Dave and Mark Schultz are banging heads again. Thomp! and there it is—a blue-gray lump rising on Mark's forehead. Thwack! Mark comes back with a fist. The swelling starts over Dave's left eye. Thud! The two brothers crash to the floor of the Stanford University wrestling room. But they're up and...crack! Mark has butted Dave in the face like a crazed bull. Groaaan! Dave's nose is gushing blood and he's checking for loose teeth. Mark is holding the top of his head, which has been sliced open and will need three stitches. Mark's white T shirt is so bloodstained it looks as if it had come off a victim in Friday the 13th. Another wrestler rushes out to wipe sweat and blood off the mat when...crunch! Mark throws a headlock on his brother, and the two of them are back at it, rolling on the floor in a death struggle....
So goes practice. "I need Mark to keep me sharp," says Dave later, in a nasal grunt, toilet paper stuffed up his nostrils. "I want him to be an Olympic champion, and he wants me to be an Olympic champion," explains Mark.
These are the wrestling Schultzes, stiletto versus sledgehammer, deftness against demolition, 163-pound Olympian battling 180½-pound Olympian. Dave, 25, a former NCAA titlist for Oklahoma University and America's only current world champion, is the older, smaller, craftier one—a Yoda-like master of the mats, hobbling around on gimpy knees. "It's always been the trickery of the sport that attracted me," he says. Mark, 23, a three-time NCAA champion at OU, is bigger, stronger and more aggressive, a massively muscled head-on attacker. "I'm more straight shots and basics," he says. Because they value their friendship—and life and limb—the Schultzes fight it out only in practice drills such as this takedown session. "We would never wrestle each other in a real match," says Mark. "I don't know who'd win and I don't want to find out."
Taram Magomadov might bet on Dave. Magomadov was the Soviet whom Dave put away 11-6 in the 163-pound final at last September's world championships in Kiev. Soviet wrestlers had been knocking off Americans one after another at the meet, and Magomadov surely felt confident facing this balding, bearded, unimposing fellow from California. He jumped out to a 4-0 lead over Schultz in little more than a minute. "Guys have certain tactics, and I study them. Then I try to do what screws 'em up best," says Dave, explaining what followed. He found Magomadov vulnerable to the gut-wrench, a maneuver in which one wrestler squeezes another around the waist from behind and rolls him to his back for points. So Schultz put a gut-wrench to Magomadov three straight times to build a 7-4 lead after the first of two three-minute periods. Late in the second period, he wrapped up his victory with a couple of two-point headlock rolls. For an hour and a half afterward he was mobbed by wrestling-savvy Ukrainians seeking autographs. "I should move here now," said Dave at the time. "In Palo Alto nobody knows who I am." As it turned out, he was the only Western-bloc wrestler to come away with a title.
July 15, 1984
Still, in a battle of Schultzes, Ed Banach might put his money on Mark. Banach, then an Iowa junior, came to the 1982 NCAA championships in Ames with two straight NCAA 177-pound titles behind him and two more presumably ahead of him. He looked likely to become the first four-time NCAA champ in history. Meanwhile, Mark, who had won the NCAA 167-pound title as a sophomore, had moved up to 177 as a junior to challenge Banach. In the finals at Ames, he took Banach apart, 16-8, to earn the meet's outstanding-wrestler award. "Mark is an animal when he's healthy," says his brother. "Wrestling against him teaches me what I can't do." Banach had learned what he couldn't do; he moved up to 190 the next year and won his third NCAA championship. Mark remained at 177 and picked up his third national title, winning his final 44 matches.
"Three-time NCAA champion," says Mark, savoring the words. "There are only 30 of us in the world."
"NCAA champs are a dime a dozen," answers Dave, who won his lone collegiate title in 1982 after placing second and third in previous years. "Now, when you start talking about world champions...." Dave is grinning broadly. He knows how easily Mark can be stirred up. Unfortunately, he doesn't know how he can be calmed down. Three hours later Dave leaves practice with a swollen forehead, loose front teeth and a nearly broken nose.
