Mike has never had it easy. Born with cerebral palsy, he has had more than his fair share of physical challenges. Challenges that left him with a broken collar bone at the age of 9 in a wrestling match, for instance.
Those challenges might have stopped most people. But not Mike. Instead, he’s starting his senior year at a new school, with new ambitions. He’s ready to dust off his wrestling shoes and try out for the team…as a senior.
Many people doubt Mike. But what does that really matter? With a brand-new coach who fights for the underdog, a new best friend, and an incredible father, the odds are in Mike’s favor.
There’s plenty of cynicism, sure. But Mike is about to prove that strong character and mental fortitude are more valuable than any negative comment.
And they’re to be desired more than any trophy.
Mike is a determined, hard-working, courageous young man. He struggles with insecurities, as we all do, but he consistently chooses to put them aside and persevere. He tells many people not to underestimate his abilities. Mike tells his dad that he wants to prove he’s a capable individual. And although he has many chances to be prideful, Mike swallows that pride and chooses the path of humility.
Mike gives a speech toward the end of the film, telling people never to judge others for what they can’t do, because their abilities are sure to surprise.
Mike’s father loves him dearly. Many flashbacks show him helping Mike learn and overcome physical disabilities, consistently showing him that he is able to do hard things. Mike’s father apologizes when he is in the wrong and encourages his son as well.
Jeff befriends Mike when others ridicule him and helps Mike train for wrestling. Jeff tells Mike, “I don’t know why, but I believe in you.” Jeff also challenges Mike to go beyond his limits and to reach for more. He sacrifices his chance at a wrestling match to give Mike a shot at winning.
Other than Mike’s father and Jeff, Coach Cutting is Mike’s biggest fan and advocate. He pushes Mike to work hard and challenges him not to seek the approval of others or to worry about what they might think of him. The coach encourages Mike not to let his physical disabilities and past experiences define who he is.
Coach Cutting tells Mike that strength of character is far more important than winning a match. He also gives Mike a trophy for strength of character and tenacity.
Coach Cutting tells Mike’s father that “whatever God’s got planned for Mike, only God knows.”
Mike flirts with a girl named Patty, and she with him. Jeff tells Mike that Patty is way out of his league, but that doesn’t stop him from asking her to slow dance.
A girl comments that Mike has a “nice booty.” Mike shaves his face while shirtless.
A rude, aggressive teen tries to tackle and hit Mike. Jeff, a friend of Mike’s, comes to his rescue, taking the bully to the ground.
A flashback shows the wrestling match where Mike broke his collarbone at the age of 9. (We hear the bone cracking in the film and see Mike in agonizing pain.) A close friend of Mike’s falls on his back from a tall height and suffers injuries.
Mike’s father slaps him in the face. Mike tackles his dad on the couch.
The s-word is used four times. Other profanity includes “h—,” “a–,” “a–hole” and the abbreviated “B.S.”
A few people call Mike a “retard” multiple times, and one teammate aims a crude hand at him.
Many people, teens and adults alike, are rude to Mike and underestimate his abilities. A few students make fun of the way he walks and talks. One in particular tells the wrestling coach that letting “a cripple” wrestle is the same as forfeiting the match.
A teacher assumes that Mike is in special education courses; when he tries to explain otherwise, she ignores him.
Inspired by screenwriter Michael D. Coffey’s personal life, Triumph is a story set in the ‘80s about a young man with cerebral palsy who overcame every obstacle thrown his way.
It’s an inspirational sports film that teaches viewers about character, determination, humility, kindness and perseverance. Some language—which could easily have been eliminated—is the biggest concern here.
That said, Triumph is the sort of movie that is sure to catch the attention of any wrestling fan, and maybe a few others looking for inspiration and motivation to push through life’s challenges.
Kristin Smith joined the Plugged In team in 2017. Formerly a Spanish and English teacher, Kristin loves reading literature and eating authentic Mexican tacos. She and her husband, Eddy, love raising their children Judah and Selah. Kristin also has a deep affection for coffee, music, her dog (Cali) and cat (Aslan).