Wrestling: How a Chubby Boy Became an Olympic Champion


Olympic champion wrestler Dave Schultz was known as “Pudge” in wrestling circles. He was a bit chubby in his youth. In fact, Dave’s friend Steve Holt stated in an article that Dave was a complete butterball without well defined muscles when he was in high school. He states that Dave is often mistaken for a scorer or a coach.

Steve met Dave at a weekend tournament that Steve was wrestling in during his high school years. Steve states: “I noticed that this plump, fat freshman sitting in the stands was watching me during every round. He was watching and studying me like a scientist does a white lab rat in a maze. I think even I was taking notes! “

According to Jim Humphrey, a former Indiana University head coach, “He didn’t look like an athlete, his shoulders slumped, his shuffling gait and his toes pigeon. He wasn’t particularly fast.”

So what sets Dave “Pudge” Schultz apart from other wrestlers? How did it get so dominant?

Mentors Wanted

Young Dave Schultz became a fan of wrestling. I couldn’t get enough. He wanted to learn the best techniques he could and looked for ways to get more practice time.

For example, Chris Horpel met Dave when Horpel was already an NCAA All-American fighter for Stanford. 14-year-old Dave came up from Palo Alto High and asked Horpel, 21, to wrestle him. Horpel agreed, hoping to get rid of Dave after a few sessions. To his surprise, Dave kept coming back.

According to a Illustrated Sports Article titled “Brothers and Brawlers,” “Dave, dyslexic as a child, had started struggling in seventh grade on the advice of a teacher who thought it would help him develop self-confidence. He did that and more. For his student A freshman at Palo Alto High, Dave was a wrestling fanatic. He wore his shirt under his school clothes and his wrestling shoes everywhere. He worked out up to three times a day. After his training at In high school, he would bike a few miles down the road so he could practice with the Stanford wrestling team, whose coach, Joe DeMeo, would take him 30 miles north to Skyline College for a session with a club called the Peninsula Grapplers. “


Dave Schultz wasn’t a wrestling prodigy. It was dominant from the beginning. It took time and dedication.

Dave Schultz had dyslexia and other kids made fun of him and made fun of him. When Dave first stepped on the wrestling mat in seventh grade, he was clumsy and uncoordinated. He didn’t even make it to varsity and while fighting JV he won only half of his bouts. Many kids would have given up and found a new sport or hobby, but not Dave. He was determined, and in two years he was ranked as the second best fighter in the world for his age group.

I’ve already noticed that Dave Schultz practiced a lot. He put in more hours on the mat than most fighters would be willing to do. He walked across campus with his wrestling shoes tied around his neck. He carried a huge copy of an illustrated wrestling guide with him in his backpack.

He didn’t get his driver’s license at 16 because he didn’t want to spend time taking the class. He had a girlfriend for a short time during his senior year of high school, but left her after she suggested that he should spend more time with her and less time fighting.

Focus on technique

Dave Schultz studied wrestling, analyzed techniques, and broke down every move. For Dave, fighting was like a game of chess. He knew that he would not always be stronger than an opponent, but he could think more than him. in a Illustrated Sports Dave’s article states, “Guys have certain tactics, and I study them. Then I try to do what ruins them best.”

Schultz has been universally praised as one of the best coaches the sport of wrestling has ever had. He was considered by many to be the best wrestling coach and a master strategist. His knowledge of wrestling was vast.

Bill Scherr, 1988 Olympic gold medalist and friend states: “Dave possessed many unique qualities that gave him the drive and ability to become America’s best technical wrestler. First, Dave was as competitive as any athlete ever. known.. He didn’t like being defeated. He was consumed with being the best and believed that learning more and better technique was the key to reaching that goal. Second, Dave had a tremendous mind. While we were together on the National Team, Dave got into chess and soon he made us all play. And I don’t remember him losing. “

Schultz watched videos of his matches and those of his competitors. He always had a notebook with him and he wrote down the techniques and things he needed to work on.

He learned freestyle and Greco-Roman techniques in addition to his school wrestling even when he was in high school.

