Soviet talent had also dispersed to the West. Canada had good Russian wrestlers, outfitted with Canadian passports. Germany had good Russian wrestlers. Good Russian wrestlers were everywhere. Good wrestlers, period, were everywhere.
"Every country has its own style," Jones said. "The American style is that we're active, we go for the throat, take chances. The Russians are more passive, waiting for an opportunity. The Koreans get real low on you, lower than anyone. Other countries stand up more. What other sport is like this? You might run track against all these countries, but it seems to me that running is running, no matter where you're from. Every wrestler is a different puzzle.
"The sport is international. That's the thing. Do you know what we do in the U.S.? We invent sports—baseball, basketball, football—and declare ourselves world champions. That's a little too easy, isn't it? Wrestling is their sport. They invented it. When we come over here, we're following a direct line into the heart of the sport."
The U.S. team was inexperienced, if not exactly young. Most national teams had undergone change, champions retiring after last year's Olympics. The U.S. team, which finished third at the Atlanta Games, now had only two wrestlers—Jones and Douglas—who had competed in world championships. The team had been determined by trials in Las Vegas in May, fierce best-of-three competitions between the U.S. national champions and top challengers determined by an earlier mini-tournament in Vegas. The U.S. roster was:
•119 pounds: Jones, 30 years old, 5'4", from Chandler, Ariz. World champion, 1991. Silver medalist, 1992 Olympics. Assistant wrestling coach, Arizona State.
•127.75 pounds: Tony Purler, 28, 5'4", Norman, Okla. Last-minute replacement for two-time world champion Terry Brands, out with a bad back.
•138.75 pounds: Cary Kolat, 24, 5'5", Lock Haven, Pa. Assistant coach at Lock Haven University. NCAA champ, 1997.
•152 pounds: Lincoln McIlravy, 23, 5'7", Iowa City, Iowa. Volunteer assistant coach at Iowa. NCAA champion, 1997.
•167.5 pounds: Dan St. John, 30, 5'9", Tulsa. Works with computers.
•187.25 pounds: Gutches, 24, 5'11", Corvallis, Ore. Assistant at Oregon State.