On January 26, 1996, Dave Schultz was shot in the back by du Pont heir John E. du Pont at the family’s famed Foxcatcher Farms estate in Pennsylvania. How did the so-called best friend of amateur wrestling come to commit such a horrifying, senseless murder? For the first time ever, Mark tells the full story. Fascinating, powerful, and deeply personal, Foxcatcher will captivate filmgoers and anyone who loves riveting and bizarre stories of true crime.
|Publisher:||Penguin Publishing Group|
|Product dimensions:||5.29(w) x 8.01(h) x 0.70(d)|
|Age Range:||18 Years|
About the Author
DAVID THOMAS, a former award-winning sports journalist, is a national best-selling author/co-writer of seven books. He lives near Fort Worth, Texas.
Read an Excerpt
Making a Champion
A Fighter’s Chance
My brother was the one constant in my life until John du Pont murdered him.
Dave protected me, he set an example for me, and he suffered alongside me. Although born seventeen months apart—Dave was older—we were almost like twins.
The media liked to point out our differences. We looked different. Dave sported a thick, black beard most of his adult life and I was clean-shaven, making my dominant cheek and chin features more pronounced. My medium-brown hair was thick and wavy; Dave kept his hair shorter. Then later, Father Time made his hair even shorter. I was noticeably more muscular, Dave more chemistry professor–ish.
We wrestled differently, too, the media said. Dave was a brilliant technician on the mat. Perhaps our sport’s greatest technician ever. I relied more on sheer strength, brute force even.
Sports Illustrated once portrayed Dave as “a Yoda-like master of the mats,” capable of outsmarting opponents. I was the “sledgehammer,” “a massively muscled head-on attacker” brawling my way to victory.
The contrasts made for great stories. Perhaps that’s why we played along for fun during interviews. But the true story, despite the obvious physical differences, was how much alike we were. And the better story would have been how much that was by design, because I tried to emulate my older brother in every way I could.
Ours had all the makings of a rags-to-riches tale. From poor beginnings, we fought our way through life and the world of wrestling to win a combined four National Collegiate Athletic Association championships, two Olympic gold medals, and three World Championship titles. But riches never came. We won plenty of gold, but we never found the brass ring that would allow us to compete without having to rely on the likes of John du Pont, a credibility-craving, controlling misfit of a multimillionaire I never would have associated with if USA Wrestling had provided better financial support for its most successful wrestlers.
Our parents divorced when I was three. Our dad and our mom didn’t have one of those nasty divorces, so we didn’t have to deal with parents trashing each other. We also were really close to our grandparents on our mom’s side, and as far as kids of divorces go, we didn’t have it too bad in our early years.
I wasn’t quite yet five when I started school in Menlo Park, California, and as an October baby, I was the youngest in my class. Dave was a grade ahead and, unlike me, one of the bigger kids in his class. But Dave, who would eat just about anything and everything, was soft and uncoordinated. His physique would later result in his being nicknamed “Pudge.”
Dave’s lack of coordination came from his dyslexia. Instead of having one side of the brain that is dominant, which is what influences how people think and operate, individuals diagnosed with dyslexia have a brain with mixed dominance, and that negatively affects the brain’s organization.
Not surprisingly, Dave had great difficulty reading. The letters b, d, p, and q flipped back and forth, up and down when he read. Dave’s teachers placed him in remedial classes. Dave hated those classes because, like many dyslexics, he actually was very intelligent.
One day when Dave was a third-grader, a kid from his grade started making fun of him for being in remedial reading. Dave got mad, took the kid to the ground, and slammed his head against the concrete. That knocked the kid out, and an ambulance had to come to the school to take the kid to the hospital. Dave had cracked the kid’s skull.
After that, Dave became known as the toughest kid in the school and, not surprisingly, didn’t have to face teasing again for being in remedial reading. We did get picked on a lot, though, and I still don’t know why. I remember one time when a group of girls kept calling me “conceited.” They might have said that at least a dozen times, maybe a couple of dozen, in about an hour.
I didn’t think I was conceited. I was a good athlete and I wasn’t real talkative, but I wouldn’t say I was conceited. I was small, though, and that made me an easy target.