In a sport filled with brother acts (Ed Banach and his twin, Lou, are also on this year's Olympic team), Dave and Mark Schultz are the best U.S. pair since two-time Olympic medalists Ben (gold in '72, silver in '76) and John (silver in '72, gold in '76) Peterson. "You know Dave will wrestle well because he's so consistent," says Stanford coach Chris Horpel, who has worked with the Schultzes since they were teenagers. "Mark is more on-and-off, but when he's on he can blow everybody away, Soviets included. Not just beat them, but annihilate them."
The two Schultzes constitute one-fifth of America's Olympic freestyle entry this summer in Los Angeles, having qualified for the U.S. team in late June at the wrestling trials at Grand Valley State College in Allendale, Mich., where Dave had to beat another world champion, Lee Kemp, in the finals. In L.A., they're good bets to win gold medals, especially Dave, though he will first have to get by 1981 world champion Martin Knosp of West Germany. "It would be the best feeling you could have," says Mark, whose principal challenger at the Games figures to be Turkey's Resit Karabacak. "It'd be...better than making a million dollars."
"Well, maybe not that good," says Dave.
This is a different yet compatible pair. Mark is quick to react, impetuous, emotional; Dave "kind of floats along," in the words of his longtime friend Horpel. "If something bad happens he overcomes it easily; it's like water rolling off his back." Dave has drifted into quiet Christianity after college years of wide experimentation and, in his words, "a kind of undisciplined, pleasure-oriented life-style"; Mark still has a few wild oats to sow. Not coincidentally, Dave is happily married; Mark is happily single.
A recent spring afternoon comes to mind: Mark and Dave are walking across the Stanford campus after lunch, with Mark steering a zigzag course that takes the brothers through a slalom run of sunbathing coeds. "You want to know what impresses the girls," Mark says, then starts stuffing an apple and a banana he has taken from the cafeteria into his gym shorts. Dave is far less startled than is a female passerby. "I think Stanford is exposing Dave and Mark to some new things," says Horpel. "And vice versa."
Horpel hired the Schultzes as assistant coaches last year to help give a boost to Stanford's low-key wrestling program. He'd known them since their Pudge and pommel-horse days growing up in Palo Alto—Dave was called The Pudge, Mark worked the pommel horse—and had helped coach them both in high school and in one unproductive year they'd spent at UCLA. "Dave was already an accomplished wrestler by the time Mark got seriously into the sport," recalls Horpel. "Mark was then a junior in high school, and he'd been competing in gymnastics. Both had pursued their sport beyond the normal."
Dave, dyslexic as a child, had taken up wrestling in the seventh grade on the advice of a teacher who thought it would help him build self-confidence. It did that and more. By his freshman year at Palo Alto High, Dave was a wrestling fanatic. He wore his singlet under his school clothes and his wrestling shoes everywhere. He trained as many as three times a day. After his high school workout, he'd ride his bike a few miles up the road so he could practice with the Stanford wrestling team, whose coach, Joe DeMeo, would then drive him 30 miles north to Skyline College for a session with a club called the Peninsula Grapplers. "He had an unbelievable ability never to get saturated," says DeMeo, now a club coach in Albany, N.Y. "He put in more hours on the mat than anyone I've ever seen."
Dave had to devote that time in order to succeed. He was known as the Pudge for having what Horpel calls "this amorphous-type body with no muscle definition anywhere"—a body that hasn't changed much since. Says DeMeo, "When I first saw him, I thought he'd be a waste of my time."
But Dave was a tremendously bright student, able to learn quickly and devise new combinations of moves. He concentrated on international freestyle techniques—quicker, trickier and more throw-oriented—rather than on collegiate wrestling, which he deemed "a dead end." His goal was not NCAA championships but world and Olympic titles. He also worked on Greco-Roman techniques. The results were evident: At 14, a second place at 123 pounds at a world junior meet in Lima, Peru; and at 17, a 149.5-pound championship in the prestigious Great Plains tournament in Lincoln, Neb. In the latter Dave pinned Iowa senior Chuck Yagla, who'd been named the outstanding wrestler at that year's (1976) NCAAs. In 1977, as a high school senior, Dave won not only his California state title but also U.S. senior national titles in both freestyle and Greco-Roman.
Mark, smaller and lighter than his brother throughout high school, had by the end of his sophomore year become an accomplished gymnast, a Northern California age-group champ. But he liked the physicality of wrestling.
