DURHAM, N.C., JULY 14 -- In a steamy, suffocating gymnasium, Craig Pittman, a marine corporal from Quantico, grabbed 250-pound Dean Hall around the waist from behind and lifted him up over his head, letting him fall to the mat behind his back.

"That's a Greco-Roman move called back-to-belly," said Pittman, 27, who, besides competing in freestyle, is the second ranked Greco-Roman wrestler in his class in the U.S.

"People like to see you throw," he said. "They want more fluent movement, more action."

Pittman, 6-0, 220, wrestled yesterday in a mini-tournament to qualify for today's opening round of the Olympic Festival freestyle wrestling tournament. He was seeded fourth in the 286-pound-and-under class, and Hall, who had qualified for the festival at the U.S. Open in the spring, was seeded third.

All pairs will meet again at 7 p.m. in the best-of-three series. If Pittman wins again, he would face second seed Tom Erikson Wednesday. The winner of that match will wrestle top seed Bruce Baumgartner, a 1984 Olympic gold medalist.

If Hall wins this evening, a third match will follow to decide who advances.

Pittman was awarded four points for that over-the-head maneuver, the most dramatic seen in the 10 matches between the third and fourth seeds in each weight class this afternoon.

The smaller competitors were certainly quicker and accumulated more points, but Pittman's move, a risky one because the man above barely misses falling on the head and neck of the man below, was the most affective in establishing a quick advantage.

Pittman's early advantage over Hall lasted until a flurry in the last 30 seconds of the match, then Hall tied the score. In sudden-death overtime, Pittman scored the first point, pushing and carrying Hall to the edge of the mat for a 5-4 victory.

"I'm one of the smaller heavyweights and also probably one of the most agile," said Pittman, 27.

"My tempo is usually quicker but the mini-tournament really took it out of me. I felt lethargic out there."

Pittman began wrestling in ninth grade in Freeport, New York. He wasn't offered any college scholarships, but went to the University of Kentucky, hoping to be awarded one.

He left Kentucky after the second year and joined the marines, "knowing they had a good program," he said. "I wanted to pursue my goal of making the '84 and '88 Olympic teams."

In the 1984 trials, he lost to eventual gold medalist Steve Frazier. Before he left the military for a second shot at collegiate wrestling at Oklahoma State, he became the first man to win both the Greco-Roman and freestyle classes in the military world championships.

After two years at Oklahoma State, he returned to Quantico, home of the marines' national team.

"I missed the guys back in the corps," he said. "I think in the corps we're a little more disciplined. We've got a number of world class athletes; it's a serious environment.

"I train both styles two times a day. That's my job right now."

Quantico teammate Greg Gibson (220-pound class) offered Pittman the top caliber training partner Pittman said he lacked in college.

Gibson is seeded second in his weight class at the festival and finished second in the 1987 U.S. Open. He also wrestles Greco-Roman style and won the silver medal in the 1984 Olympics.

He will wrestle in his first freestyle match on Wednesday. As the top Greco-Roman seed at 220 pounds, he will not compete in that style until Friday.