One bully in particular kept picking on me, and that’s when my protector stepped in on my behalf. Dave took the bully down and pounded on him until the bully started crying and got up and ran home.
Dave got cross with another kid at school named John. I can’t remember what started their rift, but I think John had disrespected Dave. They agreed to settle it on the playground after school. Word got around that John and Dave were going to fight, and there was a lot of interest in the outcome because Dave was the school’s tough guy and John was one of the best athletes, really coordinated and extremely fast.
After school, the kids formed a circle around John and Dave, and John quickly was revealed as no match for Dave. They wound up on the ground, and Dave got on top of him and started pounding on him. Dave’s fists were flying, John’s arms were trying to cover his head, and both kids were crying—John, on the bottom, because he was getting beat up, and Dave, on top, I guess because it was one of those deals where you’re a kid in a fight and you have so much adrenaline flowing and you have no idea what’s going to happen after the fight. A teacher heard the commotion and separated the two.
I don’t know how Dave wound up on top of a kid as athletic as John so quickly, but he must have detected a spot where John left himself vulnerable and pounced on it. He was an excellent technician long before he discovered wrestling.
Even though because of my size I was more on the edge of the action than in the middle of it, fighting became a defense for both of us. We didn’t have many advantages, but we did have toughness and the bullheadedness to never give in going for us.
My parents had told me after I turned four that I had six-pack abs and well-defined muscles, but my first recognition of my athletic talent came in second grade, when another student boasted that he could outrun me across a field. He took off before I could get started, but despite the boy’s big head start, I caught up to him and beat him to the finish line.
That race provided me needed confidence, because even though I was the youngest member of the class, I learned I could do something athletically better than others. I was way too young to know about the science of fast-twitch muscle fibers that I would learn about in college, but discovering how quick I was compared with the others in my class led me to realize the advantage I had in terms of explosive power. After that boost of confidence, I became the goalkeeper in our recess soccer games and usually went back to class covered in dirt from diving to make saves. For the first time, I experienced the joy of being the best at something in sports.
Our mother had remarried and attended graduate school at Stanford. Before my fourth-grade year, she accepted a job offer to be the costume designer for the Oregon Shakespeare Festival in Ashland, Oregon, the first city across the California border on Interstate 5. The move took us more than a six-hour drive from our home in Palo Alto, away from our dad and grandparents.
We had a good relationship with Dad. He and Mom gave me Dad’s middle name—Philip—when I was born. My first name came from an uncle, Mark Bernstein, and I didn’t like my name growing up because “Mark” sounded like a hare-lipped dog barking. Then I learned the name came from Mars, the Roman god of war, and I thought it was cool that I carried the name of a warrior.
Dad, a Stanford grad, was a comedian and drama professor, and he kept us laughing when we were around him. In our early years in Palo Alto, I developed a love for comedy, memorizing all of Steve Martin’s A Wild and Crazy Guy album. Our maternal grandparents Willis and Dorothy Rich were smart and accomplished people; Grandpa was a professor at Stanford, and Grandma was a doctor. While our mom worked in the summers, we stayed with them in nearby Menlo Park, and they loved on us every time we were with them. My grandmother and I grew especially close. But then we moved.
I hated Oregon. Not because of Oregon itself, but because moving there took me away from the positive influences of my dad and grandparents. I recently told my mom, Jeannie St. Germain, that I still have negative feelings toward Oregon and wished that we had never moved there, because that is where life began to turn difficult for me.
Mom and our stepdad had two more kids, Seana and Michael, whom I’ve always considered full-blooded siblings. Then Mom got divorced again and her parents passed away. She had a brother who stayed distant and wasn’t around to help her (or us) at all. Her job with the Shakespeare Festival was one of the best theater jobs in the country, but it didn’t leave her much time for us because she had to work a lot of hours to support us financially. Mom definitely made personal sacrifices to raise us the best she could.
Our house in Ashland was pretty small, probably about twelve hundred square feet. There was my mom’s room, a room Seana and Michael shared, and a room that Dave and I could have made ours. But that room had glass walls—a sunroom type of room—and was cold most of the time because it wasn’t insulated. So we took up residence in a little building out back that we called “the bunkhouse.”
