Bruce Baumgartner - Collegiate Wrestler
Because wrestling is not a lucrative sport, Baumgartner had little trouble dodging college recruiters and their scholarship offers. Free to choose any college, he enrolled at Indiana State University (ISU) at Terre Haute in 1978, where he joined the wrestling team and competed for four years of college. By his senior year, he had suffered only twelve losses over four seasons, for a won-loss record of 134-12 matches. He earned his first of seventeen U.S. national freestyle titles in 1980.
In addition to winning his second national title in 1981, Baumgartner prevailed internationally at the World University Games in Bucharest, Romania. 1981 proved to be a landmark year for Baumgartner when he lost to Dan Cook, at the Amateur Athletic Union (AAU) national championship. The loss was significant because it would be the last time Baumgartner would realize defeat at the hands of an American for the duration of his seventeen-year wrestling career.
In 1982 as a senior in college, Baumgartner won the National College Athletic Association (NCAA) heavyweight wrestling championship after an undefeated season of 44-0. Furthermore, having won the Midland Tournament Championships in Chicago in 1980 and again in 1981, he went on to repeat that victory seven times over, winning consecutive Midland titles every year through 1987.
While proving himself as an outstanding athlete, Baumgartner sharpened his academic skills, earning a B.S. in 1982 with a 3.77 average. He won a spot on the World Team that year and moved from Indiana to Oklahoma where from 1982-84 he worked as a graduate assistant wrestling coach at Oklahoma State University.
After winning three silver medals a one bronze in international competition in 1983, Baumgartner sought the gold in 1984. He won the AAU nationals, the World Cup, and a gold medal at the Tiblisi Tournament in the former Soviet Union. He earned a spot on the U.S. Olympic team also that year, winning a gold medal at the games in Los Angeles. Baumgartner's Olympic gold medal was a national milestone at that time—a first-ever accomplishment for a U.S. wrestler.