Koslowski's comeback has silver lining Wrestler returns for another medal

July 29, 1992|By Mike Preston | Mike Preston,Staff Writer

BARCELONA, Spain -- Dennis Koslowski was a little disoriented. He stumbled around the mat as sweat poured from his blond hair down to his square jaw and onto his muscular chest.

In a span of nearly six minutes, Koslowski had lost and won, had seen his medal chances swing between gold and silver, and had felt his emotions dip and soar.

But now, he finally was satisfied.

Koslowski, 32, concluded his trip from a childhood of uncertainty to an international moment of triumph, winning a silver medal in Greco-Roman wrestling yesterday.

Cuba's Hector Millian, 27, used a headlock and a snatch-down to score a takedown 25 seconds into the sudden-death overtime to defeat Koslowski, 2-1, in their gold-medal bout of the 220-pound weight class.

Koslowski, a chiropractor from St. Louis Park, Minn., is the first American Greco-Roman wrestler to win medals in two Olympics. He also won a bronze at the 1988 Games in Seoul, South Korea.

Rodney Smith, 26, of Fort Benning, Ga., won a bronze in the 149.5-pound weight class with a 6-3 victory over Cuba's Cecilio Rodriguez.

"In Seoul, I really didn't express myself," said Koslowski. "I didn't let it all hang out, as they say. That's the main reason I came back.

"But Millian is at the top of his game right now," Koslowski said of the 1991 world champion. "He's not terribly cerebral; he's a fighter, a brawler. It was a fast-paced match, and we gave people what they wanted to see. The competitor in me will analyze this match for a couple of days, but I'm satisfied with what I have done. I know I have given my best."

It was a classic confrontation. Millian is quick, strong, aggressive and extremely good at turning opponents. Koslowski is also strong, good at countering, but sometimes methodical.

That may have cost him at the end.

Millian scored the first point 1:08 into the five-minute regulation

match, as Koslowski was given a passivity violation (for stalling or not being aggressive) and Millian turned him with a gut-wrench move.

Koslowski was hit with the same violation with 2:38 left, but Millian was unable to turn him. Then, with 1:34 left in the match, Koslowski tied the score after Millian failed on a takedown, and Koslowski stepped around for control and a point. Millian was given a passivity violation with 1:13 remaining, but Koslowski was unable to turn him.

"I thought I had it going after the takedown, and thought I would win it when he was in the down position," said Koslowski. "Most guys would have broken right there, but Millian is not like most guys."

Koslowski thought he had another chance, right before Millian scored the final takedown. But instead, he hesitated to shoot.

Millian didn't.

"He had his chances, and the match could have gone either way," said Mike Houck, the U.S. Greco-Roman coach. "I think Dennis was surprised how easy it was for him to get a takedown the first time, and he didn't feel it would be that easy again. Dennis may be disappointed, but I know he's not ashamed. He's worked very hard to get to this point."

Actually, Koslowski had retired after the 1988 Games, and was the U.S. national team coach from 1989 to 1990.

He then resigned to resume his chiropractic career in Minnesota, only to be lured back to wrestling full time in 1991.

"We were at the dinner table one night in July, and my wife [Sylvie] says, 'Dennis, I think you ought to go back to wrestling. You're the best in the U.S., and I think you can medal again.' "

It didn't take much coaxing.

"Dennis is a guy who wants perfection, and he was beating up on the No. 1 guys in practice," said Houck. "I think that was tough for him to take, guys who weren't willing to work as hard as he had. It's in his blood."

Wrestling is really Koslowski's security blanket. His mother, Marceline, died of brain cancer when he was 2. His father, Henry, with whom he seldom speaks, was left with five children. Henry Koslowski, according to Dennis, started drinking and never got over his wife's death. He started distributing the children among relatives.

Fortunately, Dennis, at 4, was packed off to relatives along with his twin brother, Duane, another wrestling fanatic who placed sixth in the 1988 Games as a Greco-Roman super heavyweight.

"When we were kids, we wrestled to feel good about ourselves," said Dennis Koslowski. "Many nights we were outside banging heads, and my brother has been my best training partner even until this date.

"You know, Rodney Smith told me today he saw me win the bronze medal in 1988, and he wanted to have that same experience," said Koslowski. "That makes me feel good because now I think I have made my mark in this sport."

NOTE: Shawn Sheldon (114.5 pounds) forfeited his right to challenge for a bronze medal because he failed to make weight Monday night. He finished fourth.

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