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DENNIS HALL // HIS Best FOR HIS Brother

This one was supposed to be for Dan.

For all the times they pummeled each other in the basement. For all the times Dan made him angry enough to be better.

For all the times he put his arm around Dennis' shoulder and said the things big brothers always say, the things kid brothers always remember.

For all the times Dan made him laugh and the one time he made Dennis cry so hard with a hurt that will never go away.

This one was going to be for the memory of a brother who got drunk, drove into a tree and killed himself eight years ago. But in less time than it takes to gasp, Dennis Hall's dream of showing Dan a gold medal and telling him it was Dan's even more than his own evaporated in the grasp of a nemesis.

Hall, America's best Greco-Roman wrestler and the reigning world champion, settled for Olympic silver Sunday, losing 4-1 to Yuri Melnichenko, the 1994 world champion from Kazakhstan and the man he beat in last year's final, in the 125{-pound (57-kilogram) weight class.

As Hall searched for an opening, Melnichenko, who has beaten Hall twice, caught him up high, lifted him off his feet and tossed him to the mat 1:32 into the five-minute match. The referee added a point for technique.

"I wanted to win the gold like I always told him I wanted to," Hall said. "He believed in me when I was younger. I wanted that dream to come true. Not just for me. For him, too. As good as I am, I'm this good because of Dan. He's where my motivation comes from.

"I don't look at this as a disappointment. Maybe I'll win it in 2000. Right now I just look at it as something that happened. In life, things don't always happen the way you planned. He'd have been an uncle in a few weeks."

Chrissy and Dennis Hall are expecting their first child next month.

"Life goes on," Dennis said. "It goes in full circles. Maybe the worst thing is that my baby will never know Dan, and that's a terrible thing. He was a great guy; he just made a mistake and it cost him his life."

"I'm not sorry'

Dennis Hall was a Greco-Roman star in high school, winning three junior national championships. He was 17 when his brother died. Whatever direction in life he had then seemed to disintegrate.

"I had no idea where I was going," Hall said. "At that point I made up my mind to quit wrestling. I quit for three months, the longest time I'd ever been off the mat."

Then he realized he'd made the wrong decision. Dan would not have approved. Dan would have taken him into the basement and convinced him to stick with it.

"He did that a lot," Hall said. "He was the kind of brother who'd whack you upside the head when you needed it and give you a hug if you needed that. No matter what, he was always there for me."

Hall got back into wrestling.

In 1990 he decided to devote all his energy to Greco-Roman wrestling rather than return for his sophomore year at Wisconsin-Stevens Point (where he is now an assistant coach).

"The world championships were in October, and between training camp and traveling I was going to miss something like four weeks of classes," he said. "I had to make up my mind whether I wanted to do that and try to make the Olympic team or wrestle in college. I chose the Olympics as my goal. I'm not sorry I did."

The other guy

Dan Hall's legacy is Dennis' other passion. He is a spokesman for responsible drinking, often talking to high school or church groups.

"It's so important for me to treat what happened to Dan in a positive way," Hall said. "We know high school kids are going to drink. I tell them they should stay away from it but we know they won't, so I encourage them to have the designated driver, or take a taxi or call someone so that what happened to my brother doesn't happen to them. I tell them it's not always going to be the "other guy.'

"

Dan Hall was 22{ when he died. He is buried in the family's hometown, Neosha, Wis., and Dennis visits his gravesite often. When he can't, Hall still tries to talk to his brother.

Right before the Olympics, Dennis visited his brother's grave to talk about what was going on, what was going through his head, to say he was feeling a little pressure.

"I wanted to make sure everything was okay, just to talk to him, to get that positive feeling I get from him whenever I go to a tournament," Hall said. "It almost paid off."

They spoke again earlier Sunday after Hall had moved into the gold-medal match, earning a 1-0 victory over eventual bronze medalist Sheng Zetian of China.

"He just said, "Go out; do your best,' " Hall said. "Look, it sounds crazy, me talking to a dead person. But it's his spirit I'm talking to. He told me, "Give it everything you've got. I'm proud of you no matter what you do.' He always tells me not to be disappointed with what happens.

"Look, there's always got to be a winner and a loser. I'll tell him I tried. That's all I can tell him. I can't explain it. I can't look back and say, "What if ?' You do that, you make yourself crazy. If Dan hadn't gotten into the car when he did You know what I mean."

Meet the athlete

NAME: Dennis Hall

SPORT: Wrestling

BORN: Feb. 5, 1971, Milwaukee

LIVES: Stevens Point, Wis.

HEIGHT: 5-3. WEIGHT: 126

SCHOOL: University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point

PERSONAL BESTS: 1996 Olympic silver medalist; 1995 world champion; third in 1994 world championships; 1995 Pan Am Games champion; 1992 Olympian (eighth); five-time U.S. national champion.

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