By Berry Tramel
The Daily Oklahoman
Wrestlers sat with Nancy Schultz Vitangeli through the trial of her husband’s murderer. Wrestlers helped her pick lawyers for the web of litigation that ensued. Wrestlers took her fatherless son to Little League baseball games. Wrestlers sat with her when she was scared.
So 36 years after Nancy married Dave Schultz, and 22 years after eccentric millionaire John du Pont killed the American wrestling icon, Nancy’s place in the wrestling community is as strong as ever.
“Once you’re in wrestling, you can’t get out,” Nancy said with a glee that belies the tragedy she’s endured. “It’s like the mafia. It’s always been a huge family for me.”
Nancy Schultz was a beloved wrestling figure long before her husband’s death. Now, even moreso. She’s stayed involved in the sport in a variety of ways, and next weekend in Stillwater, the sport says thank you. Vitangeli, who remarried in 2015, will receive the Order of Merit from the National Wrestling Hall of Fame.
Vitangeli is a governor’s associate for the Hall of Fame. The agenda that discussed her award was redacted. Before the honor was discussed in the meeting, she was asked to leave the room. The honor came as quite a shock.
“I’m completely surprised,” Vitangeli said. “I told them, this award is backwards. I should be giving the award to the wrestling committee. This award is a representation of what the wrestling community has done for me.”
Nancy Schultz Vitangeli is the First Lady of wrestling, and has been since Dave Schultz started taking her with him all over the world for wrestling events.
“They’re great people,” Nancy said of wrestlers. “Humble, kind, considerate. Helpful. Wrestling breeds an unusual kind of camaraderie that other sports don’t have.”