The riveting true story of Olympic wrestling gold medal-winning brothers Mark Schultz and Dave Schultz and their fatal relationship with the eccentric John du Pont, heir to the du Pont dynasty
On January 26, 1996, Dave Schultz, Olympic gold medal winner and wrestling golden boy, was shot three times by du Pont family heir John E. du Pont at the famed Foxcatcher Farms estate in Pennsylvania. Following the murder there was a tense standoff when du Pont barricaded himself in his home for two days before he was finally captured.
Foxcatcher is gold medal winner Mark Schultz’s memoir, revealing what made him and his brother champion and what brought them to Foxcatcher Farms. It’s a vivid portrait of the complex relationship he and his brother had with du Pont, a man whose catastrophic break from reality led to tragedy. No one knows the inside story of what went on behind the scenes at Foxcatcher Farms—and inside John du Pont’s head—better than Mark Schultz.
The incredible true story of these championship-winning brothers and the wealthiest convicted murderer of all time will be making headlines this fall, and Mark’s memoir will reveal the true inside story.
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MARK SCHULTZ is an Olympic gold medalist, 2-time World Champion, and 7-time national champion.
DAVID THOMAS, a former award-winning sports journalist, is a national best-selling author/co-writer of seven books. He lives near Fort Worth, Texas, with his wife, Sally, and their two children.
Making a Champion
A Fighter’s Chance
My brother was the one constant in my life until John du Pont murdered him.
Dave protected me, he set an example for me, and he suffered alongside me. Although born seventeen months apart—Dave was older—we were almost like twins.
The media liked to point out our differences. We looked different. Dave sported a thick, black beard most of his adult life and I was clean-shaven, making my dominant cheek and chin features more pronounced. My medium-brown hair was thick and wavy; Dave kept his hair shorter. Then later, Father Time made his hair even shorter. I was noticeably more muscular, Dave more chemistry professor–ish.
We wrestled differently, too, the media said. Dave was a brilliant technician on the mat. Perhaps our sport’s greatest technician ever. I relied more on sheer strength, brute force even.
Sports Illustrated once portrayed Dave as “a Yoda-like master of the mats,” capable of outsmarting opponents. I was the “sledgehammer,” “a massively muscled head-on attacker” brawling my way to victory.
The contrasts made for great stories. Perhaps that’s why we played along for fun during interviews. But the true story, despite the obvious physical differences, was how much alike we were. And the better story would have been how much that was by design, because I tried to emulate my older brother in every way I could.
Ours had all the makings of a rags-to-riches tale. From poor beginnings, we fought our way through life and the world of wrestling to win a combined four National Collegiate Athletic Association championships, two Olympic gold medals, and three World Championship titles. But riches never came. We won plenty of gold, but we never found the brass ring that would allow us to compete without having to rely on the likes of John du Pont, a credibility-craving, controlling misfit of a multimillionaire I never would have associated with if USA Wrestling had provided better financial support for its most successful wrestlers.
Our parents divorced when I was three. Our dad and our mom didn’t have one of those nasty divorces, so we didn’t have to deal with parents trashing each other. We also were really close to our grandparents on our mom’s side, and as far as kids of divorces go, we didn’t have it too bad in our early years.
I wasn’t quite yet five when I started school in Menlo Park, California, and as an October baby, I was the youngest in my class. Dave was a grade ahead and, unlike me, one of the bigger kids in his class. But Dave, who would eat just about anything and everything, was soft and uncoordinated. His physique would later result in his being nicknamed “Pudge.”
Dave’s lack of coordination came from his dyslexia. Instead of having one side of the brain that is dominant, which is what influences how people think and operate, individuals diagnosed with dyslexia have a brain with mixed dominance, and that negatively affects the brain’s organization.
Not surprisingly, Dave had great difficulty reading. The letters b, d, p, and q flipped back and forth, up and down when he read. Dave’s teachers placed him in remedial classes. Dave hated those classes because, like many dyslexics, he actually was very intelligent.
One day when Dave was a third-grader, a kid from his grade started making fun of him for being in remedial reading. Dave got mad, took the kid to the ground, and slammed his head against the concrete. That knocked the kid out, and an ambulance had to come to the school to take the kid to the hospital. Dave had cracked the kid’s skull.
After that, Dave became known as the toughest kid in the school and, not surprisingly, didn’t have to face teasing again for being in remedial reading. We did get picked on a lot, though, and I still don’t know why. I remember one time when a group of girls kept calling me “conceited.” They might have said that at least a dozen times, maybe a couple of dozen, in about an hour.
