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Alone In The Eye Of The Hurricane
Craig Neff
August 23, 1982
While controversy raged over referees, politics, even religion, at the World Wrestling Championships, a quiet American won the only U.S. gold
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August 23, 1982

Alone In The Eye Of The Hurricane

While controversy raged over referees, politics, even religion, at the World Wrestling Championships, a quiet American won the only U.S. gold

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Luck did matter. As "luck" had it, former Olympic heavyweight champion Alexandr Medved of the Soviet Union kept showing up to referee crucial U.S. matches. "Medved always screws the hell out of us," said one American coach. Indeed, questionable officiating in a 3-3 "criteria loss" to a Russian cost Marine Sergeant Greg Gibson of Quantico, Va., the defending silver medalist, a berth in the 220-pound finals; though he's the best wrestler in his division, Gibson came in third. Andre Metzger of Norman, who was on his way to a medal in the 149.5-pound class, had the misfortune to injure his neck in his next-to-last bout; he finished fourth. And because of the outcome of other wrestlers' matches—and the vagaries of the scoring system—Vanni ended up in sixth place, two positions behind Bazmavar. Figure it out: Both lost twice and Vanni defeated Bazmavar head-to-head. "Not bad on a day-and-a-half's notice," said Vanni.

Albright, however, had wasted a trip. On Thursday morning, when the heavyweight competition began, the U.S. coaches, doctors and Baumgartner himself decided he would wrestle. "No one's sure what he's got, anyway," said Dziedzic. "As far as I'm concerned it's just some blotches." Said team doctor Robert Culver, "It might be what we used to call barber's itch. I told him, 'If anyone asks, tell them you shaved too close.' "

Baumgartner was still distracted by the whole thing when he went up against defending world champion Salman Khasimikov of the U.S.S.R. in the first round. Khasimikov beat him up 8-2, and Baumgartner failed to place in the meet. At one point in their match Khasimikov, who weighs about 280 pounds, lifted the 260-pound Baumgartner onto his shoulder like a sack of, oh, imported grain, then dizzied him with three 360-degree helicopter turns and took him to the mat for four points. Like the other Soviet medalists—and there was one in each of the 10 weight classes—Khasimikov was technically superior as well as strong; despite a 14-inch height disadvantage, he put away Sandourski 5-1 in the finals.

Schultz, America's underweight fill-in at 181.5, was also handling larger opponents with surprising ease. He had his only troubles back at the dorm. On Thursday night his wife, Nancy, disappeared for half an hour, sending him into a panic. "I thought she was cheating on me," he later joked. Actually, she was still in the building, trapped in a dumbwaiter. "It looked like an elevator," she explained. The following afternoon Schultz sat around his room trying to remember how old he is. He had been knocked in the head during a 9-4 victory over a Polish wrestler. "My IQ dropped 10 points," said Schultz.

But on Friday night Schultz used his smarts and won the bronze medal from Akira Ohta of Japan. Even though Schultz had bulked all the way up to 168 pounds, his wiry physique made Ohta look like a rice dumpling. "A wrestler puts on eight or nine pounds between the morning weigh-in and evening matches," said Dziedzic. "Ohta must have weighed 190." Schultz's quick moves had Ohta looking positively elephantine. Schultz built up a 12-2 lead, then pinned Ohta with 59 seconds remaining.

The most pleasant surprise for the Americans, however, was the kill-or-be-killed wrestling of Lewis. After shedding his extra pounds by exercising inside roughly 39 layers of sweats, Lewis went out, pinned two opponents and clobbered another 15-3. On Saturday morning he was brilliant in winning a 13-12 decision over defending champion Simeon Sterev of Bulgaria. With that victory, Lewis had apparently reached the 136.5-pound finals. He leaped into the air with joy and whooped and danced. And then he crashed to earth.

The Bulgarians protested the match, saying the referee had overlooked a two-point move by Sterev. They won. The Americans filed a counter-protest, claiming that Lewis, too, had been denied points, for putting Sterev on his back as time expired in the match. He very obviously had. But because the clock wasn't visible on the videotape of the match to prove that Lewis had scored before time expired, the protest committee refused to grant him any points. Lewis, dispirited, got sloppy in the consolation final and lost by a fall. Instead of winning a gold or silver, he finished fourth.

"I feel so bad for Randy. I was all pumped up about him making the finals," said Kemp, who seemed genuinely down. "I always get more out of my friends' winning than my own." However, after 114.5-pound World Cup champion Joe Gonzales of Montebello, Calif. lost a tough 10-8 decision on Saturday and had to settle for third place, Kemp had to get himself up: He was America's last hope for a gold medal.

Kemp, a quiet MBA student at the University of Wisconsin, is the reason Schultz moved out of the 163-pound weight class. Now 25, Kemp is easily America's most accomplished wrestler, the only one ever to win four World Cup titles or more than one world championship (he had triumphed in 1978 and '79). Just seven other Americans have won even one world championship. But if Kemp did beat Czechoslovakia's Dan Karabin on Saturday night, he would move into the even more elite company of wrestlers who have finished first in three world championships.

Kemp took to the mat looking like an embodiment of America's fortunes at the meet. His right hand was taped to protect injured knuckles, and a bandage covered his swollen right eyebrow. The eyebrow had been torn open on Thursday night and then stitched up for the third time in a month. Not that the injury would slow Kemp down: He's already the most deliberate, cautious wrestler around. In the three matches preceding the final, Kemp had won by scores of 2-1, 1-0 and 3-2.

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