The StoryJ Robinson: Full Circle, a feature-length documentary from Director Ryan Leer, traces the life of wrestling legend J Robinson from childhood through the present, offering unprecedented access to one of the most influential personalities in the sport. The film chronicles multiple stages of Robinson’s life, examining how his experiences led to the creation and development of the wrestling camps known as one of the most challenging athletic camps in the country, J Robinson Intensive Wrestling Camps.
J Robinson’s unique path through life has led him to Oklahoma State University, the U.S. Army as an Airborne Ranger, the Munich Olympics, the University of Iowa, and the University of Minnesota. Each stop has forged an unbreakable bond between Robinson and the sport of wrestling. This film offers a retrospective examination of his life, mirroring his successes and failures to the experience of attending an Intensive Camp, embodied by the ups and downs of two high school wrestlers—a state qualifer and a state finalist—from Pennsylvania at the 28-Day Intensive Camp.
The film was shot and produced over the course of two years and includes interviews with wrestling legends Dan Gable and Bruce Baumgartner, as well as in-depth interviews with members of Robinson’s family, camp staff, the two Pennsylvania high school wrestlers, and their high school coach, Brad Silimperi, himself an Intensive Camp graduate from 1987.
Leer’s directorial strategy focuses on providing thematic parallels between the two story arcs—Robinson’s life and the camp experience of the Pennsylvania wrestlers. Obstacles, struggles and disappointment that the subjects face within both narratives provide fuel to continue the search for success.
We are excited to present this unique, personal lens into Robinson’s life, and to show how his passion project that began nearly four decades ago has grown into one of the most highly-regarded athletic camps in the country.
The FilmmakerRyan Leer began his filmmaking career shortly after graduating with a video production degree from the University of Wisconsin - Superior. Brought on to J Robinson Camps in 2011 to digitally capture the experience of arguably the toughest wrestling camp in the nation, Leer has immersed himself into all four Intensive Camps, having filmed more than a thousand hours of camp life. Whether on rollerblades or on foot, getting in the thick of it all has given him unique access to the raw emotion that camp athletes go through.
Leer's first two summers covering the Intensive Camps and capturing the experience of thousands of camp athletes sparked an idea to tell the behind-the-scenes story of a legendary wrestling camp that has thrived for 38 years under the same leadership of founder J Robinson. From meeting dads who had attended camp that were now sending their own sons, Leer was inspired to tell the story of how Robinson’s life experiences had led him to create a camp tradition that now linked multiple generations of wrestlers. This shared experience between fathers and sons also inspired the title of the film, “J Robinson: Full Circle.”
In 2014, a unique situation presented itself when California wrestler James Howey began a quest to complete all four Intensive Camps in one summer. Documenting the first attempt to finish this ambitious and grueling goal became a camp project. While Howey went on to successfully complete 66 days of camp, Leer's interest gravitated towards telling the story of the history of camp and the man behind it.
A new and distinctive film venture was born that summer as Leer conceptualized the full circle pattern of Robinson’s life experiences that built camp while simultaneously following two camp athletes as they navigated through the 28-day Intensive Camp. A film crew of four spent hundreds of hours tracking the two wrestlers and camp life. Leer conducted more than 20 interviews with camp staff, notable wrestling personalities, and Robinson’s friends and family to illustrate how the many influences on his life impacted the Intensive Camp model.