The bunkhouse was uncomfortable and cold. There were no beds; we slept on cots and wrapped ourselves in sleeping bags. The walls were insulated, but the handle had fallen off the door and cold air whisked right through the opening. The bunkhouse had a small electric heater we would huddle over in the morning, with sleeping bags draped over our backs, to warm up before we dressed for school.
We lived a dirty existence there. The road to our house was all dirt and filled with potholes. Some of our neighbors were sheep farmers. We didn’t have a lot of clothes, and the items we did have were dirty, and we didn’t wash them often. In sixth grade, I had worn the same pair of socks for so long that the bottoms had become black and hard.
“That’s sick, Schultzy,” one of my teachers told me when she saw my socks.
It was painfully embarrassing. Those were awful times, but going through them made Dave and me tough and independent. We had to grow up faster than most other kids around us.
The transition from Palo Alto to Ashland was difficult. I hated our elementary school in Ashland. I was almost four hundred miles away from my dad and grandparents, and the winters were cold in that freezing bunkhouse. I couldn’t wait for the weather to warm up so I could build up calluses on the bottoms of my feet that would enable me to hike barefoot on Mount Ashland behind Lithia Park.
To me, school was boring, so I tapped into the comedian gene passed along from my dad to create fun. I would listen to Bill Cosby’s vinyl records over and over at home, memorizing his stories so I could repeat them for my classmates and make them laugh.
I was a good, natural athlete; Dave wasn’t. We both had stiff shoulders and couldn’t throw balls as far as some of the other boys. Neither of us was good at distance running, either.
Sixth grade was a big year for me in sports, because I broke twenty of the school’s twenty-five athletic records for my grade. Classmates voted me “most likely to win the Olympic long jump.” Winning that honor was cool because I remembered Dave and me watching the 1968 Olympics in Mexico City when American Bob Beamon pulled off one of the greatest feats in all of sports, breaking the world record in the long jump by an amazing 213/4 inches.
In those days I didn’t watch the Olympics and dream of some day competing in the Games. At that point I was still trying to figure out which sport I would make mine. I was good at many sports, so when I thought about specializing in a sport I thought it should be one at which I could make a lot of money because we were so poor.
During sixth grade, I read the book American Miler: The Life and Times of Glenn Cunningham, about one of the best Americans in the mile run during the 1930s. Cunningham competed in two Olympics and won the silver medal in the fifteen hundred meters at the 1936 Games in Berlin.
Cunningham’s legs had been badly burned during a schoolhouse explosion, and doctors told him he would never walk again. The book described how Cunningham did learn to walk again and developed a running style in which he ran on the balls of his feet and placed one foot directly in front of the other, as though he were running on a straight line. I copied his form, and that gave me a bit of a distinct walk. I had the pleasure and honor of meeting Cunningham in 1988 and was able to tell him how he had affected the way I walked and ran. A week after we met, Cunningham died.
Dave took up wrestling in seventh grade. He made our junior high’s junior varsity, and he had a 3-3-1 record in his first season. Dave absolutely fell in love with wrestling from the start. By that time, the other boys in his grade had caught up with him in size, so Dave used wrestling to maintain his status as the toughest kid in school. I loved Dave being the toughest kid, especially because I was the youngest in my grade and not very big compared with the others. Dave didn’t miss a chance to step in and take up for me when I got bullied.
I think finding wrestling was a eureka moment for Dave. His reading troubles didn’t matter in wrestling, but brutality did, and he had plenty of that. Plus, because he was so smart, he could take moves others did and improve them, and then create his own moves. Even when he first started wrestling, Dave could trick opponents into putting themselves in a position they thought would give them an advantage only to quickly learn they had instead stepped into Dave’s trap. By then, it was too late.
Becoming a better wrestler was about the only thing Dave cared about. He carried his wrestling shoes with him at all times and wore a singlet underneath his clothes just in case he met up with someone who wanted to wrestle.
As Dave got into wrestling, we discovered that because his brain wasn’t dominated by one side due to his dyslexia, he appeared to have the advantage of being ambidextrous. He wrote and threw with his left hand, kicked with his right foot, and shot guns right-eye dominant. Because he was neither left- nor right-handed, Dave was able to perform moves equally well from both sides. Opponents had trouble figuring out Dave’s style and also were left vulnerable due to Dave’s being able to attack a wrestler’s weaker side—whichever side it was—with equal strength.
