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ATLANTA 1996 OLYMPICS | WRESTLING

Memory of Schultz Gives Lift to Angle

Wrestling: With teammate in mind, American defeats Iranian on judges' decision. Cross also wins freestyle gold, Saunders silver.

August 01, 1996|CHRIS DUFRESNE | TIMES STAFF WRITER

ATLANTA — It was a long night of grappling--with opponents, with judges, with emotions--but Kurt Angle finally came through in the clutches, oh so narrowly, to pay final homage to a friend, and to a friend's widow.

It was a long night for Iran, for diplomatic relations, for Olympic organizers who wondered whether Abbas Jadidi would step to the stand and accept his Olympic silver medal as Americans in the World Congress Center jeered and hooted.

Dave Schultz would have loved it.

As Angle celebrated his gold-medal victory by a 1-1 judges' decision Wednesday in the 220-pound division of freestyle wrestling, as Jadidi stormed off and stewed, Nancy Schultz watched from her perch in the stands.

"Watching Kurt, seeing him get the gold medal is wonderful; this is all such a happy scene," Schultz said. "Then my mind wanders a little bit, darn it, because Dave should be a part of this. He should have had this opportunity. He should have had his opportunity to see this."

Schultz, the 1984 Olympic champion at 163 pounds, was murdered in his driveway outside Philadelphia on Jan. 26, allegedly by multimillionaire John E. duPont, a wrestling devotee who ran a club called Foxcatchers.

Schultz and Angle were clubmates until Jan. 26.

"Was I going to stay with Foxcatchers after the guy [allegedly] murdered my best friend, or go with a club that represented my best friend?" Angle said after his victory.

Two months after Dave's death, Nancy formed the Dave Schultz Wrestling Club, operated on contributions and a shoestring.

Angle and others from Foxcatcher signed on, but Angle was the only member to make it to the Olympics.

Angle recalled how terrified he was when he first met Schultz years ago, but how this larger-than-life wrestling hero had taken him in unconditionally.

"I know Dave is proud of me," Angle said. "I can tell you everything about Dave Schultz. He's my idol."

Winning the gold in Schultz's honor would be the most excruciating eight minutes of Angle's life. Angle, 27, was trying to become the third U.S. medal winner of the night. Earlier, Kendall Cross won gold in the 125-pound division with a 5-3 decision over Canada's Giya Sissaouri, and 149-pounder Townsend Saunders took silver.

It would be an excruciating eight minutes for Iran's Jadidi too.

Angle could not get the best of Jadidi, the 1993 world champion, and Jadidi could not make any headway with Angle. The two grabbed and clenched, they hemmed and hawed, but after five minutes of regulation and three minutes of overtime, they stood headlocked and deadlocked at 1-1.

At that point, the match is decided by the number of "passivity" points a wrestler has accrued. In this case, though, each had two.

Under Olympic rules, the decision then goes to the mat referee and two others, a chairman and a judge.

Jadidi pranced around as if the match was his, and even tried to get the Swedish referee to raise Jadidi's hand before the final announcement.

When the referee, A. Baskhuv, raised Angle's arm, the wrestlers went to opposite sides of the mat; one in celebration, the other in disgust.

It was not disclosed how the trio of judges voted.

Jadidi pleaded his case, to no avail.

As organizers prepared the medal ceremony, Jadidi did not come out to stand with Angle or Arawat Sabejew, the bronze medal winner from Germany.

Jadidi literally had to be pushed toward the platform, but then refused to step up to his podium.

"My hesitation was because I was protesting," Jadidi said later. "I was hoping they would change the decision. I still hope they change the decision."

Jadidi reluctantly stepped up to the platform, but shook his head repeatedly during the playing of the U.S. national anthem.

Jadidi agreed to a post-match news conference, but conducted his interview in a separate room.

"I respect him as a human being," Jadidi said of Angle. "But I don't respect him as a world champion or a gold medalist. I think the gold medal around his neck is mine. I deserve to win."

Jadidi implored reporters to review the tape and make a protest to the International Wrestling Federation.

Angle acknowledged the match could have gone either way, but said his opponent did not force the action in overtime.

Joe Seay, the U.S. freestyle coach, said the judges were probably affected by Angle's attempt to shoot in the final minute of overtime, while Jadidi did little.

"I did try to score," Angle said. "I feel we both deserved to win. It was an even match. But we did put the match into the officials' hands. If you do that, you can't be upset if the official picks the other guy. There [aren't] two gold medals. If there were, we'd both be on the stand. But I'm not going to put myself down."

Angle was upset that Jadidi did not shake his hand afterward.

"I would have shaken his," he said.

The controversy could not shake Angle's general elation. On the victory stand, his tear ducts opened and a facial flood ensued.

"I just let it go," he said. "This is the biggest thing that ever happened to me."

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