FEATURE After 10 years Dave Schultz positive spirit is pervasive at the tournament in his honor
Everybody in wrestling enjoys a strong tournament which features talented athletes competing at a high level. However, that kind of event takes on a special meaning when the tournament is named after a famous athlete from that nation, a tradition all around the world.
If you go to Russia, you can compete in the Ivan Yarygin Memorial. In Bulgaria, one of their great events is named in honor of their hero, Dan Kolov. In Belarus, their international event recognizes three-time Olympic champion Alexander Medved. And in the United States, athletes around the world come to compete and remember wrestling hero Dave Schultz.
Ten years ago last week marked a full 10 years since Dave Schultz was murdered on Foxcatcher Farm in late January 1996. So much has happened in the world since that day, but for many involved in the Dave Schultz Memorial International in Colorado Springs, Colo., it seems just like yesterday.
There were people in attendance at the U.S. Olympic Training Center this weekend who were teammates of Dave's on U.S. World and Olympic teams. Dave Schultz' career on the international levels lasted almost two decades, and he touched many lives as both an athlete and a coach.
World champion and Olympic medalist Bill Scherr, who was Dave's teammate for numerous major international events, was one of those who have vivid memories of Dave after spending a good part of his life sharing their wrestling experiences. Scherr was coaching men and women's wrestlers at the tournament, and is serving for the second straight year as the U.S. Women's World Team Coach.
"It is nice to have something like this to memorialize Dave and to remember him. This is a great event. It is a little painful to think about Dave not being here and the tragic way he passed away," said Scherr. "Dave was a great friend and a mentor in the sport. I competed dozens, if not hundreds of times at events with Dave. He also coached me in a number of tournaments."
"This is a great way Dave would have liked to be remembered - by wrestling. That was Dave's life - wrestling," he said. "I think of Dave Schultz as an Albert Einstein in wrestling shoes. He was a bit eccentric, no, a lot eccentric. He was very smart. What a lot of people underestimated about Dave was that he was such a fierce competitor. Sure he had great technique. But he did not like to get beaten. He wrestled to win every time he stepped on the mat."
Those that competed alongside Dave are now often coaching other wrestlers, sharing some of the knowledge that they learned from Dave Schultz. One such person is Olympic champion and two-time World champion Kevin Jackson, who works as USA Wrestling's National Freestyle Coach. It is Kevin's job to build America into the strongest freestyle wrestling nation in the world, which is something that Dave Schultz was committed to during his entire career.
"It is real symbolic that this year, the 10th year since we lost Dave, is one of the biggest and most competitive tournaments we have ever had. The field is better overall, with more foreign competitors and strong U.S. wrestlers," said Jackson. "This is a great tribute to Dave. I am excited to have such a strong international competition here and named in his honor. He was one of the greatest technicians and minds in our sport. We need to have more tournaments like this.
"Everybody realizes what we lost as people and within wrestling when we lost Dave. He was a great technician, tactician and a great coach. The entire international wrestling community felt that loss. Of course, we felt it harder here in the United States. His passion for the sport comes out in this tournament," Jackson continued.
"He was a master of sport, a true innovator. He was one of the few athletes or coaches who could develop technique. We would mess around with a problem area, and he would take it home with him, work on it and solve it. There are very few who can do that. I can't do that like Dave did. I think of him and Valentin Jordanov as having that ability. He coached me at the Olympic Games and in many other major events. I had a couple of relationships with him at different levels of the sport. We are happy to have this event, and after 10 years, to see that it is so strong. This tournament is great for his legacy," said Jackson.
Terry Brands, USA Wrestling's National Freestyle Resident Coach, was a young wrestler who learned from Dave Schultz and went on to win two World titles and an Olympic medal. He had a special bond with Schultz, who reached out to him and his brother Tom when they were competing on the international level.
"Anytime you have an event named for a legend who passed before his time is just great," said Brands. "You know how I feel about Dave. He was a great mentor to me. Outside of the Iowa room, he was one of the few who embraced the style of wrestling Tom and I had. He was the reason I joined his wrestling club. I grew up with his posters on my wall, and when I got to know him, my respect for him grew even more."
"Over our three years together, our relationship grew tremendously. He would wake us up at 3 in the morning to go hunting. At the Pan Ams one year, he told me all about his relationship with his brother and how much he valued that. One night, it was just me and Tom and Dave and his wife Nancy, talking all night in the dorms. We got gold medals together, wanted to hunt animals, and be good people," said Brands.
"He was always about the relationship with the foreign athletes. His knowledge of the Russian language and culture said a lot about what he was all about. He was not abrasive to the foreign athletes. They respected him all over the world," said Brands.
One of the people who attend the Dave Schultz Memorial International each year is Dave's mother, Jean St. Germain. She comes to this tournament to enjoy the world which she shared with her son Dave, and her other son World and Olympic champion Mark Schultz. Jean enjoys the spirit of this competition, calling it an annual "reunion" of the wrestling community in her son's honor.
Many within the wrestling community have marked the 10 years since the loss of Dave Schultz by telling stories about Dave and sharing them with the wrestling community. Jean St. Germain and the entire Schultz family have enjoyed tremendously reading the many tales about Dave and his unique life.
Dave's wife Nancy Schultz, who is also always at the competition, was not able to attend this year due to recent back surgery. She has reached out and thanked the wrestling community for all of the great stories that are being told about Dave, which she has shared with her and Dave's children all week.
The Dave Schultz Memorial International provides the international wrestling community with a way to celebrate wrestling and remember Dave Schultz. After 10 years, it continues to be a special event for those who knew Dave, and a way to teach others who did not about him.