Because Dave basically lived wrestling, he rapidly improved. He made the junior high’s varsity his eighth-grade year and placed fourth in the state. As a ninth-grader—our high school started with the tenth grade—he wrestled at the World Schoolboy Championships in Lima, Peru, and finished second behind a wrestler from Great Britain.
I was blown away that Dave had risen so fast in such a difficult sport. He, however, didn’t make a big deal out of his accomplishments. He had a steady demeanor about him that would have kept you from guessing whether he was doing well in wrestling or stinking.
His dyslexia seemed to have another benefit, too. Dave had become accustomed to having to overcompensate for his dyslexia just to make him equal to his classmates. Then when he did reach a point where he matched up to them, Dave never stopped overcompensating. That really showed on the mat, as he caught and then surpassed others his age, and even older wrestlers, accomplishing feats in high school that have yet to be equaled in US high school wrestling history.
My introduction to wrestling wasn’t quite as convincing for me as Dave’s was to him.
Wrestling was mandatory in seventh-grade physical education class. We spent all of one period going over different moves and started a tournament the next day in which all seventh-grade boys were required to participate.
With matches held only during class time, it also was a long, drawn-out tournament. My first match came late in the first round, and I hated that. The longer I had to wait to wrestle, the more time I had to consider the potential ramifications to my status as best all-around athlete if I lost. It wasn’t the first time I had felt butterflies in my stomach before a sports contest, but it was the worst case of butterflies I had experienced to that point. (And the butterflies appeared every time I wrestled during my career. I never figured out how to eliminate them, but I did learn to control them and even use them to create adrenaline before a match.) Losing would have been humiliating, and I thought about it every day when I watched other classmates wrestle.
Finally, when my match rolled around, I was able to throw a headlock on my opponent and pin him. But there was no enjoying the victory, because I immediately began to feel the pressure of what would happen if I lost my second-round match.
As you can imagine, there wasn’t much competition in the seventh grade, because none of us were experienced wrestlers. We had all undergone a whopping one period of training. Even though wrestling isn’t an intuitive sport that anyone can be naturally good at, I was able to get by on my athletic abilities to win all four matches, with all four ending in a headlock followed by a pin.
Each time I won in our school tournament, I only dreaded the next match. Then when I won the final match, I was more relieved than anything else.
Later that school year, I decided to try out for the seventh-grade wrestling team. But just a few days later, Dave and I moved back to Palo Alto to live with our dad. I loved Mom, but Palo Alto always felt like home to me. Dad had a nicer house, too, and I didn’t have to stay in the freezing bunkhouse anymore. Plus, Dad’s work allowed him to be home and take care of the basic tasks, like laundry. It sounds simple, but just having clean clothes allowed me to train harder and sweat my clothes down completely, usually several times a day. Moving back to Palo Alto, though, meant I wouldn’t get a chance to wrestle in seventh grade.
I made the eighth-grade team in Palo Alto. Our coach was also the swimming coach, and swimming was his primary sport. Our wrestling practices were unorganized, and we learned almost no techniques. The season lasted only six weeks, with three tournaments: District, Northern County, and County championships. Four guys were entered in each weight class in each of the tournaments. I finished second to the same guy in all three, and with a 3-3 record. The season didn’t amount to much of anything, and I don’t point to that year as when I “started wrestling.”
When the season ended, I didn’t feel I had learned much about how to wrestle. I didn’t like the sport, because it was too exhausting.
Wrestling didn’t come close to captivating me as it did my brother.
One day during my ninth-grade year, I went to watch Dave’s high school team practice at Palo Alto High School and met Dave’s coach, Ed Hart. Hart was also the school’s gymnastics coach and taught me how to do a backflip. My immediate thought, in addition to its being cool and an ego boost that I could do something the others in my school couldn’t, was that gymnastics would benefit me as an overall athlete by improving my flexibility, balance, and muscle strength.
