SI Vault
Edited by Jerry Kirshenbaum
June 25, 1984
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June 25, 1984


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"Four," replied the player.

Frantically the coach cried, "Give him another chance. Give him another chance."


The Pritikin, Cambridge and Eat To Win diets combined probably can't save the wrestling career of 410-pound Tab Thacker. Already 37� pounds lighter than he was in March when he won the NCAA heavyweight title as a North Carolina State senior, the 6'5" Thacker would have to shed 124 more pounds by 1985 to squeeze under the new 286-pound weight restriction being placed on super heavyweight wrestlers by FILA, wrestling's international governing body. Otherwise, he and others his size won't be allowed to compete in the Olympics, the world championships or anywhere else. "It's not fair any kind of way," says Thacker—and he's right.

Studies have shown that extra-large wrestlers like Thacker don't endanger their lighter opponents by sheer bulk and don't suffer more injuries themselves. And few grapplers weighing 300 pounds or more have ever, despite their presumed advantage, dominated international or intercollegiate competition. Yet both FILA and the NCAA, which will impose a 275-pound limit on wrestlers beginning in 1986, have decided that "it's just not a healthy situation," as one NCAA official put it, for a wrestler to be as large as Thacker. "I don't know how they can make an arbitrary judgment like that," protests N.C. State coach Bob Guzzo. "The biggest health problem in wrestling is with kids who cut too much weight." Adds Thacker, "If they want to find out how healthy I am, I'll go to any doctor they want."

Presumably, the early death of former NCAA champion and 1972 Olympic bronze medalist Chris Taylor in 1979 helped inspire the rule changes. Taylor, who weighed as much as 470 pounds, died of a heart attack at age 29. But, as Guzzo says, "There aren't any rules against 300-pound football players." Or against a 285-pound basketball player like Auburn star Charles Barkley, or a 365-pound weightlifter like the Soviet Union's Vasily Alexeyev, who won gold medals in the super heavyweight division at the 1972 and 1976 Olympics. Besides, banning Thacker won't make him lose 124 pounds. "I'm just big," says Tab. "Food stays with me."

Thacker, who has a role as a bouncer in an upcoming Burt Reynolds movie, is still trying to determine how to challenge the pending weight limitations. He missed qualifying for this week's Olympic trials in Allendale, Mich. because of a shoulder injury but is still hoping for a shot at the 1988 Games. Coming up behind him is his 13-year-old brother Terl, a junior high school wrestler, who already weighs 300 pounds. Terl could be deprived of a college scholarship if the NCAA rule change sticks. Thacker says, "If Terl gets far enough and the rule's still in effect, then I guess we'll just have to fight it together."

Golfer Tom Kite Jr. and his wife, Christy, recently found out that the baby they're expecting in September will actually be twins. The surprised parents, who already have a daughter, Stephanie, 2�, were comforted by Tom's dad, Tom Kite Sr., a retired IRS man, who said, happily, "Well, you'll get an extra deduction on your income tax." But one of the couple's golfing friends pointed out a benefit of even greater potential value. Mindful of the courtesies that a certain tournament in Augusta routinely bestows on family members of competitors, he said, "That just means you'll receive an extra admissions badge for the Masters."

Utah Jazz coach Frank Layden notes that he and two of his players, Darrell Griffith and John Drew, each drive new Mercedes. Recently, Layden says, he parked his Mercedes in the team lot, carefully leaving a space on each side of it. Griffith drove in and took pains to do the same. But when Drew pulled in, he sandwiched his Mercedes between the other two cars. To Layden and Griffith he said, "You know what that tells me? You guys can't afford them."


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