Remembering Willie Gadson: Mentor, Father & Coach
AMES, Iowa - Iowa State wrestling great Willie Gadson passed
away on Sunday after a year-long battle with cancer. Gadson earned All-American
honors in 1975 and 1976 during his time wearing an Iowa State singlet. He was
also an assistant wrestling coach with the Cyclone wrestling program from
"He was just a special man," said Iowa State head coach
Kevin Jackson. "I've known him for 30 years and he's always been the same guy. The
amount of people whose lives he has touched is in the thousands. There is
nobody like him. His love and passion for Iowa State wrestling was unmatched."
Gadson was a two-time Big Eight Conference champion at Iowa
State in both of his two seasons as a Cyclone after wrestling two seasons at
Nassau Community College in Nassau, N.Y. He finished third at 177 pounds at the
NCAA Championships in 1975 and sixth in 1976. Gadson's former teammate, Frank
Santana, a three-time All-American at Iowa State said that it was Gadson's
competitive drive that allowed him to be so successful.
"He had a willingness to work incredibly hard," Santana
said. "That, combined with his natural God-given talents and athleticism, made
him special. There are many that have been given those gifts, but there are few
who are willing to pay the price to exploit those natural talents the way
Gadson's roommate at Iowa State, Bob Antonacci, a two-time
All-American for the Cyclones, posted the following on the Battle for Gadson
facebook page, remembering his teammate and friend:
"We were created
into this world temporally to love God, love others and serve. Willie did all
this to the highest level. Willie just experienced the greatest moment in life:
Passing into eternity! My prayers and thoughts go out to his family. I thank
God for Willie being in my life as a friend, teammate, roommate and mentor. You
took the lead on how to live your life for others. I will follow your lead."
Gadson was known for his love of the sport of wrestling, and
naturally went on to a successful coaching career when he was done competing.
Gadson notably led Eastern Michigan to its only MAC wrestling championship in
school history in 1996, when he was also named the MAC Coach of the Year.
"The things that he did at Eastern Michigan on the budget
they had, on the scholarship numbers they had speaks volumes about his coaching
ability," Jackson said. "He was Nate Carr's individual coach when Nate was at
Iowa State and helped him accomplish what he did along with all the other
wrestlers that were here at that time. His passion, his energy towards the
sport is unmatched."
Earlier this season, Gadson and his 1996 MAC Championship
team were honored during the intermission of Iowa State's dual with EMU. Members
of the team were there as well as Kyven, Willie's son and current star of the
Cyclone wrestling team, who was there in place of his father due to his
Gadson eventually landed the head coaching job at Waterloo
East High School in 2004. During his time at East, Gadson coached 16 state
qualifier and 10 state place-winners. He also coached his son Kyven to
undefeated seasons and state championships in both 2009 and 2010.
Kyven, now a redshirt sophomore on the Iowa State wrestling
team is 25-2 on the season and ranked No. 7 nationally at 197 pounds. Kyven won
the 2013 Big 12 Championship at 197 pounds on Saturday, the day before his
father passed away.
"What's positive about it is that I see Willie in Kyven in a
lot of ways," Jackson said. "As sad as we are about Willie's passing, I believe
he is in a better place and I believe it was his time and things happen for a
reason. It's now Kyven's chance to really become the man that his mom and dad
raised him to be."
Kyven released a statement on behalf of the Gadson family, saying
for all the love that you're sending to my family. We truly appreciate the
support. The family is in good spirits. We love you all. Remember to smile at
the memories! Willie would want you to smile instead of cry and to push forward
instead of taking a step back. God is Great!*
The Gadson Family"