Gymnastics became for me what wrestling had become for Dave. I embraced becoming a gymnast as though I would be one for the rest of my life, which I believe is the best way for someone to approach anything that he or she wants to be good at. I started training twice a day and met Stanford coach Sadao Hamada, who was one of the most respected gymnastics coaches in the world, and he started training me. I quickly learned a long list of gymnastics moves, and I could tell I was benefiting in the three areas in which I thought gymnastics would help me. In wrestling, a flurry of moves can leave a wrestler dizzy. Gymnasts don’t become dizzy, because they have kinesthetic body awareness, which is a fancy way of saying they know where they are at all times. Gymnastics made me so flexible that I could do the splits. It made me so strong that at one point I could do fifty-five pull-ups with a little kip, which is a more-intense pull-up because it involves more of the body than a regular pull-up. Gymnastics also helped me face and defeat my fears.
To help defeat one fear, I picked a risky place to practice one move, the forward roll. There was an old bridge for trains that spanned San Francisquito Creek in Palo Alto. It was probably a fifty-foot drop to the creek below. I would shimmy up to the steel beam atop the bridge and wait for a train to come onto the bridge. Then I would do front rolls on the two-foot-wide beam above the train to prove to myself that I could overcome fear.
I spent most of my free time my ninth-grade year with Coach Hart, who was glad to keep working with me and let me compete with the high school team. With his help, I won the South Peninsula Athletic League’s all-around championship for the gymnast with the most total points in all of the meet’s events. But because I was still a grade shy of being in high school, the tournament director would not give me any of the medals I had earned. In turn, my Palo Alto teammates refused to accept any of their medals as a show of support for me.
Coach Hamada trained me at two places. One was a gym close to my house and the other was at Stanford’s Encina Gym, where the university’s gymnastics and wrestling teams worked out. At Encina Gym, I would work out on one side of the room while Dave practiced wrestling on the other. The gymnasts tended to go home after workouts, while the wrestlers liked to hang around after practice. When I was finished with gymnastics, I stayed at the gym to take part in games and competitions on the trampolines with some of the wrestlers.
Later that year, I won the fifteen- to sixteen-year-old Northern California all-around championship. That time, I received my medals.
Coach Hamada was a great coach and friend to me, and he taught me how to develop the best set of athletic skills I could have asked for. Based on the balance, flexibility, and strength I gained in gymnastics, I think gymnastics laid the best foundation I could have developed for any sport.
The mental advantages I picked up in gymnastics were also significant. Everything is mental. We all live in our minds, so whatever we think is reality to us. However, there is no separation between the body and the mind. We are one organism, and confidence must be based on fact. The fact that I learned to do things that other wrestlers could not would help me immensely.
I attribute a large amount of my success as a wrestler to two factors: my foundation of gymnastics and the sibling rivalry I enjoyed with Dave combined with the brotherly love we shared for each other. Knowing we would always be brothers no matter what, we could get extremely brutal and merciless with each other.
Gymnastics and Dave prepared me both physically and mentally for just about anything that could occur during a match.
From off the Mat to Champion
Gymnastics didn’t have the ability to provide one thing I lacked: confidence.
As Dave’s wrestling career progressed, his self-confidence grew in equal measure. But I went in the other direction. I just wasn’t happy in life. My gymnastics medals seemed hollow. Lost, and confused about who I was and wondering what I would become, I kept getting into arguments with my dad and wound up quitting gymnastics.
Down deep inside, I knew what my problem was: my ego. While I was succeeding in gymnastics, my brother was doing even better in wrestling. He was receiving more attention, too, and college recruiters were slobbering all over the thought of getting Dave onto their campus. I complained about that once to my dad, and he slapped me.
Dad had thought after I won the Northern California state championship that gymnastics would be my ticket to college. I had, too. But I walked away from the sport, unsure of what I would do next.
At fifteen, I moved back to Ashland to live with my mom, Seana, and Michael, because I was starting to get high on marijuana, my dad found out about it, and he began clamping down on my activities to the point where I felt my freedom was being taken away.
Being back at my mom’s meant that I was living with my mom, her boyfriend, my half brother, and my half sister. We were so poor that I would go to the school’s lost and found to take a jacket I could wear in cold weather. I started hanging out with bad influences, especially one neighbor kid whom I would smoke marijuana with and who sadly ended up dying from a drug overdose.
