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ATLANTA 1996 OLYMPICS | FREESTYLE WRESTLING

Oh, Brother: Brands Double-Teams His Way to Wrestling Gold

August 03, 1996|CHRIS DUFRESNE | TIMES STAFF WRITER

ATLANTA — After winning the gold medal for God, country and Dan Gable, Tom Brands planned to take a load off and relax.

To him, this meant taking a chain saw out to the woods and tearing through dead bark the way he shredded opponents in this Olympic tournament.

Brands won the only U.S. gold in freestyle wrestling Friday, completing an impressive four-match sweep with a 7-0 rout of South Korea's Jang Jae-Sung at 136 1/2 pounds. In all, the U.S. won three freestyle golds, one silver and one bronze.

Two other American hopefuls, Kenny Monday at 163 pounds and Melvin Douglas at 198, finished sixth and seventh, respectively.

It was a near perfect Olympic run for bad-boy Brands, half of the infamous wrestling Brands twins, marred only by the one glitch on his scorecard and the brother who had to watch it all from the sidelines.

En route, Brands outscored four opponents, 19-1. The lone point he surrendered was in Friday's 4-1 semifinal victory over Russia's Magomed Azizov, the 1994 world champion.

The point meant a lot to Brands.

"I had him stopped," Brands said. "I should have been stuffing his head into the mat."

Perfection is something Brands has come to expect under the tutelage of Gable, the wrestling legend, 1972 Olympic champion and coach of the tempestuous Tom and Terry Brands.

At the Munich Games, Gable did not allow a point in his six victories, winning by three pins and scores of 20-0, 6-0, and 3-0.

Any time one of Gables' wrestlers dared to comment, "Gee coach, nobody's perfect," Gable could always shoot back, "Well, I was."

Gable, the longtime coach at the University of Iowa, was all white knuckles and butterflies during Brands' two victories Friday. Brands' victory over Azizov nearly killed him.

"That Russian meant business," he said. "I was in knots."

Brands then toyed with Jang in the finals, like a Doberman with a rag doll.

If you believe Gable, Jang and the others didn't stand a chance because they were double-teamed by both Brands, Tom and Terry.

"I think he was able to take the strength of Terry and hold up the Brands' and Iowa's name," Gable said.

Terry Brands, a two-time world champion, didn't make the Olympic team, losing in the trials to Kendall Cross, who won the gold medal Wednesday in the 125 1/2-pound division.

"He'd go to the grave with me, and I'd go to the grave with him," Tom said of Terry. "I know it hurts like heck to him. But he's a man and he'll get through it."

The brothers, now 28, had spats. Once, as high school sophomores, they got into a fight in the hallway at home and ended up crashing through the wall.

But blood is blood, and Tom desperately wanted Terry to share his Olympic moment.

"I kind of had to perform for both of us," Tom said.

Terry, in fact, is the reigning world champion, while Tom had been on the skids since winning his 1993 world title.

Gable kept telling Tom that he couldn't feel his way through matches, that he had to attack from the opening whistle and not stop.

Brands finally listened.

"You think he liked getting beat the last two years?" Gable said. "That eats at you."

Brands can't say whether his gold will help soften his tough-guy reputation.

"If you got to know me, I'm a pretty decent person when it comes down to it. But I compete hard and get down to it. Basically, it's a selfish sport. It's not a gentleman's sport. Some people just can't handle it. That's where my bad rap comes from."

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