I didn’t think I was conceited. I was a good athlete and I wasn’t real talkative, but I wouldn’t say I was conceited. I was small, though, and that made me an easy target.
One bully in particular kept picking on me, and that’s when my protector stepped in on my behalf. Dave took the bully down and pounded on him until the bully started crying and got up and ran home.
Dave got cross with another kid at school named John. I can’t remember what started their rift, but I think John had disrespected Dave. They agreed to settle it on the playground after school. Word got around that John and Dave were going to fight, and there was a lot of interest in the outcome because Dave was the school’s tough guy and John was one of the best athletes, really coordinated and extremely fast.
After school, the kids formed a circle around John and Dave, and John quickly was revealed as no match for Dave. They wound up on the ground, and Dave got on top of him and started pounding on him. Dave’s fists were flying, John’s arms were trying to cover his head, and both kids were crying—John, on the bottom, because he was getting beat up, and Dave, on top, I guess because it was one of those deals where you’re a kid in a fight and you have so much adrenaline flowing and you have no idea what’s going to happen after the fight. A teacher heard the commotion and separated the two.
I don’t know how Dave wound up on top of a kid as athletic as John so quickly, but he must have detected a spot where John left himself vulnerable and pounced on it. He was an excellent technician long before he discovered wrestling.
Even though because of my size I was more on the edge of the action than in the middle of it, fighting became a defense for both of us. We didn’t have many advantages, but we did have toughness and the bullheadedness to never give in going for us.
My parents had told me after I turned four that I had six-pack abs and well-defined muscles, but my first recognition of my athletic talent came in second grade, when another student boasted that he could outrun me across a field. He took off before I could get started, but despite the boy’s big head start, I caught up to him and beat him to the finish line.
That race provided me needed confidence, because even though I was the youngest member of the class, I learned I could do something athletically better than others. I was way too young to know about the science of fast-twitch muscle fibers that I would learn about in college, but discovering how quick I was compared with the others in my class led me to realize the advantage I had in terms of explosive power. After that boost of confidence, I became the goalkeeper in our recess soccer games and usually went back to class covered in dirt from diving to make saves. For the first time, I experienced the joy of being the best at something in sports.
Our mother had remarried and attended graduate school at Stanford. Before my fourth-grade year, she accepted a job offer to be the costume designer for the Oregon Shakespeare Festival in Ashland, Oregon, the first city across the California border on Interstate 5. The move took us more than a six-hour drive from our home in Palo Alto, away from our dad and grandparents.
We had a good relationship with Dad. He and Mom gave me Dad’s middle name—Philip—when I was born. My first name came from an uncle, Mark Bernstein, and I didn’t like my name growing up because “Mark” sounded like a hare-lipped dog barking. Then I learned the name came from Mars, the Roman god of war, and I thought it was cool that I carried the name of a warrior.
Dad, a Stanford grad, was a comedian and drama professor, and he kept us laughing when we were around him. In our early years in Palo Alto, I developed a love for comedy, memorizing all of Steve Martin’s A Wild and Crazy Guy album. Our maternal grandparents Willis and Dorothy Rich were smart and accomplished people; Grandpa was a professor at Stanford, and Grandma was a doctor. While our mom worked in the summers, we stayed with them in nearby Menlo Park, and they loved on us every time we were with them. My grandmother and I grew especially close. But then we moved.
I hated Oregon. Not because of Oregon itself, but because moving there took me away from the positive influences of my dad and grandparents. I recently told my mom, Jeannie St. Germain, that I still have negative feelings toward Oregon and wished that we had never moved there, because that is where life began to turn difficult for me.
Mom and our stepdad had two more kids, Seana and Michael, whom I’ve always considered full-blooded siblings. Then Mom got divorced again and her parents passed away. She had a brother who stayed distant and wasn’t around to help her (or us) at all. Her job with the Shakespeare Festival was one of the best theater jobs in the country, but it didn’t leave her much time for us because she had to work a lot of hours to support us financially. Mom definitely made personal sacrifices to raise us the best she could.
Our house in Ashland was pretty small, probably about twelve hundred square feet. There was my mom’s room, a room Seana and Michael shared, and a room that Dave and I could have made ours. But that room had glass walls—a sunroom type of room—and was cold most of the time because it wasn’t insulated. So we took up residence in a little building out back that we called “the bunkhouse.”
The bunkhouse was uncomfortable and cold. There were no beds; we slept on cots and wrapped ourselves in sleeping bags. The walls were insulated, but the handle had fallen off the door and cold air whisked right through the opening. The bunkhouse had a small electric heater we would huddle over in the morning, with sleeping bags draped over our backs, to warm up before we dressed for school.