One of the guys I hung out with got arrested for stealing a check out of a car, forging the person’s signature, and trying to cash it. I was with him when he tried to cash the check. He hadn’t offered to give me any of the money, and I didn’t do anything wrong, but I got arrested as an accomplice or an associate. I was put on probation and warned to stay out of trouble, and I learned a lesson about being with the wrong people. I should have told him not to attempt to cash the check, although I knew it wouldn’t have made a difference. He would have tried whether I was with him or not.
Getting arrested caused me to do a little soul-searching, and I realized two things. First, I didn’t like myself. Second, the only way I could be happy was to be able to beat up everyone in the world. The latter can’t be dismissed as just the thought process of a fifteen-year-old. That same desire drove me all the way through my last competition as an athlete, in ultimate fighting, in 1996.
That further affirmed my decision to quit gymnastics. I was good at gymnastics, but thinking back to watching Dave defend himself and me on the playground, I knew I was going to have to find a different avenue to the toughness I wanted to be known for.
Bruce Lee was big then, and watching him kick the crap out of twenty guys in movies like Fist of Fury convinced me that striking martial arts was the way to go. But there wasn’t a Bruce Lee studio near Ashland, so I opted for Chuck Norris’s Tang Soo Do at a place up the road in Medford. My gymnastics gave me a leg up, literally, because I could hold one leg almost straight over my head.
We trained in a dojo that looked like a dance studio, with wooden floors and big mirrors on the walls. I worked as hard as I could at Tang Soo Do for the first four months. Spending my time training there separated me from my bad influences, and I sensed I was becoming a more disciplined person. I felt I had found my calling, until Dave came to visit for my birthday that fall and we got into a fight over something I don’t recall. Typically when Dave and I spent time together, he would say something to push one of my buttons, and then it was go time for us.
I thought I was ready to whip Dave and teach big brother a lesson with my four months’ experience in the fine art of Tang Soo Do.
We went out to Mom’s front yard and I got in my stance and started egging Dave on. I took a big swing, and he ducked underneath and shot in for a quick takedown. Dave got on top of me and started pounding me in the head and face as I’d watched him do to others. (Believe me, the view was much worse from below.) The pounding Dave administered on me made me realize that most fights end up on the ground, and that’s where becoming proficient at wrestling would come in handy.
I wanted to become a great fighter because I lacked confidence and got bullied and made fun of. I wasn’t good at talking to girls. The only solution to my problems was to become the toughest guy in the world.
I quit Tang Soo Do and two weeks later tried out for the wrestling team at Ashland High.
When I walked into the Ashland gym on the first day of practice, I was singing this dumb little made-up song, “Wrestling is for wrestlers.” I kept repeating that phrase over and over. I guess that was my way of saying to myself, I’m going to be a wrestler. It’s become a wrestler or die trying.
Every day, I aimed to push myself to my physical limits. I hated running, but I would work on conditioning until I felt like throwing up. I studied the rules and learned every technique I could. I made sure that no one on the team worked out longer than I did.
I learned that wrestling is a simple sport, really. It’s not easy, but it’s simple, and it definitely isn’t a sport for the weak, physically or mentally. There isn’t much that’s complicated about the concept of wrestling: Pin your opponent and you win.
A pin, also known as a fall, occurs when you take down your opponent, turn him over, and pin his shoulder blades to the mat. In freestyle and Greco-Roman, a pin was called a “touch fall” because all a wrestler had to do was touch both of his opponent’s shoulder blades to the mat for a pin. In collegiate style, the shoulder blades had to be on the mat for one second for a pin.
If a match ended without a pin, the wrestler with the most points scored in the match was declared the winner. The moves for which points were awarded varied between the styles. But speaking in general terms, the ways to score points included: taking an opponent down to the mat (called a takedown); escaping from the control of your opponent (an escape); reversing your opponent when he has you in a down position and then getting on top of him (a reversal); almost pinning your opponent (a near fall); and a variety of penalties that can be called against your opponent, such as unsportsmanlike conduct, illegal holds, and stalling, to name a few.
Again, that’s in general terms. There were no points for an escape in freestyle. Also, while I was competing, freestyle stopped penalizing points for stalling. When points were awarded for an opponent’s stalling, freestyle and collegiate even had different methods of doing so. Stalling calls were judgment calls that gave a lot of power to referees. Sometimes too much power.