The Schultzes' parents, Phil and Jean, had divorced when the boys were young, and when Mark switched into wrestling he was living with his mother in Oregon. He finished 4-6 that first year, 1977, and then moved back to Palo Alto, where he stayed with his dad. "Because Mark had always been the athletically gifted one," says Horpel, who by then was an assistant coach at Palo Alto High, "he thought that if Dave could achieve such excellence in a sport, it was just a matter of time until he could, too." Sure enough, as a high school senior, in just his second year of wrestling, Mark went 27-2 and won a California state title at 154 pounds.
Mark was subsequently more successful than Dave at the college level, though as Horpel points out, "The only impetus Dave put into learning collegiate style was so that he wouldn't lose, not so that he would become the best collegiate wrestler ever, which is something he was capable of becoming. By the time he was a senior in high school, he was literally as good as any senior in college."
Dave spent one unhappy year at Oklahoma State, where he tried to cut too much weight, then transferred to UCLA to be with incoming freshman Mark and Horpel, then an assistant coach there. The Schultzes arrived in Westwood just in time to learn that the Bruin wrestling program would be discontinued the following year. "I started telling coaches I'd take protection money not to come and jinx their program," says Dave. Before the Schultzes transferred to OU the following year, Dave had logged more beach than class time and Mark had gotten into a now-legendary wrestling brawl with two L.A. cops after a dorm party. The brawl and ensuing chase ended with Mark hiding in a bush surrounded by, he says, 10 officers with their guns drawn. "They had to use a police helicopter to find me," he adds. Phil Schultz had to pay $5,000 bail to get his son out of jail; the charges were later dropped.
It was at Oklahoma that Dave met his wife, Nancy, who straightened out his increasingly dissolute behavior. "I didn't even know how screwed up I was until I looked back on it," says Dave. "I said, 'My God, you maniac.' " There wasn't much Dave—or Mark—hadn't tried.
Nancy, who now teaches gymnastics to young children, first saw her future husband in a phys ed class in the spring of their junior year, 1981. "It was hot out, but he'd show up wearing a parka and his Russian fur hat and sunglasses," she says. "He'd just stand at the back of the class and never say anything. I thought he was kind of weird."
"Those were my cool days," responds Dave. "The girls wanted me then."
"They wanted you arrested. They thought you were a thug."
Nancy gives at least as good as she gets—and probably better. Dave hasn't crossed her since she rendered him unconscious with a choke hold a few months ago. "He said, 'I'm going out,' but I thought he was kidding," she recalls. "Then he kind of went limp and slid off the couch like Jell-O."
Life is never dull at the three-story Schultz home in Palo Alto. Dave and Nancy have the top floor, Mark is one flight down and Phil Schultz, the landlord, lives at ground level. "It's like Russia around here," grumbles Dave. "You can't call someone a slime bag because they're always listening in." Phil, a former actor, college instructor and improvisational comic who now gives spiritual counseling, seems the most low-keyed of the bunch. "It's nice to have these three around," he says.
Topics of discussion around the house vary from Phil's entertainment career (which included small roles in Play It Again, Sam and Hill Street Blues and appearances with his comedy troupe on the Merv Griffin and Johnny Carson shows) to Mark's trip to the junior world championships in Mongolia in 1978 ("I got a staph infection in my earlobe and it ate half the lobe away," he says, exaggerating. "It was Mongolian staph, and you never know what the hell's in that") to Dave's household chores ("I told Nancy I have to get some Playtex gloves so I don't have to go to tournaments with dishpan hands. It's kind of a low status"). Sometimes Dave and Mark discuss their family bloodlines, which run more to intellectualism than athleticism. Their father earned a master's degree from Stanford, where previous generations of their mother's side of the family either taught or studied. Jean's mother, Dorothy Starks, graduated from Stanford Medical School in 1928 at the top of her class, while her father, Willis Rich, was a noted ichthyologist. "My mom [now Jean St. Germain, resident costume designer for the Oregon Shakespearean Festival] was in the top five percent of her undergraduate class at Stanford," says Dave, shaking his head. "Something must have gotten lost in the genes."
Of course, the Schultzes also discuss wrestling. When Dave is asked about the unfortunate concentration in the U.S. of two world champions—himself and Kemp—in a single weight class, he says simply, "Iron sharpens iron." It seems the same verity extends to Dave and Mark Schultz, too. Iron sharpens iron. Brother sharpens brother.