Humble and eager to learn

Dave Schultz learned Russian and other languages ​​so he could speak and learn from fighters from different nations. And he voluntarily shared his technical knowledge with anyone. He was a great ambassador for the sport of wrestling. He had friends all over the world.

John Smith, a two-time Olympic champion, says: “He took the time to teach him techniques. He wouldn’t let you go until you understood. This is unique in wrestling, because most athletes have his information. Dave Schultz doesn’t. It was around here. “

Dave was willing to learn from fighters, even the seemingly less talented ones. He didn’t have a big ego. He was willing to learn good technique from anyone. Information and knowledge were valuable to him. He was always picking everyone’s brains and asking other fighters about moves.

Other fighters with obstacles

Legendary wrestler Gene Mills stated in a book: “I was an 88 pound ball of butter when I was a high school freshman when I started wrestling in Wayne, New Jersey. Wrestling was the sport for me and I won the states. in my senior year. and two NCAA championships at Syracuse University in ’79 and ’81. My dad taught me my favorite move: the half nelson. I had a lot of trouble taking down guys in a conventional way, like this I learned how to put the middle and run it on top. It worked really well for me. “

The colleges weren’t that interested in Gene even though he had been dominant in high school. Mills was small and claims he could only lift 100 pounds at the time. His former Syracuse coach remembers Gene as a puny high school senior, yet he took a chance on Mills, who would go on to become one of the best fighters America has ever seen.

Gene, a two-time NCAA champion, set the NCAA Division I career pin record with 107 pins. That record stands to this day.

Gene was unable to fight in the 1980 Olympics due to the American boycott. Gene says, “I wanted to fight my way through the Olympics and I knew I had to go down to 114.5 to reach my goal. It was a difficult effort for me, but I made it through.”

Unfortunately, he was unable to fight in the Olympics, but he won the prestigious Tbilisi Tournament in 1980, which was said to be more difficult than the Olympics at one point.

According to the article “Gene Mills: The Uncrowned King”, “Gene Mills accomplished what no other human has done since the famous Tbilisi Tournament of the Russians began in ’58. He had no bad grades, which means he defeated the eight enemies for 12 or more points. He covered seven of his victims. “

FOR Illustrated Sports The article referred to Doug Blubaugh as “a stocky, shaved-cut Olympic champion who wears thick horn-rimmed glasses.” In fact, some say that Doug Blubaugh was legally blind without his glasses. If you look at photos of Blubaugh, he might even look a bit nerdy until you look closely at his body and see how muscular he was.

A fellow wrestler described Blubaugh: “Smart, confident, kind, generous, and a Superman with Coca-Cola bottle glasses that allowed him to see the world a little differently from the rest of us.”

Doug Blubaugh was another humble and friendly man like Dave Schultz, who turned out to be a great fighter and coach. Blubaugh grew up on a farm with no electricity or running water and had poor eyesight, but that didn’t interfere with his desire to become a great fighter.

Three-time NCAA All-American Ken Chertow didn’t start out as a perfect fighter. It took time and practice for him to be so successful.

Chertow states, “When I started wrestling in high school, I quickly incorporated shadow piercing into my training program. It was slow and chubby, so my shadow piercing was not very fluid, but I was constantly improving every day.”

Olympic champion Kendall Cross may not have looked all that imposing when he walked onto the Oklahoma state campus. But after winning the Olympic 125.5-pound title in 1996, Illustrated Sports spoke to American wrestling coach Joe Seay, who had a few words to say about Cross. “He came to the state of Oklahoma 10 years ago as a Gumby, with no muscles. He became a champion.”

Final thoughts

Maybe you are clumsy and uncoordinated. You may be a little overweight. Maybe you are small. Maybe you are scrawny. You may not be that strong. Maybe your vision is not so good. Perhaps you have had to overcome many adversities in your life. Maybe you don’t look imposing at all. But, Dave Schultz and other fighters have shown that with practice and determination it is possible to become a better fighter than you ever imagined.

Remember to seek out trained mentors and teachers, put in a lot of practice time, focus on perfecting your technique, be willing to listen and learn, be humble, and work hard. Then it is almost certain that you will become a success in wrestling.