DURHAM, N.C., JULY 18 -- In some sports, the 1987 U.S. Olympic Festival is not that important. But in wrestling, the winners here qualified to represent the United States in the Pan Am Games in August and the world championships in September.

Wrestling fans in Washington might remember John Smith of Stillwater, Okla., who won the outstanding wrestler award and an NCAA championship at the meet this past spring in College Park. Here, Smith had to win a mini-tournament just to get into the main draw. Then he beat the top three seeds to win the gold medal in the 136.5-pound freestyle division. But part of the price of wrestling nine matches in three days was an injured hand and torn cartilage in his rib cage. That meant a heavy tape job around his torso for the gold medal round.

"I put the tape around it because if it ripped again, it wouldn't have far to go," Smith said. "If it was some rinky-dink meet, I would have stopped, but it's the Festival. It was like wrestling in a sauna without being able to breathe for six minutes."

Smith will take a week or two off to let his injuries heal.

"I'm going to Lake Texoma and throw a pole in the water," Smith said. "I'm a big fisherman."

Figure skater Brian Boitano, second in the 1987 world championships in Cincinnati, said liability insurance problems could mean trouble for figure skating in the United States.

"More and more rinks are closing down," he said. "Skaters are having to go to fewer rinks, and that is not a great training atmosphere."

John Evans, a silver medalist in the '86 Festival in canoe doubles, has lived in a tree house the size of a trailer for much of the past five years. When asked why he didn't build it higher off the ground, he said, "Because then you could fall out." Seems fair. But when asked why he didn't build his abode on the ground like most other humans, Evans replied, "Because then it wouldn't have been a tree house."