The near fall was another good example of how widely the rules varied. In collegiate wrestling, a near fall was scored when a wrestler turned his opponent onto his back and the opponent’s shoulder blades broke a forty-five-degree angle to the mat for at least two seconds. If you held your opponent in that position for two seconds, you received two near-fall points; if you held him there for five seconds, you received three points. In freestyle, we called that a “turn.” You could score two points for turning your opponent’s shoulder blades beyond a ninety-degree angle. You could even just roll him over completely until he was back on his stomach, and if his shoulder blades met the ninety-degree angle standard, you could receive two points for the turn.
The number of points awarded for the different scoring moves also changed from style to style, but typically ranged from one to three points.
Matches consisted of periods. In collegiate wrestling before 1982, the first period lasted two minutes and the second and third lasted three minutes. That changed to a 3-2-2 format. Freestyle matches had three periods of three minutes each until 1981, when matches were shortened to two periods of three minutes each.
Wrestlers were divided into weight classes, with the wrestlers not allowed to weigh more than their designated weight class. When I competed, the Olympics had ten weight classes in both freestyle and Greco-Roman. Currently, there are seven in each. In college wrestling, there were ten classes, as is still the case.
One type of competition was a dual meet between two teams, with both putting one wrestler in each weight class. Each match won could count up to six points for a team, with points awarded depending on the type of victory. The team with the most points at the end of the meet won the dual.
Another format was a tournament featuring multiple teams, as at college national championship meets and high school meets such as a conference or state championship. Tournaments were double elimination, and a wrestler could lose as early in the tournament as his first match and still finish as high as third place.
Freestyle tournaments followed a round-robin format. In international meets, including the Olympics, wrestlers were divided into two pools, or groups. All the wrestlers in each pool would wrestle against each other, with the wrestler in each pool accumulating the most points (based on type of victories) advancing to the championship match.
When I decided to switch to wrestling, I was all in. I committed to train as hard as I could, even if it killed me. That’s no exaggeration. I was unhappy with myself because I had been getting high too much and hanging around losers I didn’t respect. To be successful in an area, you have to respect the people who are successful in that area, or you are disrespecting the very thing that you want to become. I was so unhappy that there no longer existed a difference between life and death to me. I sincerely didn’t care anymore. I wanted to start associating with people I respected. Fortunately wrestling provided that.
My coach was Tim Brown, a heavyweight wrestler and football coach. He was a good coach and a good guy. Ashland’s wrestling program was small, though, with only about ten guys at tryouts. Coach Brown understood the importance of stamina and wrestling, and he ran us like crazy to get us in tip-top shape.
Best I remember, we had twelve weight classes in high school wrestling when I competed. If necessary, coaches would choose weight classes for their wrestlers if there were weights unfilled, because forfeiting a weight class would give the opposing team six points in a dual match. Only one wrestler from a school could participate at each weight in a meet, so coaches would come up with ways to choose who would compete at weights.
I started wrestling in the 130-pound weight class. It was then that I experienced one of the worst parts of wrestling: cutting weight.
Cutting weight is the process of dropping weight, usually rapidly, to meet the weight maximum of a particular class. Cutting involves heavy workouts to make you sweat as much as you can; cutting back on food, or even cutting out food altogether; and, when a wrestler is really having to work hard to make weight, sticking a finger in your throat so you vomit. Done the wrong way—as in those extreme cases—cutting weight is dangerous. But it has been a part of the sport for as far back as I’ve heard it explained.
When I was competing in wrestling, the predominant philosophy was that cutting lots of weight gave a wrestler an advantage in that he would be bigger than a wrestler who didn’t cut to the same weight. Basically, a wrestler who cut would lose body fat to get down in weight and would have more muscle mass than the other wrestler.
I thought it was a stupid philosophy, especially for someone with a lean body type, which I had from gymnastics. I weighed 136. Six pounds may not sound like too much of a difference, but because I was lean, I was cutting water weight and my body was eating my muscles. When calories aren’t coming in from outside the body, energy must be found from what is stored in the body. Carbs are burned during aerobic (with oxygen) actions, and proteins are burned with anaerobic (without oxygen) actions. Because I didn’t have much body fat, the only way for me to lose weight was to burn energy from muscle protein and by dehydrating water weight through sweating. As a result, my ability to perform was significantly hampered.
