Bruce Baumgartner is a terrible golfer. He says he couldn't care less if he never wins another game of bowling or ping pong against his friends. As far as he's concerned, the only sport that he ever wanted to be good at is wrestling.
For more than two decades, Baumgartner was better than good. He won medals at four Olympics, including gold at Los Angeles (1984) and Barcelona (92) and a silver medal in Seoul in '88. At the '96 Games in Atlanta, Baumgartner was elected U.S. flag bearer and U.S. Olympic Team captain. At those Games he won a bronze medal, making him one of only eight U.S. Olympians to win medals in four different Olympiads. In June he was inducted into the U.S. Olympic Hall of Fame.
"A lot of people were instrumental to my success -- my family, friends, coaches and workout partners," said Baumgartner. "It was me on the wrestling mat, but it took a lot of work from a lot of other people."
Since his retirement from the sport in 1997, Baumgartner has been the athletic director at Edinboro University in Pennsylvania. The transition from wrestler to athletic director, he says, has been easy. He and his wife, Linda, have three sons, Bryan, 17, Zachary, 15, and Dylan, 11. (Zachary wrestles in the 132-pound weight class at Edinboro High.)
"You'll probably have to talk to my wife to see if it's true, but I don't think I went through any kind of crazy mid-life crises or significant depressions because I quit wrestling," said Baumgartner, who, as a collegian at Indiana State, finished with a 134-12 record with 73 falls and won the 1982 NCAA title. "I was 100 percent sure I wanted to quit. I was done."
Along with running the athletic department at the Division-II school, Baumgartner also co-hosts a summer wrestling camp. Both roles give him the opportunity to give back to the kind of programs that helped him develop as a wrestler. The 47-year-old credits his athletic success to his family and coaches, who instilled a no-excuses work ethic that helped him win again and again. He was a 15-time U.S. national champion (1981, 1983-96).
"In the old, ancient history times the Greeks used to battle to the death," Baumgartner said. "I'm not into Greek mythology or history but wrestling is a battle. It's almost a war between two people, a little bit like a game of chess because you had to outwork and out think your opponent. I tried to figure out what they were doing, stop what they're doing, and then do all I needed to do all within the blink of an eye."