CEDAR FALLS | Few wrestling fans have not heard of the new movie 'Foxcatcher', and the hype it has been receiving.

The movie, based on the murder of Olympic wrestling champion Dave Schultz in 1996 by John E. DuPont, the heir to the DuPont chemical fortune and huge benefactor of USA Wrestling, is critically acclaimed and has earned comedian Steve Carell a Golden Globe nomination for best actor and has been named by the Associated Press as one of the Top 10 Movies of the Year.

While it had a limited release on Nov. 16, it won't hit any Iowa theaters until Jan. 16 where currently the nearest it will be shown is at the Jordan Creek Mall 20 and the Fleur Cinema & Cafe in Des Moines.

Many wrestling fans in the state are greatly anticipating seeing the movie including former Northern Iowa head wrestling coach Don Briggs.

For Briggs, the story hits close to home because Schultz was a friend not only of Briggs but the UNI wrestling program.

Briggs met Schultz coaching a USA wrestling team that was training in Newfoundland en route to competitions in Italy and France in 1986.

"I was sitting in my dormitory room reading when I see this figure walk by," recalled Briggs, who continues to be an instructor at UNI in Leisure, Youth and Human Services. "That guy stopped, took a couple steps backwards, steps into my room and says, 'Briggs!'

"I'm taken aback and say, 'Schultz?' I mean I knew who he was but I had no idea he knew me."

Long story short, Briggs says Schultz had learned Briggs tandem-skydived and was interested in doing it.

"He wanted to know how much it was, but I was like let's do a trade-off," Briggs said. "You come coach my team for a couple of days and then I'll give you all the tandems you want and he was like, 'You're on!'"

For the next four or five years Schultz would travel to Cedar Falls where he would skydive, hunt and fish with Briggs in addition to train the Panthers.

In fact, Schultz and his wife, Nancy, would both tandem jump with Briggs over the years. 

In a jump-log book, Schultz described the jump as, "It didn't feel real. I saw the plane floating away from us as we turned back toward the ground and thought 'this is a rush.'"

Nancy wrote in the same log book, "I though it would be hard to leave the plane ... it wasn't. Free fall was indescribable ... forgot to breathe, tumbled and loved it. Having faith in Briggs allowed me to enjoy the jump ... ready to go again!"

"It wasn't just for a couple of days, it would be a couple of weeks," Briggs said of Schultz's visits. 

Current Wisconsin-La Crosse head wrestling coach and former UNI all-American Dave Malecek recalls those workouts.

"He would grab you and -- I was wrestling 190 at the time where you figured you've wrestled some pretty strong guys -- but when Dave grabbed you it was a strength or grip that you've never felt before, " Malecek said. "When he would have me in a front headlock and starting choking me, I would be like 'man, I'm in trouble.'

"Reflecting back and with the movie coming out, it's really sunk in personally," continued Malecek. "I treasure it more now than I did back then. Dave was beating me so bad in those workouts that I don't think I enjoyed it maybe that is why it wasn't so fond of a memory back then.

"Every day I trained with Tim Kreiger or Joel Greenlee and then they'd bring in Schultz. I don't think the coaches like me. That was some tough, tough years of training."

Briggs said Schultz's visits usually happened a few weeks before the Panthers were to compete in NCAA championship qualifying regional tournament and called the workouts and his appearance like giving his athletes a shot of energy.

"He worked with little guys, big guys, JV guys and varsity guys," Briggs said. "Anybody who wanted to workout, he'd work out with and our wrestlers were like sponges.

"And he did it for free. He stayed in my house and it was like having another coach. He never once asked me for travel reimbursement."

Greenlee, who post-collegiately would train at Foxcatcher Farms on DuPont's sprawling estate in Newtown, Pa., where Schultz was living with his family when he was shot and killed by DuPont, recalls some of those training sessions as well.

"First of all, he was different," said Greenlee, the Waverly native and head wrestling coach at Ohio University. "For us, I think it had always been train hard, train long. With Dave, it was more technical.

"It was different, but a good different, a different insight."

"It was great experience," Greenlee added. "We already had three great coaches, a great collegiate coaching staff and then an Olympic Gold medalist and all the credentials he had. It was a breath of fresh air and a boost of confidence when he was there."

Briggs remembers sitting in his office on Jan. 26, 1996, the day DuPont shot and killed Schultz. 

"It was a dreadful day," said Briggs who has yet to see the movie. "I get a call from a reporter and he says I'd like to get your comments on Dave Schultz. I was like I don't know what you are talking about.

"The reporter told me John DuPont had killed him and I just started crying. I told the reporter I couldn't talk right now.

"You lose a good friend like that and it hurts, especially somebody who was so giving. You can give people gifts, but when you give a gift of yourself and your energy, I think that's the ultimate.

"Dave was definitely a guy who gave of himself."


Sports Reporter

Sports reporter for The Courier

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