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Among other weighty accomplishments, the University of Kansas is the first school ever to field three 60-foot shotputters—795 pounds worth, splendidly clad in fluorescent-pink track pants and powder-blue jerseys—at the same time. It is also quite likely that Kansas is the first school ever to have three athletes who finished one-two-three in the shot and one-three-four in the discus after breakfasting on fried chicken and chocolate cake.
In both instances the mighty pioneers were Karl Salb, Steve Wilhelm and Doug Knop, and their collective achievements this season are so remarkable it seems a shame that Coach Bob Timmons gives them only slightly more meal money than he gives Jim Ryun, who can get well nourished standing over a pot of stew and inhaling deeply. Salb, Wilhelm and Knop swept the shotput in every indoor meet they entered, including the NCAA championship; outdoors they were one-two-three in both the Texas and Kansas Relays. UCLA's best man put the shot 62'10�" against them in a dual meet and finished third. At Texas, Knop broke Olympic champion Al Oerter's school discus record with a throw of 189'8�". And last Saturday, in a heavy rain at the Drake Relays in Des Moines, with the ring as slippery as a frozen pond, the trio swept the shot for the third straight week.
All three weigh 260 or more, are of German extraction and have colossal appetites, but they are dissimilar in several small respects. For one, they use different shots. Wilhelm has a shot of American manufacture given to him by his older brother, Bruce (whom readers of the fine print in Track & Field News will recognize as the world record holder in putting the shot left-handed—64'6"). Salb uses a German make, and Knop has an exceptionally smooth model from England (his disk costs $35 and is made in Paris).
Knop is the best discus thrower, Salb the best shotputter and Wilhelm the best weight lifter. Wilhelm, who usually finishes second to Salb in the shot, also happens to be the best grunter. When he releases the shot he lets out a combination roar-snarl-grunt that has been known to obliterate the report of the starter's pistol.
Wilhelm doesn't care for his runner-up role, however. He's pleased that Kansas sweeps the shot most of the time, but he wants to be No. 1. "I wanted to get away from California," he says, referring to his home. "I was kind of tired of following in my brother's footsteps. I want to be first. I've had to fight being in the shadows a lot—my brother and now this. People have called me Avis and I don't like being tagged as anything. I want to get the good distances. I want to throw far."
Wilhelm has beaten Salb a few times, most notably by two feet in the Texas Relays after the chicken-and-chocolate-cake breakfast. As the three of them were leaving the stadium in Austin that day, Steve and Doug needled Karl as follows:
"Say," said Knop, who had won the discus, "I think my Texas Relays watch is a little off. What does yours say, Steve?"
It was just retribution for Salb's constant pranks. One night he turned out all the lights in the dorm save one, which he shone on Wilhelm's bed, and then he opened all the windows. When Steve came in he found every bug in Kansas and half of Missouri had taken up residence on his blanket. He responded by putting Lavoris in Karl's nasal spray.
Nonetheless, Salb and Wilhelm were tickled pink (presumably Kansas fluorescent pink) when Knop, who considers the shot just a diversion while he courts Debbie Blattner (Sportscaster Buddy Blattner's daughter) and works toward winning the NCAA discus title, first cleared 60 feet in the shot at the NCAA Indoors in Detroit.