We lived a dirty existence there. The road to our house was all dirt and filled with potholes. Some of our neighbors were sheep farmers. We didn’t have a lot of clothes, and the items we did have were dirty, and we didn’t wash them often. In sixth grade, I had worn the same pair of socks for so long that the bottoms had become black and hard.
“That’s sick, Schultzy,” one of my teachers told me when she saw my socks.
It was painfully embarrassing. Those were awful times, but going through them made Dave and me tough and independent. We had to grow up faster than most other kids around us.
The transition from Palo Alto to Ashland was difficult. I hated our elementary school in Ashland. I was almost four hundred miles away from my dad and grandparents, and the winters were cold in that freezing bunkhouse. I couldn’t wait for the weather to warm up so I could build up calluses on the bottoms of my feet that would enable me to hike barefoot on Mount Ashland behind Lithia Park.
To me, school was boring, so I tapped into the comedian gene passed along from my dad to create fun. I would listen to Bill Cosby’s vinyl records over and over at home, memorizing his stories so I could repeat them for my classmates and make them laugh.
I was a good, natural athlete; Dave wasn’t. We both had stiff shoulders and couldn’t throw balls as far as some of the other boys. Neither of us was good at distance running, either.
Sixth grade was a big year for me in sports, because I broke twenty of the school’s twenty-five athletic records for my grade. Classmates voted me “most likely to win the Olympic long jump.” Winning that honor was cool because I remembered Dave and me watching the 1968 Olympics in Mexico City when American Bob Beamon pulled off one of the greatest feats in all of sports, breaking the world record in the long jump by an amazing 213/4 inches.
In those days I didn’t watch the Olympics and dream of some day competing in the Games. At that point I was still trying to figure out which sport I would make mine. I was good at many sports, so when I thought about specializing in a sport I thought it should be one at which I could make a lot of money because we were so poor.
During sixth grade, I read the book American Miler: The Life and Times of Glenn Cunningham, about one of the best Americans in the mile run during the 1930s. Cunningham competed in two Olympics and won the silver medal in the fifteen hundred meters at the 1936 Games in Berlin.
Cunningham’s legs had been badly burned during a schoolhouse explosion, and doctors told him he would never walk again. The book described how Cunningham did learn to walk again and developed a running style in which he ran on the balls of his feet and placed one foot directly in front of the other, as though he were running on a straight line. I copied his form, and that gave me a bit of a distinct walk. I had the pleasure and honor of meeting Cunningham in 1988 and was able to tell him how he had affected the way I walked and ran. A week after we met, Cunningham died.
Dave took up wrestling in seventh grade. He made our junior high’s junior varsity, and he had a 3-3-1 record in his first season. Dave absolutely fell in love with wrestling from the start. By that time, the other boys in his grade had caught up with him in size, so Dave used wrestling to maintain his status as the toughest kid in school. I loved Dave being the toughest kid, especially because I was the youngest in my grade and not very big compared with the others. Dave didn’t miss a chance to step in and take up for me when I got bullied.
I think finding wrestling was a eureka moment for Dave. His reading troubles didn’t matter in wrestling, but brutality did, and he had plenty of that. Plus, because he was so smart, he could take moves others did and improve them, and then create his own moves. Even when he first started wrestling, Dave could trick opponents into putting themselves in a position they thought would give them an advantage only to quickly learn they had instead stepped into Dave’s trap. By then, it was too late.
Becoming a better wrestler was about the only thing Dave cared about. He carried his wrestling shoes with him at all times and wore a singlet underneath his clothes just in case he met up with someone who wanted to wrestle.
As Dave got into wrestling, we discovered that because his brain wasn’t dominated by one side due to his dyslexia, he appeared to have the advantage of being ambidextrous. He wrote and threw with his left hand, kicked with his right foot, and shot guns right-eye dominant. Because he was neither left- nor right-handed, Dave was able to perform moves equally well from both sides. Opponents had trouble figuring out Dave’s style and also were left vulnerable due to Dave’s being able to attack a wrestler’s weaker side—whichever side it was—with equal strength.
Because Dave basically lived wrestling, he rapidly improved. He made the junior high’s varsity his eighth-grade year and placed fourth in the state. As a ninth-grader—our high school started with the tenth grade—he wrestled at the World Schoolboy Championships in Lima, Peru, and finished second behind a wrestler from Great Britain.
I was blown away that Dave had risen so fast in such a difficult sport. He, however, didn’t make a big deal out of his accomplishments. He had a steady demeanor about him that would have kept you...
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