12 Famous Athletes Who Became Latter-day Saints (and Their Incredible Conversion Stories)

Mark Schultz

“One of the greatest, if not the greatest, all-around athletes that has ever participated in the sport of wrestling. As wrestling machines go, his design is close to perfect."

That's how 16-time National Wrestling Champion Wayne Baughman described Mark Schultz. Born October 26, 1960, in Pala Alto, California, Schultz was the second son born to Dorothy and Philip Schultz. His older brother, Dave, was just 17 months older than him.

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Image from The Guardian

Growing up, Schultz was an all-around athlete, setting 20 school records. As a sophomore in high school, he became the Northern California All-Around Gymnastics Champion. However, Schultz followed in his big brother's footsteps, taking up wrestling in his junior year.

Though his brother, Dave, won the state, national, and international titles in his senior year, Mark had a mediocre first year of wrestling. However, Shultz's skill improved, and as a senior he won the state title.

In college, Dave and Mark teamed up together to train which greatly improved Mark's skill, allowing him to win three NCAA Championships. The Schultz brothers became the most-winning brother combination in American history when it came to NCAA, US Open, World, and Olympic titles. They also became the only American brothers to win World Championship and Olympic gold medals.

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Dave won the 1983 World Championship and brought home an Olympic gold medal for the 1984 Games. Mark won his Olympic gold the same year, 1984, and the World Championships in 1985 and 1987. He retired from wrestling after placing sixth in the 1988 Olympic Games.

In 1991, Mark Schultz began working as BYU's assistant wrestling coach, eventually working his way up to head coach. Once a staunch opponent to the Church, Schultz began changing his mind when he became exposed to its values and its members, becoming baptized in 1981.

Life seemed to be going well, until, while training for a second Olympic bid in 1996, Dave Schultz was unexpectedly murdered by John E. Du Pont in his home at Foxcatcher Farm. 

At the time, Mark, who was the head coach of BYU's wrestling team, found comfort and forgiveness in his new faith. "I believe in life after death. I believe in eternal life. I believe Dave is alive," he told Times Union. “My anger over time has turned to pity and my pity has turned into compassion for John,” he told The Guardian. “I feel like I’ve gotten to understand him better, as odd as that sounds about a man who murdered my brother. I can forgive him.” 

As difficult as it was, Mark decided he needed to let go of revenge and continue living his life. Just four months after Dave's death, Mark competed in the Ultimate Fighting Competition IX, winning $50,000 and the competition.

The emotional and exciting details of Mark Schultz's life caught the attention of Academy Award Nominated Director Bennett Miller, who captured it in the film Foxcatcher starring Channing Tatum as Mark Schultz, Mark Ruffalo as Dave, and Steve Carell as John E. Du Pont.

Image of Mark and Dave Schultz from historyvshollywood.com
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