Wrestling is a lot like chess," said Wayne Baughman, coach of the Olympic freestyle team, during last week's final Trials at Brockport (N.Y.) State College. "You're simultaneously on offense and defense in each sport, planning three moves ahead and also figuring what your opponent might do."
It is perhaps no coincidence then that a number of Baughman's wrestlers play chess, though as things worked out, some of them won and some were mated. Preliminary Trials in Cleveland last month had whittled the number of contenders at each weight to eight. At Brockport the scheme was for contenders ranked second through eighth to fight a series of elimination matches until just one was left to challenge the top qualifier from Cleveland in a best-of-three series.
In seven of the 10 Olympic weight classes, when the eliminations were over the survivor had already lost to the first-place finisher in Cleveland. That meant that the No. 1 man had to win just once more in the finals to take the best-of-three. In the three other divisions the top qualifier had not beaten the No. 2 man, so whoever won twice in last Tuesday's encounters would advance to Montreal.
In the first finals bout, quick and slick Bill (Rat) Rosado, 20, of Tucson, beat the youngest finalist, Mike Farina, 18, a state high school champion this year from Elmhurst, Ill. Rosado got six takedowns and won 7-2 in a 105.5-pound match. Later in the day he won again, 7-3, to lock up a trip to Montreal.
July 4, 1976
The Trials' biggest surprise took shape in the next bout, in which Joe Corso, 24, a chess player who is working on his masters in physiology at Purdue, faced Jimmy Carr, a 1972 Olympian, at 125.5 pounds. Corso had already fought six times in Brockport, including a full best-of-three match the day before against rugged Jan Gitcho of Granite City, Ill. Corso had begun by losing his first match to Gitcho and was trailing 4-2 at the start of the third and final three-minute period of their second. At that point, Corso began a remarkable comeback. Attacking relentlessly, he pulled out a 6-4 decision in that one, and then took the decider 10-5. "I'm dead," said Gitcho afterward.
Very much alive, Corso then had to face Carr, the youngest U.S. Olympic wrestler when he went to Munich at age 17. Ahead 1-0 in the best-of-three by virtue of his win over Corso in Cleveland, Carr led 11-7 late in their first Brockport meeting. Facing elimination, Corso thought out a combination several moves ahead and pinned Carr with just 15 seconds left. "I started the final flurry with a bear hug," said Corso, "got a Turk ride on him and then went to work on his head to get the pin." When he met Carr again, that evening, he sealed his upset with a 13-8 win.
The favorite at 163 pounds also lost, though in quite different circumstances. Wade (Plastic Man) Schalles, 24, formerly of Clarion (Pa.) State and first at Cleveland, was facing Stan Dziedzic, 26, the assistant coach at Michigan State. Schalles scored two quick points with a reverse fireman's carry that briefly exposed Dziedzic's shoulder to the mat in the opening moments. But as the two of them thumped heavily to the mat, Schalles landed awkwardly on his head. Despite being in excruciating pain from four cracked vertebrae, Schalles wrestled for another eight minutes before nearly collapsing; he was disqualified for stalling. Fifteen minutes later, with his neck held in a protective brace, he was taken to a hospital. When the crowd was told the extent of Schalles' injury, they gave him a standing ovation.
In the evening, before a packed house of 2,500, Jim Haines of Arcadia, Wis., buzz-sawed his way past Mark Mesnyk, of the University of Iowa, 11-1, to earn the berth at 114.5 pounds, and Gene Davis, 30, coach of the Athletes in Action West team, whipped Jim Humphrey of Columbus, Ohio 10-3 at 136.5 pounds. Davis, a 1972 Olympian, came up with the most spectacular move of the night, grabbing Humphrey's arm, kicking his feet from under him and hurtling him through the air.
Marine Lieut. Lloyd Keaser, 26, needed two wins over Larry Morgan, 24, who had defeated him in Cleveland at 149.5 pounds. The 1973 world champion got them both, leading 7-1 when Morgan was disqualified for stalling, then prevailing 5-1.
Next it was time for a pair of brothers from Comstock, Wis. named Molly and Betsy, both medalists in Munich. John (Molly) Peterson, 26, now coach of the AIA East squad, had won a silver at 180.5 pounds, and his brother Ben (Betsy), 25, had won the gold at 198 pounds. When they got back from the Olympics, the two were honored in Comstock, where the population is, according to Molly's estimate, "Close to 100 now that there's a trailer court." In Brockport, John manhandled Larry Zilverberg of the University of Minnesota 21-2. And Ben, despite suffering a mild concussion, disposed of Laurent Soucie of the University of Wisconsin 8-3.
When the Petersons had departed, eight-time national 220-pound titlist Russ Hellickson, 28, an assistant coach at the University of Wisconsin, proved too much for Larry Bielenberg of Oregon State, winning 7-3.
That left it to the heavyweights: Mike McCready, 25, a 260-pounder, now assistant coach at Northern Iowa, and 6'5", 340-pound Jimmy Jackson, 19, this year's NCAA champion from Oklahoma State. Jackson had lost to McCready in Cleveland, but took the first match 2-1 and then finished McCready off with a pin in the second.
"We don't have superstuds like Dan Gable and Wayne Wells," said Coach Baughman afterward, alluding to two gold medalists of 1972, when the U.S. made a superb showing by taking three golds, two silvers and a bronze. Yet Baughman was not just blowing smoke when he added, "We have seven wrestlers who could win medals: Corso, Davis, Keaser, Dziedzic, the Petersons and Hellickson." All of them proved at Brockport that they are in fine condition, have strength and know how to plan ahead.