Palo Alto mourns loss of Olympian
Publication Date: Wednesday Jan 31, 1996

Palo Alto mourns loss of Olympian

Friends recall Dave Schultz as fun-loving, big-hearted wrestler

Midpeninsula residents who knew Dave Schultz say he was dedicated to his sport of wrestling, but he was always looking for a new adventure to try.

"The last time I saw Schultzy, we climbed to the top of the Golden Gate Bridge" two years ago, said John Kockelman, who has known Schultz since they were on the wrestling team together at Palo Alto High 20 years ago. "He was very fun-loving. He liked adventure. We're going to miss his spirit, and his passion. He was one out of a million."

Schultz, 36, who won a gold medal in wrestling at the 1984 Olympics, was shot and killed in front of his home last Friday afternoon as he went to repair his car radio. Police say the gunman was John E. du Pont, heir to the du Pont chemical company fortune, who was holed up in his mansion in Newtown Square, Pa. Following a 48-hour standoff, police arrested du Pont Sunday as he left his home to fix his boiler.

"Wrestling was his life," said Doug Boyett, assistant football coach at Foothill College, who graduated with Schultz in 1977. "He told me (in ninth grade) he wanted to move and live in Russia. He said he'd be put in a sports school so he could wrestle. That's what he wanted."

Boyett recalls how Schultz used to carry a huge copy of "The Illustrated Guide to Wrestling" in his backpack. "He'd write in it after a match, or go and ask (other wrestlers) about a move," he said. "He had the internal drive."

Kockelman said Schultz would wear his wrestling singlet (under his regular clothes), his wrestling shoes, and would carry his head piece in his backpack.

"That was his entire life," Kockelman said. "He was Olympic material in high school. Right from the get-go he was a top-notch wrestler."

Even when Schultz beat opponents in high school wrestling matches, they would often walk off the floor smiling. According to a longtime friend, Mark Martel of Palo Alto, when Schultz beat Martel's brother in a high school match, all his brother could say was how nice Schultz was. "He was a pudgy, red-nosed kid. He didn't seem to have any muscles, but he had this amazing technique."

During his senior year at Paly, Schultz captured the state title at 165 pounds and was named state wrestler of the year. Later, Martel and Schultz were assistant wrestling coaches at Stanford University.

"He was very friendly," Martel remembered. "He's done so many little nice things for people. He was very self-effacing, very humble. He made everybody feel like they were his friend," Martel said.

Schultz and his brother Mark, who graduated from Paly in 1978 and also won a state wrestling title his senior year, both won gold medals in the 1984 Olympics. Mark is now a coach at BYU.

At the time of his death, Dave Schultz was training and coaching other athletes for the 1996 Olympics at a world-class wrestling center that du Pont built on his estate. Schultz, his wife, Nancy, and their two children were living on the estate.

While the shooting has yet to be explained, Martel and others were aware of other bizarre incidents on du Pont's estate involving other wrestlers. "Dave just thought he could handle John du Pont," Martel said. "He had the best relationship of anyone. Dave just figured he could handle it."

Schultz, the son of Stanford graduates, lived in Ashland, Ore., and returned to Palo Alto in the early 1970s to live with his father Philip, when his parents divorced. Dave attended Jordan Junior High School, and made an immediate impression on his eighth grade P.E. teacher, Mark Christine.

Christine recalled one day he and Schultz were roughhousing on the grass, when suddenly, "I couldn't move. He had me pinned with his legs. I said to myself, 'what do we have here?' It looks like he had a natural flare for it."

Later, Schultz joined the wrestling team at Palo Alto High--often returning to Jordan to use the practice room, Christine said, noting that Schultz always carried a booklet on wrestling rules and holds.

"That was his life, apparently," Christine said. After high school practice, Schultz often would head over to campus and watch the Stanford wrestling team practice.

Martel said Dave's widow, Nancy, was contemplating having a memorial service in Pennsylvania on Feb. 10. He said Schultz's friends in the Palo Alto area were considering holding a local memorial service for Schultz, but details were not final.

--Elizabeth Darling 

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