Geographic Connection to Pennsylvania: Mount Lebanon, Allegheny County
Kurt Angle won the gold medal in wrestling in the 1996 Atlanta Olympics.
Awards: Olympic Medal
Kurt Angle was born on December 9, 1968, in Mt. Lebanon, Pennsylvania. After becoming the 1987 Pennsylvania State wrestling champion in his senior year of high school, Angle continued his success at Clarion University of Pennsylvania, where he won National titles in 1990 and 1992. Angle would then go on to win the 1995 World Championships. Finally, Angle capped his amateur wrestling career by winning the gold medal in the 1996 Olympics. Since then, Kurt Angle has become an international star in sports entertainment. He has performed for WWE and TNA, becoming the "World Champion" for both organizations.
Kurt Angle was born on December 9, 1968, in Mt. Lebanon, Pennsylvania. He was the youngest of five siblings. From an early age Angle achieved in athletics. At age 16, Kurt's father, Dave Angle, died from injuries suffered in a work-related construction accident. Angle would attribute this as the moment when he promised to become a champion: "I just remember vowing to myself to become a champion, for my dad, because I knew there was nothing in the world that would have made him happier." From the day Kurt's father died, his wrestling career would become entwined with injury and tragedy. One or the other, and sometimes both, would cause Angle hardship throughout his career.
At Mount Lebanon High School, Angle competed in football and amateur wrestling. Angle would become an All-State line backer in football. As a wrestler, he was undefeated in his freshman year, made it to the state tournament sophomore year, placed third in the state tournament junior year, and finally became the 1987 Pennsylvania State heavyweight champion in his senior year.
After much deliberation, Kurt Angle decided to pursue amateur wrestling over football in college. He attended Clarion University of Pennsylvania where he set school records and became a school celebrity. As a freshman, Angle qualified for the national tournament and was ranked in the top twelve heavyweights. He did not wrestle his sophomore year of college so he could have an extra year of eligibility, making a promise to his coach to win a national championship every year after that. In 1990, during his sophomore year of eligibility, Angle's grandmother died a week before the national tournament. After hearing the news Angle injured his knee in practice. Against doctors' advice Angle competed in the national tournament and won the gold medal, becoming the first national champion from Clarion University since 1973. In his junior year, Angle blew out his knee once again. He performed at the national tournament but only took second place. In his final year of college he once again won the gold in the national tournament. Angle broke several records in collegiate wrestling, at the time he was the lightest heavyweight at 199 pounds to ever win first place in nationals. Angle also set the Clarion record for takedowns in dual meets with 355 takedowns.
Angle was unsuccessful in becoming a member of the 1992 USA Olympic wrestling team. He spent the next four years training and competing internationally. Angle trained under Dave Schultz on a team sponsored by John Eleuthère du Pont. Angle won and placed in many tournaments, including the prestigious Krasnoyarsk tournament in Russia and the 1992 and 1995 World Cup. This culminated when Angle won the gold medal in the 1995 World Championships.
Only briefly in 1994 did Kurt Angle consider quitting wrestling. Angle was able to get himself a try out with the Pittsburgh Steelers. Angle was unsuccessful in getting on the team and once again devoted himself to wrestling.
In early 1996, Kurt Angle's team coach Dave Schultz was murdered by the team sponsor John Eleuthère du Pont. Angle quit du Pont's team and joined the Dave Schultz Wrestling Team, a memorial team. In the semi finals of the 1996 U.S. Nationals, he herniated two disks, cracked two vertebrae, and pulled four muscles in his neck. Despite this injury, Angle was still able to win the gold in the 1996 U.S. National tournament. Angle spent the next couple months rehabilating his neck, and once again against doctors' recommendations he quit his rehabilitation program early to wrestle in the 1996 Olympics. Just before the Olympics started, one of Kurt Angle's uncles died. Despite injury and tragedy, Angle in typical fashion managed to just barely win all his matches and go into the finals of the Olympics in the 220 pound weight class.
In an especially dramatic moment in the finals of the 1996 Olympic wrestling tournament, Angle and his opponent, Iranian Abbas Jadidi, ended overtime tied 1-1. The referees' would make the final decision on the match. Jadidi went over to the referees and then raised his hands in victory. But when the referees raised the hand of the winner, it was Kurt Angle's hand in the air. Abbas Jadidi would protest the victory claiming to the press, "I deserve the medal...I won the match with a score of 3-1." Kurt Angle's would respond, "We put it in the officials hands and you have to be willing to accept winning or losing. Obviously he wasn't prepared to lose." Kurt Angle's victory brought him to national attention, he went on multiple national television shows, had parades in his honor, and was recognized as a national hero.
After the fanfare of the Olympics and the attention of being a gold medalist began to fade, Kurt Angle began looking for a new career. The World Wrestling Federation (now World Wrestling Entertainment) offered Angle a contract to become a performer for their sports entertainment (professional wrestling) company. Angle rejected their offer. He was later convinced to do guest commentary for another professional wrestling organization, Extreme Championship Wrestling, but after a controversial segment, he requested to be pulled from the show. Kurt Angle briefly worked as a sportscaster for a Pittsburgh local Fox affiliate, but failed to find his place in entertainment.
In 1998, Kurt Angle accepted a contract with World Wrestling Entertainment. Angle quickly learned the ropes of professional wrestling and was put on television in late 1999. Instead of being a well-liked American hero as he was in real life after the Olympics, Angle was able to make himself into a bad guy by pushing his hero status down the fans' throats. Within a year Kurt Angle had "won" several championships and finally became the company's World Champion, a very rare feat to accomplish in such a short period of time. Kurt Angle became well-known as an excellent performer. Wrestling critic Dave Meltzer's Wrestling Observer Newsletter gave various awards to Angle: he won Most Outstanding Wrestler of the Year three times, Best Interviews, Best Match, Best Feud, Best Technical Wrestler, and more. In 2006, Kurt Angle was released from his WWE contract and later joined Total Non-Stop Action (TNA), another sports entertainment company. Angle became their World Champion.
Angle has greatly affected the world of amateur and professional wrestling. In 2001 he was inducted into the National Wrestling Hall of Fame for amateur wrestling. His cross over to professional wrestling has paved the way for other amateur wrestling standouts including former NCAA All-American Shelton Benjamin and NCAA 2000 National Champion Brock Lesnar. Kurt Angle provided legitimacy to the formerly stigmatized professional wrestling, for amateur wrestlers. He currently performs for TNA and recently, in September 2011, he signed another three year contract to work for TNA. He is currently listed on TNA's website as a world champion, since August 2011. Angle's most famous (or "infamous") move occured in 2010 when he fell ten feet after "moonsault[ing]" off a steel cage in a fight. He has three children, son Kody and daughters Kyra and Giuliana Marie.
It's True, It's True. (with John Harper) New York: Regan Books, 2001.
Dylan Dog: Dead of Night. Dir. Kevin Munroe. Hyde Park Entertainment, 2011.
River of Darkness. Dir. Bruce Koehler. G2 Pictures, 2011.
Warrior. Dir. Gavin O'Connor. Lionsgate, 2011.
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Bierman, Fred. "Some Legitimate Athletes Go to the Mat: Professional Wrestling May Be Fake, but Its Dollars Are Real." New York Times 25 Feb. 2004: D2.
"Distinguished Member: Kurt Angle." The Official Website for National Wrestling Hall of Fame and Museum. 2005. 29 Sept. 2007.