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Wrestler, 12, Pins Bullying With His Book

Middle School student becomes author, speaks out for bullying victims.

New encourage students and faculty alike that if they “see something, say something.”

Long Valley’s Matt Liberato, a sixth-grader at the , has gone above and beyond that request.

The 12-year-old, whose passion is wrestling, decided the best way to reach people about the effects of bullying was to write a book on the topic.

And so he did. “The Power of a Wrestler,” a 32-page fictional journal of what goes on in the lives of students every day, was published last week, and has already sold more than 50 copies.

“Bullying can be really powerful,” Liberato said. “It can even cause suicide. I’ve never been bullied, but I’ve seen someone get teased. I thought the book would be a good way help people understand (bullying) better.”

Liberato worked on the concept and text for “a couple of months” he said, spending about 40 minutes each weekday morning writing, revising, and re-writing before the school day began.

The story takes readers through a scenario where the victim, Anthony, is bullied by a popular classmate named Robert. After several instances, a third peer, named Matt, steps in and stops the bully from harassing his victim in a non-violent way.

A student of Matt Marciano’s sixth grade social studies class at the Middle School, Liberato is taking part in the year-long , and the book is how he chose to make a difference.

The oldest child of two school teachers, Liberato surprised even his parents when he told them about–and executed–his project.

“When he was writing the story, and talking to us about being an up-stander instead of a bystander, I was like, ‘where’d you get all this?’” his father, Mike Liberato said. “It’s like he took what he knows, and kind of filled in the blanks to make the story complete.”

And while mom and dad gave Liberato as much support as possible, they tried to stay out of the writing process so he could make it his own.

“Every once in a while he would ask for some help,” Matt’s mom, Antoinette Liberato, said. “But we wanted it to be his, and really held back and told him to think about it, spend time in his room coming up with the idea, and we would help him get it published.”

Liberato recently spent a day reading his book to fourth-grade students in the Chatham School District, where his father works.

“The kids were so attentive and focused on Matt,” said Mike Liberato. “You could hear a pin drop in that room.”

Life imitating art

Committing himself to writing a book wasn’t exactly a stretch for Liberato, the son of a former high school wrestling coach.

Dedication to completing, and succeeding, seems to come naturally for Liberato, who has been wrestling competitively on the Long Valley youth team for three years.

And while his book is fictional, it’s no coincidence that it begins and ends with a scene from a wrestling match, and the protagonist uses the same courage he feels on the mat to stand up to a bully.

Liberato tries to train seven days a week, he said, and just like writing the book, receives great support from his parents to do so.

“I love wrestling,” the author said. “I’m not playing football or lacrosse like my friends are because I want to focus on wrestling. It’s the only thing I want to do. I want to wrestle for… forever.”

The student amassed a 16-1 record in competition this year, his only loss coming in the 85-lb. division. Liberato usually only competes at 90-lbs. The family will head to Virginia Beach on May 18 so their only son can compete in the National Duals tournament.

If Liberato takes that anti-bullying courage on to the mat, he should have no problem winning a championship.

Scott Wright May 16, 2012 at 02:29 PM
If parents can't stop harnessing and bullying how do we expect children too?
stacie bohr May 16, 2012 at 02:31 PM
Bravo, Matt!! You're a champ in my book on every level!!
stacie bohr May 16, 2012 at 02:56 PM
I agree with you Scott. The only difference that I find as an adult is that I am better equipped to stand up for myself and, quite frankly, remove people from my life who I feel are bullies, backstabbers, just plain jerks to be honest. Our kids go to school everyday and are forced to see the same bullies, listen to their torments, feel lost in an environment that they cannot control. We do need to lead by example and I personally have weeded out a lot of so called "friends" that were really not. My kids have noticed people being "gone" and I have a very open dialogue with them so they know as to why. It's not a bashing fest...it's honesty that I hope will make them understand to not be a bully and not to be bullied. I find it more disgusting when the bullying comes from an adult as they should know better at this point in their life. But it's still out there.
Nicole Faulkner May 16, 2012 at 03:12 PM
Wow - what an exceptional kid! Awesome job, Matt! And what a way to be an example to & inspire one's peers...he is living in 'their world', sharing a common experience & expressing himself in a positive way that other kids can 'hear'. Where can we get the book??
Jason Koestenblatt (Editor) May 16, 2012 at 03:41 PM
Hey Nicole, We actually linked to the web storefront where you can purchase the book in the fourth paragraph, or you can go here: http://patch.com/bvbLP Thanks for the comment!
Maria May 16, 2012 at 03:53 PM
Fantastic job Matt!! You are opening many eyes to bullying and it needs to stop. Great job. I ordered your book on LuLu and I hope you write more. If anyone is interested in buying the book, I posted the website where I found it: http://www.lulu.com/shop/matthew-liberato/the-power-of-a-wrestler/paperback/product-20114911.html;jsessionid=9671F13165E27E22CA41C4DCBE21D943
Benjamin Yaskulka May 16, 2012 at 10:21 PM
GO MATT
Indoor Outdoor May 16, 2012 at 10:43 PM
So proud of what you have done, Matt. What an example you are, not only for your peers but for adults as well! With so many needs to be filled, a life spent bullying others by criticizing and condemning is a complete waste of valuable time.
Nicole Faulkner May 17, 2012 at 01:35 AM
Thanks, Jason!
Ryan Karoly May 17, 2012 at 12:33 PM
Great book Matt

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