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Schultz’s Widow Backs Wrestlers

January 24, 1998

Life on John du Pont’s Foxcatcher Farm seemed idyllic for the Olympic wrestlers. Salaries equal to Division I coaches. Free houses. An enormous facility teeming with world-class trainers and workout partners.

That’s all history now.

Today, many of the wrestlers are in California where they work at schools, law firms and software companies to pay the bills. In the afternoon, they coach college wrestlers. Only in the evening can they train for the Olympics _ jockeying for mat time with college students doing aerobics and tae kwon do.

Two years have passed since du Pont, an heir to millions who fancied himself a patron to wrestlers, shot to death Olympian Dave Schultz on his Newtown Square estate outside Philadelphia.

The athletes he supported have found a new _ and unexpected _ provider: the woman du Pont made a widow with his .44-caliber Magnum.

The Dave Schultz Wrestling Club, strung together with donations only weeks after Nancy Schultz held her husband’s bleeding body in her lap, is already one of the nation’s top teams.

For the wrestlers, ``it’s kind of from riches to rags,″ said Chris Horpel, coach for both the club and for Stanford University. ``It’s a more Spartan type of program, but the ideals behind it are more altruistic. People are very excited about wrestling for the right reasons.″

The wrestlers are inspired by the memory of Schultz, their gregarious friend and an eight-time world medalist with an encyclopedic knowledge of wrestling technique.

For Nancy Schultz, the club is a refuge from the loneliness.

``Really, it was such a good thing for me to dive into, to continue to be surrounded by Dave’s friends and my friends,″ said Schultz, who runs the club from Foster City, Calif. ``It was important for me to be involved with something that was good during the day, something positive.″

The club began in the kitchen of a home she rented after she moved off Foxcatcher following the Jan. 26, 1996, shooting. Arrested after a two-day standoff, du Pont last year was found guilty of murder and mentally ill. He was sentenced to a 13- to 30-year jail term.

Since 1988, world-class wrestlers had used du Pont’s facility. It was perfect, and the athletes considered the only drawback _ du Pont.

With Foxcatcher tainted and Schultz’s leadership gone, the athletes spent time in Ms. Schultz’s kitchen figuring out how to survive and train within the patchwork of support in the wrestling world.

Unlike Foxcatcher, the club cannot afford to pay wrestlers or coaches. A dozen athletes rank in the top four nationally in a weight class and get financial support _ airfare, hotels and meals for tournaments.

The rest get non-financial help. Nancy Schultz arranges airline and hotel reservations, checks them into tournaments and drives the minivan. She writes a newsletter, raises money and plans the wrestling clinics.

She could have cut her ties to wrestling and spent her energy looking for a way to support her two children, Alexander, 11, and Danielle, 8. And some of the top wrestlers could have tried to join Sunkist Kids in Arizona, which pays stipends.

``Nancy said, `If you want to wrestle for me and wrestle in Dave’s memory, you can do it.′ We don’t do it for the money,″ said Cary Kolat, who won a silver medal at the 1997 World Championships.

Keeping Schultz’s memory alive does not come without pain. Often, the work is jarring.

Ms. Schultz has screened many of his matches for a line of videos on wrestling techniques. ``On video, you’re alive again. In a way, it feels like I’ve seen him or been with him.

``Running this foundation is a bit of a double-edged sword. It’s doing something good and keeping his memory alive. But it’s a constant _ he’s in front of me all the time. ... My day for eight hours a day is to deal with David Schultz. It’s my job. Sometimes that makes it harder,″ she said.

``But the end result is good _ helping wrestlers.″

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