By JOE DANA
Labeled a “chisiled god” during his days on the mat, BYU head coach Mark Schultz will enter the California Wrestling Hall of Fame next year. For Schultz, a member of the National Wrestling Hall of Fame, it’s simply an after-thought to a career already stacked with world accolades.
“I’ll tell you what, it would be significant if I wasn’t inducted,” Schultz said.
The gruff and often blunt coach of the Cougars is considered in the top four of all-time U.S. freestlyle wrestlers. According to Gary Abbot, director of communications at the USA Wrestling Organization, Schultz is an obvious choice. The California native’s 27-0 record during his senior year in college along with three world gold medals are two reasons why he has elevated from great to mythological status.
“Mark looked like a chiseled god,” Garry Abbot, director of commications at USA Wrestling said. “He had talent, raw power, and skill.”
When Schultz enters the California Hall of Fame on May 27, he will follow his late brother Dave, whose name was inducted last year. Dave Schultz, a world renown wrestler himself, is the first and only member of the newly founded organization.
And now his brother will follow. That’s been the trend.
“If it wasn’t for him, I wouldn’t have done anything,” Schultz said.
Dave was known as the wrestler in the family and Mark said he decided to do the same. Mark Schultz recalls his decision came out of desperation because, unlike his brother, he was a child with little confidence and no self-esteem.
“It got so bad that I wanted to kill myself,” Schultz said. “So I decided to kill myself by pushing me to my physical limits.”
Schultz is even surprised himself, while remembering how hard he used to work.
“I worked out four times a day,” Schultz said. “To the point I thought I was going to die.”
While his brother was known for technical skills on the mat, Abbot said that Mark was distinctly different, capitalizing on his power and explosiveness.
“We’re talking about some pretty hallowed ground for what he achieved as an international wrestler,” Abbot said.
Only two other wrestlers, John Smith and Bruce Baumgartner, have more international gold medals than Schultz.
Former BYU assistant coach Larry Nugent was the first role model of Schultz, having met him when Schultz was fifteen years old. At that age Schultz was training in gymnastics and hadn’t begun wrestling yet.
His training as a gymnist would nurture the wrestling star-in-embryo.
“Gymnists are the best athletes for all-around ability,” Schultz said. “My balance, quickness, and explosive power all transferred over.”
Nugent said that Schultz’ trademark as a wrestler was his no-fear attitude.
“It didn’t matter if it was gymnastics, wrestling, or jumping from one rock to another on a river bank. He was always pushing himself to the limits,” Nugent said.
He refers to a fabled moment of “rock hopping” when Schultz cleared an arm of river water and landed on a rock in Oregon. It was something few would even attempt.
“Mark was able to focus on a single purpose and conquer fear better than anyone I’ve ever met,” Nugent said.
Schultz enters his sixth season as the BYU head wrestling coach.
During his collegiate career at the University of Oklahoma, he won three NCAA championships and was named the Outstanding Wrestler at the 1983 NCAA Championships.