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For most people, success comes in varying degrees.  For Bruce Baumgartner, success has just come, and come, and come.  Regarded as the greatest freestyle heavyweight wrestler in American history, Baumgartner has taken the qualities of drive, determination, and a non-stop work ethic gleaned as a youngster in college and put them to use even today as he serves as the Director of Athletics at Edinboro University of Pennsylvania.

His wrestling career includes a national championship as a collegian, capping a brilliant career at Indiana State University.  If people only knew then that it would be just the tip of the iceberg.  He went on to attain international dominance represented by 13 World and Olympic medals, the most freestyle wrestling medals ever earned.  Next came a highly successful coaching career, in which he began as one of the architects of Edinboro's jump to Division I wrestling, and ultimately guided the Fighting Scots to one of their finest seasons ever.  Finally, there is the never-ending task of overseeing a Division II athletic program while maintaining a balance of excellence on the playing fields and in the classroom.


A native of Haledon, New Jersey, Baumgartner headed to the Midwest to wrestle collegiality at Indiana State University.  And the legacy began.  After finishing as the heavyweight runner-up at Nationals as a sophomore and junior, Baumgartner took home the national championship as a senior, completing a perfect campaign in which he went 44-0.  He finished his career with the Sycamores with a 134-12 record with 73 falls. 
In the classroom, Baumgartner was honored by the NCAA as a "Top 5 Award" recipient for his athletic leadership and academic success.  He graduated from Indiana State University in 1982 with a bachelors degree in Industrial Art Education, holding a 3.77 GPA, and was awarded an NCAA Post-Graduate Scholarship.  He would earn his masters degree in Industrial Arts/Adult Education at Oklahoma State University, where he began his coaching career as a graduate assistant coach.
Baumgartner's international career was in its embryo stage during Baumgartner's collegiate days.  In 1980, he was chosen as an Olympic team alternate and was the National Freestyle champion for the first time.  He would go on to win the freestyle championship seventeen straight years.  The following year in 1981 he won the championship at the World University Games in Romania, and in 1982 was selected as a member of the World Team for the first time.


Baumgartner affirmed his status as the greatest freestyle heavyweight wrestler in American history by winning the bronze medal at the 1996 Olympic Games in Atlanta.  It capped a brilliant career, which saw Baumgartner defeat every American wrestler he faced from 1981 through his retirement from competition in 1991, a span of more than 17 years.

It will also be hard to forget the image of Baumgartner carrying the American flag in the opening ceremonies after being chosen as the captain of the USA Olympic Team by his fellow team members.  Baumgartner led the parade of more than 600 United States athletes, proudly carrying the Stars and Stripes into the Olympic Stadium in front of thousands of people and before an estimated worldwide television audience of 3.5 billion people.

With the bronze medal in 1996, Baumgartner became one of just eight athletes in U.S. history to medal in four different Olympiads.  It all began in 1983, a year removed from the 1984 Olympics in Los Angeles, when Baumgartner served notice to the world of his immense presence with silver medals in the World Cup Championships and Pan-American Games, along with a bronze medal in the World Championships in Kiev, USSR.
Baumgartner would capture his first gold medal in Los Angeles in the 1984 Olympic Games, becoming Americas first gold medalist in 60 years of super heavyweight wrestling.  Four years later he would add a second Olympic medal, winning the silver medal at the 1988 Olympic Games in Seoul, South Korea.  In between the two Olympic appearances he added to his reputation by winning the World Championship in Budapest, Hungary in 1986, along with bringing home the gold in the Pan-American Games in 1987 in Indianapolis.

In 1992 Baumgartner became the first American wrestler to ever medal in three consecutive Olympics when he brought home the gold medal for the second time while competing in Barcelona, Spain.  He would add gold medals in the Pan-American Games in 1991 in Cuba and in 1995 in Argentina, along with World Championships in 1993 and 1995, and a bronze medal in the Goodwill Games held in St. Petersburg, Russia in 1994.


In 1984 Baumgartner joined the coaching staff of Mike DeAnna at Edinboro University.  Two years later the duo took the Fighting Scot program from Division II to Division I status.  In its final year of competition on the Division II level, Edinboro finished second at Nationals.  The fighting Scots then finished eighth, seventh and ninth in their first three seasons on the Division I level.  The ninth place finish in 1989 represented the finish by any team from the eastern United States.

Baumgartner succeeded DeAnna as the head coach of the Fighting Scots in 1991.  From 1991-97 he guided Edinboro to a 70-36 record, producing 11 All-Americans during that period.

In his final season, 1996-97, the Fighting Scots finished with a perfect 14-0 dual meet record, the best in school history, and a sixth place finish at the NCAA Division I National Championships.  He guided Edinboro to two other top 15 finishes, 15th place in 1992-93 and 11th place in 1994-95.


Today Baumgartner resides as the Director of Athletics at Edinboro, a school of 8,000 students located in northwest Pennsylvania that is a member of the NCAA Division II.  He was named Edinboro’s interim Director of Athletics in 1997.  He stepped down as the Fighting Scot wrestling coach that same year, and in 1998 was awarded the job on a permanent basis. 

Since that time Edinboro athletics has enjoyed great success both on the playing fields and in the classroom.  In 2004-05 no fewer than eight teams qualified for NCAA Playoffs, with three winning PSAC titles.  The figures were similar the year before.  Academically, over the past seven years almost one-third of Edinboro’s student-athletes have maintained cumulative grade point averages of 3.00 or better.

If there is one area that signifies Baumgartner’s tireless efforts, it is fundraising.  He instituted the Annual Athletic Fund Drive, with monies raised going back to the individual sports to assist in scholarships.  Edinboro now has over 50 endowed scholarships to benefit the athletic program.  

In addition, the athletic department holds a Sports Memorabilia Auction every other year.  The summer of 2005 marked the seventh auction, and all told over $100,000 has now been raised to benefit Fighting Scot athletics.  The newest feature to the auction is a guest autograph signer.  In recent years those individuals have included Jerome Bettis and Jim Kelly.

The result of Baumgartner’s fundraising efforts are evident not only in the success the athletic teams have enjoyed, but in the improvements in facilities.  In recent years, upgrades have been made to the McComb Fieldhouse gymnasium and lobby, the wrestling and volleyball locker rooms, and the pool area.  This past summer saw a new outdoor track installed, and plans are underway for major improvements in the weight room.

It is safe to say that you can't take wrestling out of Baumgartner’s system.  He works numerous camps both at Edinboro and throughout the country.  Most notably is his renowned Bruce Baumgartner’s Heavyweight School, which not only attracts some of the top young wrestlers in the country, but serves as a who's who for former wrestling greats who serves as speakers and clinicians.

Baumgartner is also in high demand as a motivational speaker.  He spends countless hours speaking within the community and nationwide to various corporations, businesses and conferences.  His message is a simple one –- how to devote and dedicate yourself to be successful in your chosen field.

Baumgartner resides in Edinboro with his wife, Linda, and their three sons – Bryan (17), Zachary (14), and Dylan (11).

View short version of biography, click here.

Copyright 2008 • Bruce Baumgartner

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