Featured guest author, Mr. George Pardos.
In the summer of 1987 I started wrestling for the Marine Corps. We had a team at Camp Pendleton with about 15 guys. It was a great experience as this was a chance to wrestle but also to represent the Marines in competition. I met Mark Schultz that fall at the Phoenix Open where they had just started trying to recruit guys for the Villanova wrestling program as well as Foxcatcher wrestling. I also got a chance to meet John DuPont as he was the co-sponsor of the event.
At first glance you wouldn’t give much credence to the man. He is a very slender guy who doesn’t look like an athlete; the only feature that makes him stand out is his nose and the fact that he looks like he is expecting something that never comes. His aloofness to some is his charm to others it is something that stops him from being able to connect with the common man. The fact that was not known to most that after an accident that left his testicles crushed, he became more androgynous and as a result had a hard time fitting in a world ruled by alpha males, especially the sport of wrestling.
In talking to him it is hard to grasp how he thinks, and maybe that was his demons pushing at him. This was a guy who had a lifelong desire to be good. This is also the man who finished almost last in the Olympic trials in the Pentathlon. Winners or at least competitors always have that X factor, something that seemed to be lacking in his character.
I remember when we got done wrestling him and Gunny Williams had a dinner for us. Nothing formal but just Mexican food with some drinks. He was trying to get some of us that were finishing our careers in the Corps especially the upper weights to come to Foxcatcher. He also had a fondness for Massey, one of the 149.5 pounders who was probably the best thrower on the All Marine team.
In December of that year I visited the compound for the first time on my way to Quantico to the All Marine team selection. What I remember was that for a private club this had all the makings of a world class facility. The mats were new, and the smell of mat cleaner was overwhelming. Unlike the OTC, this place had to be the best private facility in the US. The guys that were accumulated there were some of the best wrestlers the country had to offer.
I remember working out with Kirk Trost at the time; he was the former HWT National Champion for Michigan and was by far the strongest man in the room. Andre Metzger was also there, who was the 1984 Olympic Gold Medalist and had a move named after him he was so good. I had met Dave Schultz before and had always admired the fact he was simply the best technician we had in wrestling in the last 35 years. I spent 3 days there before heading to Quantico. I had talked to Mark about coming and wrestling at Villanova in the fall, and would have been able to compete right away. In 1988 Villanova announced that it was going to drop wrestling as the improprieties of DuPont funding the team was too big of a violation to the NCAA standards.
I kept in contact with Mark Schultz during the spring, and I eventually qualified for the Olympic Trials that spring. During the time at Quantico I was also talking to Russ Hellickson at Ohio State, he was the 1976 Silver Medalist and 1980 Olympian as well. In one of the best decisions I made I decided to leave the Marines and go wrestle at The Ohio State University. Due to the fact I was a veteran and had really high academic marks, I got a scholarship and started in the fall. Mark made the Olympic team that year and due to a knee injury really did not have a good Olympics finishing 6th. He was projected to be a finalist and the injury really kept him from being at top form. He represented Foxcatcher at the Olympics which was the beginning of what people call the DuPont run in wrestling.
For the next few years in wrestling he was the face of wrestling and especially USA wrestling. He hosted the US Open in Las Vegas and would be hob knobbing with all the top guys. This lead to some good guys wrestling for DuPont and some guys who actually had resentment to him.
In 1991 for example at age 55 he wrestled at the Veterans world in Cali, Columbia and was given some of his wins in that tournament just to be called “world champion’.’
My contact with Foxcatcher endured for the time I was at Ohio State. My coach at the time Mark Coleman was the 220 pound representative in the 1992 Olympics. Since 1988 I was one of his training partners and in 1991 when he made the world team, I wrestled him 71 days straight for 3 matches a day as there were no other upper weights in the room. Even though I focused on Greco Roman, DuPont sponsored me for a few meets. I would travel to Pa with Mark and we would wrestle with the other guys in the room. It was by far the most competitive room ever, as you had the best in each weight class signed. Jon really didn’t understand Greco and would call it half a sport.
Dave Schultz was always a great guy to all of us; he helped every one with technique. His process on the mat was to teach, if you had perfect technique the rest would follow. I still teach his frond headlock and his 2 on 1 arm and it always works, regardless of the level.
During those times DuPont started to act much differently, he became more antagonistic with some wrestlers to the point they felt uncomfortable. He had lost a lawsuit to Andre Metzger and had to pay him out money; he also had some bad interactions with Dan Chaid and was sued by him also. Andre Metzger was fired from Villanova and sued DuPont for having made sexual advances to him, in a card he wrote he said to Andre that Jon could use “A hug and a kiss’’.
From about 91 on when he had gone to Cali, something in John changed. I think that the drinking had gotten to him to overcome his anxiety. Every time we saw him even coaches who were close to him had said how he had changed and became more forgetful like early signs of Alzheimer’s and or dementia. He had once thrown out John Fisher from the room for being black, as dark colors affected him.
When you talked to him, it reminded you of the boy king, someone who wanted to be there, but really didn’t belong. He tried to become the face of wrestling and for a while he was.
His eventually paranoia led to his downfall. He was scared of everything and everyone. In talking to him he always wound up going off on a tangent about something that happened 5 years ago but couldn’t recall what you said to him 5 minutes ago. This paranoia led to him shooting Dave. The fact that Dave tried to reason with him and had been his best ally on the team had lost all semblance of sanity.
In the end the loss of Dave Schultz hurt all the wrestling community. For all the people I had ever met in wrestling Dave had the ability for you to feel special. He was a good man in a sport ruled by your ability to become brutal at a moment’s notice. Russ always spoke highly of him and the time we had him at Ohio State to teach was always a great time as his view was to always attack your opponent.
It is hard to look back at that era as it was the time that shaped me as a wrestler. Russ Hellickson, Mark Coleman, Dave Schultz and Mark Schultz had impact on my wrestling career. Russ to this day is the best technician I have ever met. Dave Schultz is second. In 1989 when we had the Big Bear wrestling cup in Columbus, I got a chance to see him and Ivan Yarigin in the same mat teaching, there was no better feeling for a young wrestler then to watch these men teach, it is like having Rembrandt teach you how to paint.
For those of us who had had contact with the Schultz brothers, what we are reminded of is that John took those memories away from us. We could no longer ask him how to do this move or that move. His funny stories or the fact that he would quote Musashi and the 5 rings while in the middle of practice.
To this day that is the resentment I hold for John, that he took a legend from my DNA. I grew up watching him; I got a chance to be taught by him. I got a chance to wrestle him. The absence of his presence is like knowing who Batman is and knowing the Joker killed him and watching it play out in front of you. For all his money and all his notoriety those 5 seconds in 1996 is all that DuPont would be remembered for.
The fact that he died crazy in his cell is of no significance, it was a means to an end. The life he snuffed out could not be replaced with the wealth of 20 DuPont’s. There endeth the story.
Mr. Pardos is a 1993 graduate of The Ohio State University (OSU) and former United States Marine assigned to the Marine Corps wrestling team from 1987-1988. In 1988 Mr. Pardos entered the United States Army and in saw combat in Mogadishu, Somali in 1994. Pardos was a US Olympic trials qualifier in 1988 & 1992. He was member of the OSU Wrestling team from 1988-1993 and the United States Army wrestling team in 1997. Mr Pardos was an Assistant coach at the OSU from 2003-2006. He currently resides in central Ohio, USA.