Schultz Memorial Rewind: The first DSMI in 1999 featured World and Olympic medalists and future stars

By Gary Abbott, USA Wrestling | Sept. 14, 2017, 5:14 p.m. (ET)
Kerry Boumans of the USA celebrates after scoring an overtime takedown to defeat Bogdan Ciufelescu of Romania, 6-5 in the 58 kg finals of the first Dave Schultz Memorial International in 1999. USA Wrestling file photo.

In 1999, the Dave Schultz Memorial International was an idea, a cooperative effort between USA Wrestling and the Dave Schultz Wrestling Foundation to create an international wrestling tournament in memory of the late Olympic and World champion Dave Schultz.

It was not just that a great champion had been taken away from the wrestling family. Dave Schultz had embodied what an ambassador of international goodwill and sportsmanship should be, in who he was and how he lived. The concept was to celebrate his life and legacy in the most appropriate way, at an international competition in his honor.

USA Wrestling will be featuring important stories and athletes who have created the legacy of the Dave Schultz Memorial International, which will celebrate its 20th anniversary when hosted at the U.S. Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, Colo., Nov. 1-4.

We start with the inaugural Dave Schultz Memorial event, which was held at the U.S. Army Post Field House at Fort Carson, Colo., February 12-13, 1999.

There had been a small Senior wrestling competition in Colorado Springs for a few years, the Colorado Open, which provided some good competition for Americans in previous years. The concept was to expand that into a full-scale international competition in men’s freestyle and Greco-Roman, invite nations from around the world, and encourage the top U.S. athletes in the nation to attend.

The event needed a home, and the leaders of the U.S. Army World Class Athlete Program at Fort Carson stepped up and help secure the U.S. Army Post Field House at Fort Carson. It provided enough space for mats and spectator seating for the inaugural event in a unique setting near historic Cheyenne Mountain which is located west of the base.

About a dozen nations contacted USA Wrestling that they would attend, and as developed into a tradition in future Schultz events, a number of World and Olympic medalists committed to compete. Included were 1996 Olympic champion Armen Nazarian of Bulgaria and 1997 World champion Marko Yli-Hannuksela of Finland, both in Greco-Roman. Past World medalists included Takahiro Wada of Japan (freestyle), Marek Garmulewicz of Poland (Greco-Roman) and Bisser Geourgiev of Bulgaria (Greco-Roman).

A nice crowd was in the stands when the event was held, with Dave Schultz’s widow Nancy Schultz, his mother Jean St. Germaine, his father Phillip Schultz and his brother Michael Davidson among those in attendance. There were 196 athletes in the field, with 101 Greco-Roman wrestlers and 95 freestyle wrestlers, representing 12 nations.

The tournament was held under a two-day format, so the first day of action set the semifinals in 16 weight classes, eight in each style. There were 39 U.S. wrestlers who were eligible to win a medal after day one.

The gold-medal finals featured 21 U.S. athletes, including five USA vs. USA finals bouts. There was some great action, which featured many of the current top stars in the draw, as well as a number of athletes who would go on to great achievements later in their careers.

In men’s freestyle, one of the most exciting finals came at 57 kg, when OTC resident Kerry Boumans of the USA scored an overtime takedown to edge 1996 Olympian Bogdan Ciufelescu of Romania, 6-5 at 58 kg. Boumans was named Outstanding Wrestler. A year later, Boumans was second in the 2000 U.S. Olympic Team Trials, dropping a memorable finals series to Terry Brands.

Another OTC resident athlete, two-time NCAA runner-up Brandon Slay, captured the gold medal at 76 kg. Slay opened a dominant 9-0 lead in the final before pinning Frank Trigg. In 2000, Slay went on to win a gold medal at the Sydney Olympic Games, while Trigg moved on to a highly successful MMA career.

Both Boumans and Slay competed for the Dave Schultz Wrestling Club, which was formed by Nancy Schultz and other wrestling leaders in 1996 and was a leading force in international wrestling for many years. Slay, while in college, had worked out with Dave Schultz when both were living in the Philadelphia area.

Another big-time win for Team USA in the freestyle finals came at 69 kg, where past Espoir World champion Alan Fried, who had starred for Oklahoma State, scored an impressive 7-1 win over World medalist Takahiro Wada of Japan.

The USA won seven of the eight freestyle titles. The other U.S. men’s freestyle champions in the inaugural Dave Schultz Memorial were Eric Akin (54 kg), John Fisher (63 kg), Chad Lamer (97 kg) and Tom Erikson (130 kg). The only non-USA champion was Switzerland’s Gia Torchinava at 85 kg.

