Three U wrestlers make Olympic team

Chet Decker

For The Daily

What does a 22-year-old wrestler do when he faces an eight-time national champion in a match that decides who makes the U.S. Olympic team?
“Attack,” Brandon Paulson said.
Paulson should know. On June 2, the Gophers wrestler defeated Shawn Sheldon, who finished fourth in Greco-Roman division at the 1992 Olympics in Barcelona, Spain.
In just more than a month, Paulson, who wrestles in the 114.5 pound weight class, will be able to call himself an Olympian.
Last year, he made one of the most important decisions of his life when he decided to take a year off from wrestling for the Gophers to train full time for his Olympic bid. Paulson has two years of eligibility remaining.
“Since I was about 10 years old I always dreamed about something like this,” Paulson said. “I remember watching the Olympics in 1984, and I said that’s where I want to be when I grow up. I said to myself, `I want to be an Olympian, and I want to win a gold medal’.
“I was getting closer and closer to that level, and I just decided to go for it.”
Paulson, who 10 days ago weighed 114 pounds, now weighs 135 pounds. He has until July to slim down for the Olympic weigh-ins in Atlanta.
On Friday, Paulson leaves for Colorado Springs, Colo., for two weeks of training with the entire Olympic wrestling team. Then, the Anoka native will relax at home for one week before traveling to Atlanta to get his credentials, equipment and housing assignment in the Olympic village.
After 10 more days of training in Chattanooga, Tenn., Paulson will be back in Atlanta for the opening ceremonies.
Two other former Gophers wrestlers made the team — Richfield native Gordy Morgan and Dave Zuniga of New Brighton.
“For the last few months we’ve been training together, and we’ve known each other for years. Even when I was in high school I knew (Gordy) and Dave,” Paulson said.
Following his victory over Sheldon in Concord, Calif., Paulson celebrated with Zuniga, who also had just wrapped up his spot on the team.
“We just had big smiles on our faces and gave each other a hug,” Paulson said. “It was real special that we made the team. We really didn’t have to say anything.”
There were former Gophers who didn’t make the team. Gordy’s younger brother Marty Morgan, who is an assistant under Minnesota coach J Robinson, missed the cut. Michael Foy, who last wrestled for Minnesota in 1983, didn’t make the team either.
Foy, who sustained an injury during the Olympic trials by what he feels was an illegal move, is prepared to take his case to court. He has filed an appeal with the U.S. Olympic Committee.
The videotape shows Foy and Derrick Waldroup on their way out of bounds while locked in a stand-up position. Just following the referee’s whistle, Foy was slammed to the mat, causing injury to his rib cage. He then lost the third and deciding match to Waldroup.
“It’s going to be hard to win that in court,” said Paulson, who saw Foy being thrown. “It’s hard for me to judge what happened because I didn’t hear the whistle. It looked like he was thrown out of bounds.
“It looked like (Foy) stopped because he heard the whistle. Then he got tossed. I don’t think (Waldroup) was trying to be malicious. It just seemed to me that the whistle blew, so it’s questionable.”
Robinson, who was not at the trials and said he has not seen the videotape, points out that there is precedence to Foy’s situation.
In the 1984 Olympic trials, Randy Lewis was injured in a controversial match. After filing a grievance with the Olympic committee, Lewis made the team and later went on to win the gold medal.
Robinson, an Olympic wrestler in 1972, can understand Foy’s frustration and Zuniga, Paulson and Gordy Morgan’s excitement.
“When you start thinking about it, it’s hard to explain to people,” Robinson said. “The feeling (of participating in the Olympics) just chokes you up. There’s thousands of people screaming. You get to get outfitted in the Olympic gear and see athletes from other countries. It’s just a great experience.”