Former Penn State wrestler and 1988 Olympian Ken Chertow collected a truck-full of trophies and medals during his distinguished wrestling career.
And he has helped plenty of other well-known wrestlers accomplish similar success, both through his nationally-renown wrestling camps and at his home training center in Boalsburg.
Chertow recently returned to the mat to honor an old friend 1984 Olympic gold medalist Dave Schultz.
Well, Chertow made it at least to the edge of the mat, serving as the Bulgarian coach during a potential scene on the big screen for the upcoming movie, Foxcatcher.
The movie, filmed in the Pittsburgh area, is scheduled for release later this year. It will detail the life and death of Schultz, who was shot and killed at age 36 on Jan. 26, 1996 by schizophrenic millionaire team sponsor John du Pont at the Foxcatcher National Training Center in Newtown Square, near Philadelphia.
I knew Dave Schultz very well, Chertow said. Ive always considered myself a Dave Schultz protégé. My relationship with him was very strong. Dave went from being my idol as a high school senior to being a mentor to me throughout college. Every summer, I would spend time at the Olympic Training Center and would learn tons from him. I spent time in Madison, Wis., where he coached. When I was with him, I pretty much picked his brain as much as I could.
And Dave was one of my coaches at the Olympic Games in 1988 (in Seoul, South Korea), when I made the team as a senior at Penn State. He was one of the most inspiring, educational mentors I had, besides my college coaches. He was the guy that helped me develop my freestyle skills.
Chertow said he trained at the state-of-the art Foxcatcher facility four or five times in the 1990s, but never stayed there. Du Pont, an heir to the DuPont Co. chemical fortune, died in prison in Somerset at age 72 in December 2010.
The Foxcatcher place really creeped me out, said Chertow, who serves as a college wrestling analyst for the Big Ten and PAC 12 networks, and as a high school wrestling analyst for State College-based WHVL-TV. I usually tried to stay away as much as I could. I was committed to coaching college wrestling and making a living. My camps kept me busy. So I wasnt there much.
But Dave lived there and trained there, like a lot of the elite wrestlers at the time. Mr. Du Pont was eccentric. He was just weird. I had a few brief conversations with him, but they were very brief.
He did ask me if I wanted to come train there, but I said, No, thank you. It turns out it was a good decision. I remember the sick feeling I had in my stomach the day Dave died. Just awful.
Despite his close relationship with Schultz, when Chertow was first contacted about auditioning for the movie, he said no. At least three times.
Enter his wife, Laurie, also a Penn State graduate. She had to work in a few arm bars to convince her husband to take part in the movie.
I said, How many movies do they make about wrestling? Laurie recalled. I said, You have to be involved in this. You have to do this for Dave. You have to go.
Chertow told his wife hed only take part if she went with him. She agreed. And after getting further approval during a phone call to Schultzs wife, Nancy, the Chertows headed for Pittsburgh in November.
Ken first auditioned for a scene in the movie at Canon-McMillan High School in Canonsburg. And he filmed his potential scene as the Bulgarian coach for the movie based on the 1987 World Team Trials in France in December at the Convocation Center at California University of Pennsylvania.
Its the world finals and Im coaching against (actor) Channing Tatum, Chertow said, laughing. We spent more than an hour filming it, but its not a major role less than a minute. I dont speak Bulgarian, you know.
Tatum plays Dave Schultzs brother, Mark. He also has appeared in movies such as 21 Jump Street, Step Up and Magic Mike.
Starring with Tatum in the movie are Steve Carell (Du Pont), Mark Ruffalo (Dave Schultz) and Sienna Miller (Daves wife). Anthony Michael Hall and Vanessa Redgrave were late additions to the cast.
Carell starred in the hit television series, The Office. He also had prominent roles in Bruce Almighty and Get Smart. Ruffalo has been in 60 films, and received an Academy Award nomination for Best Supporting Actor for his role in the 2010 movie The Kids Are All Right. Miller is a former model turned actress who was nominated for a Golden Globe in 2012.
Foxcatcher is directed by Oscar nominee Bennett Miller, who also was behind Capote and Moneyball. The movie, based on true facts and in the final stages of production, has been picked up by Columbia Pictures.
In addition, Laurie Chertow also could have a bit part in the film as an extra. She found a red, white and blue Pan Am Games jacket in her husbands collection of gear and wore it to the filming of his scene.
The producer loved my wifes jacket and she became part of it, Ken Chertow said. She was one of the American fans. She was pretty active. They used her a lot. Youre probably going to see her in the film a lot more than youll see me.
The Hollywood film is based on true events in Du Ponts real-life story.
I look forward to seeing it, Chertow said. I just hope my scene makes the final cut.
Ron Musselman is a freelance writer living in Centre County. Follow him on Twitter @ronmusselman8.