Of this group, Erikson placed fourth in the 1997 World Championships, while Akin became a 1999 World Team member. Lamer went on to win a 2000 World University title. Fisher may have been one of the greatest U.S. wrestlers never to make a World Team, battling stars like John Smith, Tom Brands, Cary Kolat and others domestically.

In Greco-Roman, Olympic champion Armen Nazarian of Bulgaria reached the finals of the only weight class that did not feature an American at 63 kg, where he pinned Peter Phillipisch of Austria in the finals and was named Outstanding Wrestler.

The U.S. had four individual Greco-Roman champions, three of which competed in the Olympic Games at one point during their career.

The 130 kg finals featured a pair of future Olympians, when Rulon Gardner defeated Dremiel Byers in the heavyweight finals. Gardner went on to win a 2000 Olympic gold medal, 2001 World title and 2004 Olympic bronze medal. Byers won a 2002 World title, one of three career World medals, and wrestled in both the 2008 and 2012 Olympic Games.

Shawn Sheldon, a 1991 World silver medalist and two-time Greco-Roman Olympian, won the 54 kg title over fellow American Jeff Cervone, 3-0. Jim Gruenwald was the 58 kg champion, scoring an impressive 10-0 technical fall over Nishimi Kenkichi of Japan. Gruenwald, who spent many years battling with World champion and Olympic medalist Dennis Hall, ended up making two Olympic teams himself in 2000 and 2004.

The other U.S. champion was Dan Niebuhr, a long-time national team member, who pinned Finland’s Tomi Rajmaki in the finals at 85 kg.

The 76 kg finals featured World champion Marko Yli-Hannuksela of Finland, who defeated U.S. star T.C. Dantzler in the finals, 6-0. Nine years later, after a number of World Championships appearances, Dantzler competed in the 2008 Olympic Games.

Two other international champions were crowned in the first Dave Schultz Memorial International in Greco, Alli Mollov of Bulgaria at 97 kg and Ari Harkanen of Finland at 69 kg.

Among the wrestlers who fell short of the finals, Matt Lindland, who was fourth in Greco at 85 kg, would go on to win an Olympic silver medal in 2000 and a World silver medal in 2001. Lindland is now USA Wrestling’s National Greco-Roman coach.

The Dave Schultz Memorial International would change and grow in the years to follow. The event moved to the U.S. Olympic Training Center in 2000, where it is still held today. The 2000 year also saw the addition of a women’s freestyle division, and the event has included all three Olympic disciplines ever since (although women’s wrestling was not yet an Olympic sport in 2000). In the team race, the United States, which easily won both styles in 1999, was no longer counted as one team in the 2000 Schultz Memorial, with individual clubs scoring team points in the team standings as well as foreign teams.

USA Wrestling will post weekly features on Dave Schultz Memorial International wrestling history leading up to the 20th event, Nov. 1-4.

at Fort Carson, Colo., Feb. 12-13, 1999

Men’s Freestyle

54 kg/119 lbs. - 1st - Eric Akin, Overland Park, Kan. dec. Sheldon Thomas, Bellefonte, Pa. (Dave Schultz WC), 6-5; 3rd - Jeff Prescott, Bellefonte, Pa. (New York AC) dec. Eric Albarracin, Colorado Springs, Colo. (U.S. Army), 8-0

58 kg/127.5 lbs. - 1st - Kerry Boumans, Colorado Springs, Colo. (Dave Schultz WC) dec. Bogdan Ciufelescu (Romania), 6-5, ot, 6:27; 3rd - Dwight Hinson, Ames, Iowa (Cyclone WC) won by ref. dec. over Danny Felix, Phoenix, Ariz. (Sunkist Kids), 2-0, ot, 9:00;

63 kg/138.75 lbs. - 1st - John Fisher, Ypsilanti, Mich. (Sunkist Kids) dec. Roger Chandler, Bloomington, Ind. (Dave Schultz WC), 11-7; 3rd - Mark Ironside, Iowa City, Iowa (Hawkeye WC) dec. Gralak Lucjan (Poland), 3-1, ot, 6:49

69 kg/152 lbs. - 1st - Alan Fried, Cleveland, Ohio (Sunkist Kids) dec. Takahiro Wada (Japan), 7-1; 3rd - Mariusz Dabrowski (Poland) dec. Ramico Blackmon, Colorado Springs, Colo. (Team Excel), 6-4

