ATLANTA -- Tom Brands is from Iowa. He wrestles. He lists chain saws as a form of relaxation. He prefers moose hunting in Alaska to sitting on a beach in Hawaii. He likes to mash opponents' faces into a mat.
And the scary thing is, he has an identical twin brother who is even more intense.
Yesterday, Brands followed in the footsteps of an Iowa legend and won a freestyle wrestling gold medal at the Centennial Summer Olympics. He beat Jang Jae-Sung of South Korea in the 136.5-pound final, 7-0.
But he wasn't entirely satisfied. He actually gave up one point in his four matches, failing to equal the 1972 Olympic shutout performed by his coach, Dan Gable, considered by many to be Iowa's greatest wrestler.
And he missed having his twin brother Terry in the tournament.
But Terry Brands, who was eliminated in the U.S. trials, was a force in Atlanta, training with and cheering on his brother.
"We're pretty close," Tom Brands said. "We thrive on winning. I had to perform for both of us."
Super heavyweight Bruce Baumgartner was awarded a bronze medal by a judging panel after executing a takedown with 20 seconds remaining in overtime to tie Russia's Andre Shumilin, 1-1. The crowd waved flags and screamed as Baumgartner avenged a first-round defeat by Shumilin. Baumgartner's wife cried. It was a beautiful moment after an eight-minute match that often resembled two buildings leaning against one another.
For Baumgartner, the American flag-bearer in the opening ceremonies, it was his fourth medal in successive Olympics. He also became the first wrestler to pile up 13 world championship and Olympic medals.
"All of the medals before 1992 are at the U.S. Wrestling Hall of Fame, except for the two they lost and promised to find," said Baumgartner, with two Olympic golds, a silver and a bronze. "The others are probably hidden so the kids won't play with them."
Tom Brands isn't sure where he'll put his medal. The Olympics have been on his mind so long, he says, he's not even sure what is next.
His first Olympic memory was 1972, when Gable won in Munich. And there Brands was yesterday, wrestling for gold, with Gable, in the stands, screaming.
"I love the man like my dad," Brands said. "He has been unbelievable to me. If I do something wrong, he's the kind of guy to tell me. He won't beat around the bush."
And Gable said he had never spent as tense a moment, as when Brands slipped by Russia's Magomed Azizov, 4-1, in the morning semifinal. "That's as close as I have ever come to needing medical attention," Gable said.
But in the afternoon final, Brands was dominant. He attacked the legs of his Korean opponent, slammed him into the mat, and never let up.
Did he regret giving up the one point to Azizov? Sure.
"I should have been stuffing the guy's head into the mat," he said.
And what about the brothers' reputation for being hard-headed wrestlers and sore-headed losers?
"The Brands boys aren't the most popular boys in the world," he said. "And that's because of our style."
They wrestle to win. One twin got a gold. The other watched.
"Everything we do is competitive," Tom Brands said. "He'd go to the grave with me. And I'd go to the grave with him, no matter what happens."
Pub Date: 8/03/96