotlight is the blond farm boy, who stands at attention in the ring like a marine. "Troy Gunderson, twenty, lettered in wrestling at Douglas High, two all-city trophies, one state, full scholarship to Emery, ranked AA."

Sir, yes, sir. I wonder if I'm going to feel inferior to everyone.

"What made you drop out of college?" is all Jeff has to say to this awesome resume.

Troy kind of grins. "My grades."

Jeff laughs. "That's honest. Do you want to give up being an amateur? You sure you don't want to go for the Olympics or something? Try another school?"

"No, sir. I think I have what it takes to be a WWE superstar."

Jeff makes a slew of little notes. "Time will tell. Thank you, Troy."

Of course, everyone else in the room gets to go before me. The older guy, Hector Cruz, gets up next. He's got a heavy accent, and it's really hard to understand him. I can't imagine he's going to make it as a wrestler, since talking is half the job. He says something about pride and proving something to his son, but he puts the room to sleep.

But the girl wakes it up again. I laugh to myself as I see every single one of us lean forward as she strides to the ring. She has a confident walk that contrasts with the tense way she looked before. Maybe she turns it on and off depending on whether people are looking.

"My name is Ophelia O'Toole." She leans on the top rope like Danny did, and her hair forms a cape around her. "I'm twenty-one. I play racketball and tennis, and that's about it for my athetic background, except I took some dance classes as a kid. I want to be a wrestler because I want to learn how to kick ass, and then I'm going to look up some of my old boyfriends and even the score."

O-kay. Just as well she'll never be interested in me.

The black guy, Ben, goes next. He's got a football background and wants to be a role model for kids. I was right about him, he comes off nice. Maybe too nice.

Now it's the Little Geek's turn. I'm scared for him. He actually does a "move" to get into the ring, holds the ropes backward and vaults his feet over his head. He lands a little one-footed and rubs his hands like he got a rope burn. "My name is David Steele, and I've been following wrestling since I was three years old."

Jeff looks impatient. "What's your athletic background, David?"

David fidgets with the mic. "I think" — he has to clear his throat — "I think wrestling is really more of a mental game."

We all laugh. Jeff stands up. "You do? You don't think wrestling is physical?"

"If you would let me tell you my ideas for my character —"

"Bookers have the ideas, David. Wrestlers wrestle. Is David Steele your real name?" He's leafing through his clipboard.

David's head goes down. His body gives a little jerk, like he's trying not to cry. "No, sir. My name is Dorian Studebaker."

Danny and Troy guffaw, but none of the rest of us do.

"Okay, okay!" Jeff says to quiet them. He turns back to Dorian Studebaker with a grim look. "Show me how many push-ups you can do."

"Right now?"

"No, a week from Thursday. Go."

The kid lays down the mic and goes down on his hands and knees like he hardly knows what position to get into. As soon as he straightens his legs, his toothpick arms start to shake. Jeff counts with him. He gets to twelve before the shaky arms give up.

Dorian scrambles to pick up the microphone. He's on his knees. "I can get into shape! I'll do anything I have to!"

Jeff has finally found the paper he wanted. "You listed your age on your application as eighteen. Is that true?"

Please, God, don't let this kid cry. "No, sir, I'm seventeen but please —"

Jeff is already holding out the application to him. "I'm sorry. I couldn't help you if I wanted to. You can't be a minor and go to this school. If you really want this, get yourself into some kind of shape and come see me next year. I'll be here."

Dorian clutches the ropes. "Jeff, please —"

Jeff shakes his head, holds out the paper.

Very, very slowly, Dorian slides out of the ring, onto the floor. He takes his application. Jeff says something very quietly to him and gives him a slap on the shoulder. Dorian nods bravely and heads for the door.

Danny starts to chant the na-na-hey-hey good-bye thing, and Jeff whirls on him. "Hey! Can it or you're right behind him!"

We all sit rigid like scolded kindergartners while the door swings shut on Dorian Studebaker. Jeff fishes the microphone out of the ring. "That kid has a lot of heart. If he wants it badly enough he will be back, and when he comes back he'll be ready. Okay, did we get everybody?"

My usual problem. Invisibility. "Uh, me." I wave my hand awkwardly.

"Oh, sorry. Come on down."

I trudge down the bleachers, not thrilled to be following the Dorian disaster, but at least secure that I can do a lot of push-ups if called upon. I pick up the mic, and it whines with feedback.

Jeff makes a gesture for me to tap the top of it. I tap too loud, and everyone puts their hands over their ears. "Are you dazzled yet?" I ask Jeff.