76 kg/167.5 lbs. - 1st - Brandon Slay, Colorado Springs, Colo. (Dave Schultz WC) pin Frank Trigg, Norman, Okla. (Sunkist Kids), 2:30; 3rd - Brian Dolph, Ridley Park,.Pa. (Dave Schultz WC) won by inj.`dft. over Byron Tucker, Norman, Okla. (Team Excel)

85 kg/187.25 lbs. - 1st - Gia Torchinava (Netherlands) dec. Dan St. John, Colorado Springs, Colo. (Sunkist Kids), 4-2; 3rd - Aaron Simpson, Tempe, Ariz. (Sunkist Kids) dec. Charles Burton, Bloomington, Ind. (Sunkist Kids), 5-1

97 kg/213.75 lbs. - 1st - Chad Lamer, Coralville, Iowa (Hawkeye WC) won by tech. fall over Rolf Scherer (Switzerland), 10-0, 4:40; 3rd - John Kading, Evanston, Ill. (Wildcat WC) pin Mitch Clark, Columbus, Ohio (Ohio International), 1:36

130 kg/286 lbs. - 1st - Tom Erikson, W. Lafayette, Ind. (Sunkist Kids) pin Airron Richardson, Cleveland, Ohio (Team Excel), 2:11; 3rd - Tomasz Szewczyk (Poland) pin Silvio Rufenacht (Switzerland), 5:50;

Freestyle Team Standings: 1. United States, 292 pts.; 2. Poland, 36 pts.; 3. Switzerland, 28 pts.; 4. Canada, 23 pts.; 5. Netherlands, 16 pts.; 6. Japan, 12 pts.; 7. Bulgaria, 5 pts.

Freestyle Outstanding Wrestler - Kerry Boumans, United States


54 kg/119 lbs. – 1st - Shawn Sheldon, Colorado Springs, Colo. (New York AC) dec. Jeff Cervone, Colorado Springs, Colo. (U.S. Air Force), 3-0; 3rd – Sasaki Matasune (Japan) dec. Tero Katajisto (Finland), 8-0

58 kg/127.75 lbs. – Jim Gruenwald, Colorado Springs, Colo. (Sunkist Kids) tech. fall Nishimi Kenkichi (Japan), 10-0; 3rd – Marko Isoski (Finland) dec. Jacob Hey, Colorado Springs, Colo. (U.S. Air Force), 8-6

63 kg/138.75 lbs. – 1st - Armen Nazarian (Bulgari) pin Peter Phillipisch (Austria), 1:59; 3rd – Phillipe Benjoudi (France) dec. Nikolai Gergev (Bulgaria), 6-3

69 kg/152 lbs. – 1st – Ari Harkanen (Finland) dec. Mike Ellsworth, Colorado Springs, Colo. (Michigan WC), 9-1; 3rd – Biser Georgiev (Bulgaria) inj. dft. David Zuniga, New Brighton, Minn. (Minnesota Storm)

76 kg/167.5 lbs. – Marko Yli-Hannuksela (Finland) dec. T.C. Dantzler, Colorado Springs, Colo. (Wildcat WC), 6-0; 3rd – Takamitsu Katayama (Japan) dec. Keith Sieracki, Colorado Springs, Colo. (U.S. Army), 3-2

85 kg/187.25 lbs. – Dan Niebuhr, Colorado Springs, Colo. (Sunkist Kids) pin Tomi Rajmaki (Finland), 5:31; 3rd – Dimitar Stoianov (Bulgaria) inj. dft. Matt Lindland, Lincoln, Neb. (Sunkist Kids)

97 kg/213.75 lbs. – 1st – Alli Mollov (Bulgaria) dec. Dave Surofchek, Colorado Springs, Colo. (Michigan WC), 4-1; 3rd – Dan Hicks, Fredricksburg, Va. (U.S. Marines) inj. dft. Rex Holman, Colorado Springs, Colo. (U.S. Army)

130 kg/286 lbs. – 1st – Rulon Gardner, Colorado Springs, Colo. (Sunkist Kids) dec. Dremiel Byers, Colorado Springs, Colo. (U.S. Army), 4-0; 3rd – Minoru Hamaue (Japan)

Greco-Roman Team Standings – 1. United States, 222; 2. Finland, 61 pts.; 3. Bulgaria, 47 pts.; 4. Japan, 44 pts.; 5. France, 13 pts.; 6. Austria, 10 pts.; 7. Netherlands, 10 pts.; 8. Canada, 5 pts.

Greco-Roman Outstanding Wrestler – Armen Nazarian, Bulgaria