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ATLANTA 1996 OLYMPICS

Wrestling

July 14, 1996|BILL PLASCHKE

Olympic wrestling consists of two styles: freestyle and Greco-Roman. Each country may enter one wrestler per weight class. The United States is a major contender only in the freestyle events, in which two former gold-medal winners lead talented team.

WHAT WE KNOW

In freestyle wrestling, the United States is the most accomplished country in the world. In Greco-Roman, it is one of the worst.

The reasons are obvious. When is the last time your son came home and told you he had made his high school's Greco-Roman wrestling team?

Greco-Roman, which honors ancient civilization's strongmen by forbidding use of the legs, is not practiced regularly in this country except at the club level.

Freestyle wrestling, in which you can seemingly use everything but a hand-held weapon, can be found at most of this country's high schools and colleges.

In freestyle, the U.S. has won more medals (94) than any two other countries combined, including 41 golds.

Those numbers could increase in Atlanta with two former Olympic freestyle champions at work--heavyweight Bruce Baumgartner (two golds and a silver) and 163-pound Kenny Monday (one gold, one silver).

Also leading the U.S. freestyle team will be world champion Tom Brands at 136.5 pounds, and former Olympians Kendall Cross at 125.5 and Townsend Saunders at 149.5.

WHAT WE DON'T KNOW

The Olympic wrestling team will bring a bit of Americana to Atlanta with honorary captain Garth Brooks, who posed in a sweatsuit for the cover of the team's media guide.

The country music singer is more than just a wrestling fan. When Brooks ran track at Oklahoma State, Baumgartner's future wife, Linda, was the team trainer.

SOMEONE YOU SHOULD KNOW

Alexander Karelin, a Greco-Roman heavyweight from Russia, is considered the greatest wrestler ever. He makes as many impressive throws in five minutes as Troy Aikman makes in 60.

Karelin has never lost an international match and has won every gold medal in world-level matches since 1988.

SOMETHING YOU SHOULD KNOW

When watching the U.S. team, many will be reminded of Dave Schultz, the former Olympic gold medalist who was shot to death last winter, allegedly by benefactor John du Pont.

But there is still one member of the Olympic team, rough-edged Iowan Brands, who is still accepting money from Du Pont's foundation. This is despite pleas from teammates who have disavowed the jailed millionaire.

(BEGIN TEXT OF INFOBOX / INFOGRAPHIC)

At a Glance

Number of athletes: 190, plus up to 15 wild cards.

Changes since Barcelona: None

Qualifications: Based on 1996 continental championships. As host, U.S. automatically qualifies.

Format: One period of five minutes.

Dates: July 30 to Aug. 2.

Location: Georgia World Congress Center

The Mat

Construction: Plastic-covered foam mat 1 1/2 inches thick and about 34 feet in diameter.

Passivity area: 29 feet in diameter.

Wrestling center: 3 feet, 3 inches in diameter

Protection area: 4 feet -4 feet, 9 inches.

Scoring

Takedown: One point for getting opponent to the mat; two points if opponent lands on back.

Grand amplitude takedown: Five points. From a standing position, sweeping opponent through air onto mat in a danger position.

Exposure: Two points. Turning opponents back more than 90 degrees to the mat.

Reversal: One point. Man underneath reverses position and ends up on top.

The Moves

Two styles of wrestling:

Freestyle: Leg holds allowed.

Greco-Roman: No use or touching of legs. Uses upper-body strength and throws.

Grand Amplitude

A move in which opponent is lifted and thrown onto back. This is used more in Greco-Roman than in freestyle.

Reversal - One point

1. Start a switch by driving back into your opponent, reaching over his arms and into his crotch.

2. Use your arm as a lever to force down on his shoulder as you pry up on his thigh.

3. Continue to drive back into him as you force him toward his head and side.

*

Fireman's Carry - Three Points

1. Penetrate deep under your opponent's hips.

2. Pinch his arm tight to your side.

3. Bring him over your shoulders.

Sources: Associated Press, Atlanta Committee for the Olympic Games, Times staff

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