Wade Yates, one of my best friends, was a district runner-up the previous season for Ashland in my weight. Coach Brown created a rule that if two wrestlers were in the same weight, they would wrestle challenge matches each week for that weight’s spot on the varsity. Wade and I wrestled eleven times in ten weeks, and I won ten times. I had to lift my level of intensity so high when I wrestled Wade each week that I suffered a drop-off for the ensuing competitions.
I think I got pinned in my first four matches and didn’t have a clue why I was getting destroyed.
Dave’s reputation was that he became so good because of his vast knowledge of techniques. I was new to wrestling and didn’t know any moves, so I set out to learn as many as I could. Dave and I had a friend named Jim Goguen who wrestled at Southern Oregon College (now Southern Oregon University) in Ashland.
I went over to the campus, and Jim introduced me to the concept of gaining hand control from the bottom to escape an opponent riding you on top. I call it the “hand-control standup.”
Here’s how it works: You’re down on the mat, and your opponent has his arms around you. You grab his fingers so that he can’t grab his own hand to get a locked grip around you or grab your hands so that he has what’s known as hand control. Then you put your feet out in front of you, arch your back so that you can get your hips away from his hips, and then cut free from your opponent with a quick turn. That’s an effective way of escaping your opponent.
The hand-control standup worked well because of one indisputable fact: The back of your head is harder than your opponent’s face. If the other guy’s face was behind my head, Jim told me, I should smash his face with my head. No opponent would want to hang on if he was being smashed in the face.
After Jim taught me that move, almost no one could hold me down. I employed that move all throughout high school and college and into national and international competitions. At the college level, scoring includes one point for riding time. Riding time comes when a wrestler is in control of an opponent on the mat, and the wrestler being controlled is unable to escape or score a reversal. At the end of the match, if a wrestler has one minute more of riding time than his opponent, one riding time point is added to his score. After my second year in college, no opponent scored a riding time point against me.
The hand-control concept was just as effective from on top. If I could control an opponent’s hands, I could ride him pretty well. The funny thing is that the hand-control concept was so simple. I couldn’t understand why more wrestlers—shoot, all wrestlers—weren’t doing it. I never shared the secret of the hand-control standup with anyone.
Thanks to what Jim taught me, I improved at escapes. I was training as hard as I could, too. But still, the wins weren’t coming. I made the mistake of believing that if I learned techniques like Dave, I’d be winning like him, too. The big difference didn’t come, though, until I realized that I would need to add explosive power to the techniques to make them work.
Excerpted from "Foxcatcher"
Copyright © 2015 Mark Schultz.
Excerpted by permission of Penguin Publishing Group.
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.
Table of Contents
Part 1 Making a Champion 5
1 A Fighter's Chance 7
2 From off the Mat to Champion 23
3 John du Pont 49
4 One and Done at UCLA 57
5 Creating an Aura 71
6 National Champion! 91
7 Escape from Hell 107
8 Brothers, Olympians 123
9 Golden Moment 133
10 Erasing the Asterisk 151
Part 2 Destroying a Champion 163
11 Just "Coach" 165
12 A Man and His Program in Disarray 177
13 At All Costs 197
14 Protest at the Olympics 211
15 A New Home, a New Life 227
16 Trouble at Foxcatcher 247
17 Why? 263
18 My Ultimate Victory 275
19 Justice 291
Dramatis Personae 308
What People are Saying About This
Praise for Foxcatcher
“My recommendation: If you want to know all about what happened at Foxcatcher, pre-order the book by Mark Schultz. It is a must-read, whether or not you know a lot about wrestling.” —Eddie Goldman, host of No Holds Barred
"While the film touches more on the tragedy of his brother David, the book takes you through the triumphs of his athletic career, the personal struggles that led him to join up with du Pont, and a true inside perspective of what really went on at Foxcatcher Farms."
“Raw, authentic, and powerful. It is a fantastic autobiography from start to finish, and it can be read in one or two sittings, since it will be difficult to put down.”—Digital-Journal.com