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Sunday, August 18, 2013

No Holds Barred: Mark Schultz on 'Foxcatcher' Film, His Life, and the State of Wrestling 

(Photo courtesy of Mark Schultz)

On this edition of No Holds Barred, host Eddie Goldman spoke with wrestling legend Mark Schultz, a 1984 Olympic gold medalist and two-time world champion in freestyle wrestling for the U.S., a three-time NCAA Div. I wrestling champion at Oklahoma, and who was 1-0 in MMA.

He is being portrayed by the actor Channing Tatum in the upcoming film "Foxcatcher", which will focus on his life as well as the murder in January 1996 of his older brother and fellow Olympic gold medalist wrestler, Dave Schultz, by the multimillionaire John du Pont.

"Foxcatcher" is scheduled to be released in the U.S. December 20, 2013. The film is directed by the highly regarded Bennett Miller, and also stars Mark Ruffalo as Dave Schultz and Steve Carell as du Pont. It will be distributed by Sony Pictures Classics.

In what was an epic discussion, we spoke with Mark Schultz by phone Saturday.

"In 1996, I was the head coach at Brigham Young University. And I got a call from my dad, and he said my brother had been murdered by du Pont. And it just infuriated me to just no end. And I think I destroyed everything in my office," he said.

We went on to discuss his 1993 meeting with Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu legend Rickson Gracie and their submission grappling matches, which Rickson won. That inspired Mark to begin training in jiu-jitsu, which he did under Pedro Sauer and Walt Bayless. We also discussed his one and only MMA fight, in 1996 at UFC 9, which was arranged on less than 24 hours notice and where he defeated Gary Goodridge.

His entry into wrestling in his high school years, however, was inspired by something else. He was already training in gymnastics, which he called very useful for wrestling, but had not yet hit the mat. At that time, he would regularly tangle with older brother Dave, who was even then one of the best wrestlers in the US. Mark would always lose. To "learn how to beat him up," he tried tang soo do, but after a brief and unsuccessful stint learning that, he took up wrestling. His accomplishments on the mat speak for themselves. And his win in the 1982 NCAA finals at 177 pounds over Ed Banach of Iowa is still called by many the greatest college wrestling match ever.

His love of wrestling is still evident. "Wrestling is the ultimate martial art," he said.

But the numerous problems in the sport of wrestling have continued to eat away at it, and we discussed those in depth.

"Wrestling will never die. There will always be guys out on the front lawn wrestling each other, no matter what the administrators do, no matter what the committees do. Wrestling will be around forever. It's been around thousands of years. It's going to be around till the end of time," he said.

"It's just, the people in power are the problem. They're just making dumb decisions. They just don't think big enough." He talked about the reaction by some in the wrestling establishment to this upcoming movie, with its major stars and such a highly regarded director.

"It's not big enough for them. So, blackball me."

He explained how when he wrestled, there was no money in it, even for the top wrestlers in the world in the US, and many were "forced into poverty." There was little or no help from USA Wrestling or elsewhere, so "That's why I went to Foxcatcher," du Pont's team and training facility, because they were the only ones at that time paying people to wrestle. He added that if he had been supported by USA Wrestling, he might have competed for five more years.

And there are more problems, with many college wrestling programs, including the one at BYU where he had coached, being closed down. Add to this the problems international wrestling is facing by being threatened with being dropped from the Olympics, and it is obvious that wrestling is reeling from one crisis to another.

He has proposed some solutions over the years, including asking the NCAA to add submissions to college wrestling. That advice, of course, was not heeded, and the diminution of college wrestling, partially fueled by a misapplication of Title IX, continues to this day.

But he did add that he does have a lot of support in the wrestling community, and that "only a small group of people don't support me."

We also discussed a lot more about his life and the movie, including his upcoming autobiographical book, and the potential for growth for some form of submission wrestling, with Mark Schultz.

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