Jeff Blatnick was a New York state high school wrestling champion and then wrestled at Springfield College, where he was twice a Division II national champion and a three-time All-American. At the 1979 NCAA Championships in Division I, he placed third. But Blatnick was better at Greco-Roman wrestling and was a three-time national champion in Greco-Roman and won eight Greco-Roman All-American awards, and won two World Cup medals. He qualified for the 1980 Olympics in Greco-Roman wrestling but could not compete because of the boycott. In May 1982 he noticed a bump on his neck and this led to the diagnosis of Hodgkin’s disease, a cancer of the hematopoietic system. He underwent surgery in August 1982 for removal of his spleen and appendix and then began chemo- and radiation therapy. Blatnick seemed a long shot to make the 1984 US Olympic team but he did it by defeating the favorite, Pete Lee, in the Olympic Trials. Not considered a medal favorite Blatnick lost an early match but was able to survive to the final round where he won the gold medal over Sweden’s Tomas Johansson.
In 1985 Blatnick suffered a relapse of his cancer but overcame it via chemotherapy. He later served as USA Wrestling’s New York state chairman, and became a wrestling commentator on television, a motivational speaker and worked as an ambassador for the U.S. Olympic Committee. Blatnick was inducted as a Distinguished Member of the National Wrestling Hall of Fame in 1999.