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Blood Money Divided Wrestlers

AP Sports Writer
Monday, July 29, 1996 4:26 pm EDT

ATLANTA (AP) -- Rarely is money an issue in Olympic wrestling. Not much goes into the sport, and not much is made it in -- especially by the wrestlers.

But even they cannot live with blood money.

Tom Brands, a 1993 world champion, angered some other U.S. freestylers by accepting training money from John E. du Pont after the chemical heir was charged with the shooting death of former Olympic champion Dave Schultz.

Most of du Pont's Team Foxcatcher wrestlers severed all ties after Schultz's death. But Brands and six others still received Team Foxcatcher stipends during the U.S. trials last month.

The money was not significant compared to that earned by other Olympians, but many in the sport found it highly offensive.

``But I've talked to Tom, and he told me he's quit the club,'' said 220-pound world champion Kurt Angle, who wrestles Tuesday in the Olympic preliminaries. ``He was so caught up in making the team, he waited to (quit) until the trials were over.''

The other nine U.S. Olympians didn't publicly criticize Brands, but they clearly were uncomfortable with his stance.

Some wrestlers rooted openly against Team Foxcatcher members at the trials. Former U.S. Olympian Chris Campbell labeled the cash ``blood money.''

Melvin Douglas, also an Olympian, said he wished he could wrestle a du Pont-backed wrestler because ``I'd like to take him out.''

Perhaps to defuse the controversy, Brands and twin brother Terry, a two-time world champion, now compete as independents.

Tom Brands, whose first Olympic match is Thursday, hasn't trained with the other Americans for about a week, choosing instead to work out in Iowa.

Angle, one of Schultz's close friends, was relieved with Tom Brands' decision.

``I talked to Tom about it,'' Angle said. ``It's not easy in our sport. They (the Brandses) are a different breed. They're not very social, they're quiet and intense, but they're nice guys. They don't bother anybody and they come to do business.''

Now that they can go about that business without a potentially disruptive distraction, the U.S. freestylers expect to better the three-medal haul of the Greco-Roman team.

The Americans won the 1993 and 1995 world team titles, and Angle and super heavyweight Bruce Baumgartner are reigning world champs. Tom Brands, Kendall Cross and NCAA champion Les Gutches beat former world champions just to make the U.S. team.

``Any time you have two world champions who don't make team, it's a good team,'' U.S. coach Joe Seay said. ``It's an exciting team. Any time you make the U.S. team, you're one of the best in the world.''

``I think we can dominate the Olympics,'' Angle said.

Wrestling Tuesday will be 105 1/2-pounder Rob Eiter; Cross (125 1/2), who beat reigning world champion Terry Brands in the trials; Townsend Saunders (149 1/2); NCAA champion Les Gutches (180 1/2), and Angle, who will be cheered by a 200-fan delegation from hometown Pittsburgh.

Gutches, who has virtually no international experience, upset 1995 world champion Kenny Jackson in the U.S. trials.

``Those guys wrestling me don't have many tapes on me,'' Gutches said. ``They don't know much about me. But I've been watching the guys I wrestle and I think I can beat all of them if I wrestle my best.''

Freestyle is one of last Olympic sports to begin, and the wrestlers say the wait has been anxious and tedious.

Baumgartner, who carried the U.S. flag during the opening ceremonies and can become only the fifth American to win a medal in four Olympics, must wait even longer -- until Thursday -- to wrestle.

``The wait is tough,'' assistant coach Greg Strobel said. ``Being last means staying away from all of the hype -- and the rest of the Olympics. People ask what I'm watching, and I'm not watching anything. I'll watch the Olympics on tape when I get home. Hopefully, after we've won some medals.''

© Copyright 1996 The Associated Press

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