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Even after the officials' decision, required when any wrestling match ends in a tie, there was confusion. Iranian Abbas Jadidi tried to raise his own hand, as if to say the result was obvious, but his huge forearm was yanked down by the referee, who instead lifted American Kurt Angle's. Both athletes keened in disbelief, and each circled the mat in his individual and contrary welter of emotions. Neither knew what to think.
Well, Jadidi did, more or less: I've been robbed. But Angle was so overwhelmed by his victory that nothing could restore his equilibrium. He laughed, he sobbed. He fell to the mat, he cried some more. "If I died tonight," he said, all 220 pounds of him, "I'd be so happy it would be incredible."
Angle's opposing emotions were understandable. His triumph was backlit by tragedy, and anything good he would do in wrestling would always call out the ghosts. His father's, for one. But especially Dave Schultz's. Schultz, that bearded wild man who had been Angle's patron saint all those hard years, another person who would never see him on a medal stand.
Angle trained under Schultz at the ill-fated Foxcatcher club in Pennsylvania. The two had a long history. Angle could still remember the day he first came under Schultz's charismatic influence. "Ninth grade, in Chicago," he said, recalling some long-ago clinic. "What I remember, he had a lot of hair and he scared me very much."
Despite all that, Angle became a disciple, studying Schultz, adoring him. "I can tell you everything about Dave's life that you'd want to know," Angle said. It was easy to come under Schultz's sway; many did. And in Schultz's career, Angle saw possibilities for his own. Schultz had won the 1983 world championship and then a 1984 Olympic gold medal. That level of performance was one more thing Angle hoped to imitate.
Of course, like Angle's father, David, a crane operator who died after a construction accident in 1985, Schultz was gone. Eccentric multimillionaire John E. du Pont, the organizer of Team Foxcatcher, stands accused of murdering him. All that's left of the relationship between Angle and his idol is the Dave Schultz Wrestling Club, a team founded by Schultz's widow, Nancy. Angle, who could have received better financial backing from another team, didn't hesitate to join her.
But Schultz and Angle's father were gone, and suddenly he didn't understand life's give-and-take. After the awards ceremony Angle put his hands over his face. It was all so very confusing for him. "To tell you the truth," the gold medal winner said, "I don't feel very good right now."