MARK SHULTZ: World Champion Wrestler
Like most great athletes, Schultz' life was not an easy path to walk. It was filled with disappointments, hardships and let downs. He persevered, overcame, fought and rose to become an Olympic Gold<
By Reed Sainsbury
Published: Spring 1999
Thirty eight years ago, in Palo Alto, California, one of the world's greatest wrestlers came about. This man was not your ordinary person but a determined, “never-say-die” athlete. Like most great athletes, Schultz' life was not an easy path to walk. It was filled with disappointments, hardships and let downs but he persevered, overcame, fought and rose to become an Olympic Gold Medalist, World Champion Wrestler.
Mark's life didn't start out easy. When he was three years old his family was torn apart when his mother and father got divorced. As a result of this, he grew up moving back and forth with his father in California and mother in Oregon. “It's tough to grow up without the guidance of a father. I'll never get divorced because it's the kids who end up getting hurt,” says Mark. As he grew up he practiced gymnastics and rose to the top when he became the Northern California State Gymnastic Champion. He enjoyed gymnastics because he had great fundamental athletic ability; however, he had little confidence in himself. He later moved to Ashland Oregon with his Mother.
“While growing up Dave, my older brother, was like a father figure,” says Mark. But Dave's life was no bed of roses. He had dyslexia and was teased and made fun of by other kids. When Dave first stepped on the wrestling mat in the seventh grade, he was clumsy and uncoordinated. He didn't even make the varsity team and while wrestling JV he won only half of his matches. Many kids would have given up and found a new sport or hobby but not Dave. He was determined, and within two years was ranked the second best wrestler in the world for his age group. Wrestling actually helped Dave overcome his dyslexia. It taught him that he could turn a weakness into a strength.
“Dave Schultz was the greatest high school wrestler in the history of the United States,” says brother Mark. He competed in The Great Plains Championship and pinned the two time defending NCAA champion Chuck Yagla in the finals. This qualified him for the Tblisi tournament: the toughest tournament in the world because it involved all the Soviet wrestlers, who won the last ten World Championships. They had ten men in each weight class. Each of them could have won the World's. Dave amazingly took second place!
Dave's closest match in High School came in the state finals while wrestling two weight classes above his own. He won 12-1. He competed in the National Open Greco Roman Championship and won. He had the most falls in the least amount of time. No man since then has even come close to equaling Dave's high school accomplishments.
“I couldn't really live with myself knowing that my brother was ranked second in the world and here I was with more talent at a younger age.” This challenge is what motivated Mark to start wrestling. As a junior in high school he began wrestling in Ashland, Oregon to prove that he could do what his brother was doing; but, things didn't go as planned. Mark was having a losing season. With a losing record of 4 and 6 in the 130 pound weight class, he became discouraged and quit. He transferred back down to California. Mark wasn't very happy and remembers deciding, “I'd rather die than live the rest of my life being who I was. If I wasn't going to make it in wrestling, then I was going to die trying. That's the kind of commitment it takes to be a champion,” says Mark. Mark went out with a new attitude and a burning desire to win. He began working with Stanford coach, Chris Horpel, and eventually won the California State Championship. That was probably the most miraculous win he ever had because up until that point, he had never won a tournament.
After high school he wrestled for UCLA on a scholarship. Later, Mark and his brother Dave wrestled for the University of Oklahoma. This is where Mark unchained the beast and won the NCAA Championship three times!
In 1982 Ed Banach was going to be the first four-time NCAA champion in history. To make things exciting Mark moved up a weight class from 167 lbs. to do battle with Banach in the 177 lb class. Mark cleaned house when he beat Banach in the finals 16-8 and was named the Outstanding Wrestler at the NCAA finals. Mike Chapman, editor and publisher of W.I.N. magazine called it the second greatest match in NCAA history. Larry Owings defeat of Dan Gable is considered to be the greatest.
THE WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP
After college, Mark tried out for the World team and made it. He placed seventh while Dave took first. Next came the 1984 Olympics where Mark and Dave both, took gold medals. Mark won the 1985 World Championship, and considered it to be the best tournament he ever wrestled. In 1987 he found himself grinning again with another gold medal, in the World Championship.
Mark claims he got his belief in God through wrestling. He remembers all the really tough life-changing matches. He did every thing he possibly could to prepare for them. Mark realized that God had always been watching over him as he wrestled. When Mark went to the 1984 Olympics, his first match of the tournament was against the European Champion, Resit Karabajak from Turkey. Karabajak had beaten all the Soviet Block wrestlers that boycotted the 1984 Olympics and was ranked #1 in the world. Mark said, “I went back to the hotel and sweated for two hours, knowing that my first match would be the gold medal match.”
When the whistle blew and the wrestling commenced, Mark broke Karabajak's elbow and pinned him with a double wrist lock. He was disqualified for excessive brutality, but since it was a double elimination tournament and Karabajak couldn't continue, Mark could still win the gold. Mark fought his way to the next two rounds and met up with Chris Rinke. In the final minutes of the match, Mark shot in and Rinke put a body lock on him. Mark has an awesome counter for this move and scored by using it. Mark won 5-3, but during the match, Mark was thinking he could win a criteria tiebreaker if he let Rinke score to make it 4-4. A year later Mark realized had he given that point away, he would have lost. Mark claims, “God taught me it's the little things that we do with no expectation of reward that shows who we are and brings great things to pass.”
THE DUPONT TRAGEDY
John Dupont, one of the heirs to the Dupont fortune, created tragedy for himself and the Schultz brothers. The story was headline news for several weeks. Mr. Dupont was a wrestling fan and even dabbled in the sport himself. With his money, he sponsored a team and built a wonderful facility on his estate. After the 1987 world championships, the Schultz brothers became part of the Dupont's Foxcatcher wrestling team. Mark remembered with remorse in his eyes, “I think Dupont is someone who was self centered and overly concerned with his own personal gratification. I was a very happy guy, and he made me miserable.” Mark further explained how Dupont had a way of sucking the life out of you.
Trying to concentrate on training for the Olympics made it very difficult being around Dupont. Mark feels he would have been better off had he never associated with Dupont. Wrestling wasn't fun any more for Mark, so he retired. Years later, his brother Dave went to train for the 1996 Olympics with Dupont's team. On a cold January afternoon at the Dupont estate in Pennsylvania, Dave Schultz was fixing the radio in his car when Dupont pulled up in his car and shot Dave three times with a .38 caliber pistol.
Losing a father figure, brother, best friend and hero has been a very trying and difficult time for Mark. The incident shocked the wrestling world with the loss of such a great contributor to the sport. Dupont was found guilty but mentally unstable and is now incarcerated, hopefully for life.
THE COACHING YEARS
Mark is currently the head wrestling coach for Brigham Young University where he is having muc