DURHAM, N.C., JULY 13 -- An inch taller and nearly 20 pounds heavier, Mark Schultz (5 feet 10, 180 1/2 pounds) doesn't look anything like older brother Dave. Mark's clean-shaven face and thick hair contrast with Dave's receding hairline and beard.

But the brothers have one thing in common. They are the best wrestlers in their weight classes in this country and, according to Olympic coach Jim Humphreys, possibly the world.

"We've never had such an incredible team," Humphreys said. "We've never had this kind of depth. This is the best team ever in the history of this country."

With eight members returning from the 1984 Olympic gold medal team (including three individual gold-medalists), four current world champions and nine more world champion medalists, Humphreys feels this team has the experience and power to beat the Soviets for the first time in the upcoming world championships.

"We got seven gold medals in the world championships last year and were second to the Soviets, like we have been every year," he said. "I really believe the '88 Olympic team will do for wrestling in this country what the '76 boxing team did for boxing."

Members of the U.S. national team and others are in Durham this week at the U.S. Olympic Festival trying to qualify for the Pan American Games, world championship teams and, ultimately, the Olympic squad. A mini-tournament was held today to determine a fourth member in each weight class for the regional teams that will compete here for individual and team titles. The first three individuals at each weight were chosen at the national championships. The fourth slot was left open to allow more athletes a chance to qualify.

Dave, 28, and Mark Schultz, 26, with 11 national titles between them, will not wrestle until Thursday.

Humphreys said, that, according to the standings, the United States has the No. 2 team in the world, "but to my mind, we're the best. We only have to go out there and prove it."

The younger Schultz would like nothing better. "It's more of a martial art than a sport. You have to take someone down and dominate him," he said. After glaring down someone who asked him about another competent wrestler in his class, Schultz continued, "He's either going to beat me or I'll beat him."

Skill make more of a difference in wrestling than strenghth, according to Humphreys. That is why the average age of 27 of this year's team makes it such a good bet to unseat the Soviets.

Losers in the mini-tournament included Rich Salamone of Centerville, Va., Glen Frank of Quantico and Tom Reese of Hempstead, Md.

The first round of the tournament will begin Tuesday. Eric Wetzel of Quantico, Steve Biedrycki of Quantico and Greg Gibson of Stafford will compete the next four days.

Craig Pittman of Quantico won three matches in the qualifying round and will face Dean Hall in the first round of the regular tournament.