Baumgartner was born in Haledon, New Jersey. He is one of the most accomplished American wrestlers of all time, winning 4 Olympic Medals (2-Gold, 1-Silver, 1-Bronze), 9 World Championship Medals (3-Gold, 3-Silver, 3-Bronze) and 4 Pan-American Medals (3-Gold, 1-Silver,); he has also won 12 World Cup Medals (7-Gold, 5-Silver), an NCAA title (and 2 Runner-Up finishes), 4 Olympic Festival titles, 2 AAU National titles and a Junior National title.
During high school, Baumgartner excelled on the wrestling team, going 23-0, but was defeated in the NJ State Championship match. During the off-season he threw shot put and discus on the track team, setting several records in the shot put. Baumgartner is a four-time Olympian and owns four Olympic Medals: two gold, one silver and one bronze. He holds a Bachelor's degree in education from Indiana State University in Terre Haute, IN where he competed collegiately for 4 years. He frequently worked out alongside Kurt Thomas, the Olympic Gymnast. During his collegiate career he finished runner-up at Nationals his sophomore and junior years, and was the 1982 National Champion his senior year completing an undefeated season of 44-0. His collegiate record was 134-12 with 73 falls. In 1995, he was presented the James E. Sullivan Award by the Amateur Athletic Union as the outstanding amateur athlete in the U.S. He was sponsored through the New York Athletic Club. Baumgartner attended Manchester Regional High School in Haledon, New Jersey.
Baumgartner ranked as one of the top super-heavyweight freestyle wrestlers for more than a decade. Winning his first World Championship medal, a bronze, in 1983; he won the World Championship in Los Angeles. He confirmed his status with the Communist Bloc (Eastern European) wrestlers by winning in 1986, clinching his first of his three world titles.
In his second Olympic final in Seoul, he took silver, behind Georgian Davit Gobejishvili. Four years later, in 1992, he won the rematch in Barcelona, en route to a second Olympic gold. After winning world titles in 1993 and 1995, Baumgartner was favored to win his third gold in Atlanta, but a loss to Russian Andrey Shumilin left him with a bronze medal.
In addition to his World (3) and Olympic titles (2), Baumgartner amassed three golds at the Pan American Games, 17 American titles and eight World Cup wins. An NCAA National Championship, 2, NCAA Runner-Up finishes, 2 AAU National Titles and a Junior National title.
In 1998, Baumgartner was inducted into the Indiana State University Athletic Hall of Fame; in 2003, the Missouri Valley Conference named him an 'Institutional Great' and inducted him into the Missouri Valley Conference Hall of Fame. In 2008, Baumgartner was inducted into the U.S. Olympic Hall of Fame. Inducted into the National Wrestling Hall of Fame and Museum in 2002 and the International Wrestling Federation Hall of Fame (FILA) in 2003.