He laughs. "Go ahead, kid."

"I'm Kyle Bailey. I'm eighteen, and I'm a senior at Coral Springs High. My background is in gymnastics, and I've won a couple of regionals."

"What's your specialty?" Jeff interrupts.

"Ribbon dancing!" Danny calls out.

"Tumbling," I say as the laughter dies down.

"Okay, good! Can you do a standing front flip for me, Kyle?"

I almost say, "right now?" but realize that's what put Dorian on the other side of the door. I put the mic down, take a breath, and do the move, with a perfect two-footed landing, I might add.

"Good for you!" Jeff says, making notes. "Some of the moves you already know will be really useful to you in the ring."

"Does he know what a front chancery is?" yells Troy. "Because I do!"

Jeff laughs. "I understand what skills you're bringing, Troy. Just like Kyle will have acrobatics and Danny has his speed and Ben will bring his football skills, like blocking and tackling. You guys will make an interesting training group."

"Yeah," I say. "You can watch all those other athletes sit on the gymnast's chest!"

They laugh with me, and for the first time it feels like we're a group.

"Nice ring presence, Kyle," says Jeff, still writing. "You're very likeable."

"Thanks," I say, amazed this went so smoothly. Maybe he was just kind to me to make up for Dorian.

After that, we spend an hour doing our first drill, falling on our backs from a standing position. I'm not kidding. Jeff explains that the real performer in the ring is not the guy who's executing the throw, it's the guy who's being thrown. What happens is, the first guy just fakes a move in your direction and you throw yourself. Immediately I see why Jeff was happy about my background. So to be safe, you have to basically learn safe ways to fall. Jeff shows us that if you fall on a flat back, you won't injure your spine. If you do it wrong, he tells us cheerfully, you risk total paralysis.

So we spend an hour falling on our backs. I pick it up the quickest. Hector has a hard time — he keeps wanting to put his elbows down first. But he hangs in there without saying a word and he finally gets it. Jeff tells him he'll have a lot of bruises on his arms tomorrow but he's proud of him. Hector just nods.

"Don't be afraid of getting hurt," Jeff keeps telling us. "That's what gets you hurt. Okay, good job. Wednesday, we'll try some new moves and see if you can still keep up."

We all go to the locker room to shower except Ophelia, who is sent to a remote location to change. I've spent a good part of my life in locker rooms, so this feels comfortable. The only thing different here is a counter on the way in with bottled water, several bottles of Tylenol, and hair scrunchies. The ponytail is still alive and well with the older wrestlers. I notice now that Dorian is gone, I'm the smallest. I'm talking about height, of course. Troy and Danny are already building a friendship based on their superiority to everyone else.

"Jeff is gay, I bet," Danny says as he towels off. "Telling me I have a 'great look' and telling Kyle here he's so likeable."

Ben, who has been extremely quiet, is dressed and on his way out when he says, "I wonder why Jeff didn't tell you you were likeable, Danny. Oh, I know why. 'Cause you're not."

"Huh!" says Danny when he's safely gone. "Maybe he's gay, too!"

"Ben Gay!" says Troy, amazing himself at thinking of something almost clever. He laughs so hard he gets the hiccups.

"See you Wednesday!" I call, eager to be out of there. On the way out, I see Hector helping himself to the Tylenol.


I get home that evening about as tired, achy, and hungry as I've ever been in my life. So it's a big disappointment when I don't smell dinner cooking. My grandmother is French, and if there's one area of my life where I'm totally spoiled, it's food. I was raised on coq au vin and boeuf en croûte, terrines of this and soufflés of that. Chantal can take something like an omelet and, as she would put it, make it sing. I got teased in middle school for bringing weird lunches — stuffed pastry pockets or containers of salad — but I didn't care. Let them laugh and then choke on their beanie weenies.


Excerpted from Headlock by Joyce Sweeney. Copyright © 2006 Joyce Sweeney. Excerpted by permission of Henry Holt and Company.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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Head Lock 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 4 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Seth is offended and also an evesdropping stalker when it comes to anything aqua... which shoukd say something Sam... that seth cares so much about you hes afraid someone will hurt you and so he watches...
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
As I told you a month ago, you only need a few friends, no matter how new they are and if they are just over a screen. If you needed comfort, I would have been there for you. We all have our problems, and normally it's the ones we love most, that hurt us, the most. If drama happens in your friend group and it almost disbands, then that group isn't the strongest. Friends stick together, even after the toughest times.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Aqua crashed through and window and tackled him, flopping on him, "Daikiiii." (:3 Rebelllll Savageeee.)