Zadick trying to pin down Beijing ticket
UI assistant hopes wild card route leads to Olympics
Andy Hamilton ? Iowa City Press-Citizen ? June 13, 2008
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The pursuit of his Olympic dream left Mike Zadick dealing with a lot of sleepless nights last month.
For as long as he can remember, Zadick wrestled with the primary objective of winning Olympic gold in mind, and this year figured to be his best opportunity yet. He established himself as a legitimate contender two years ago when he claimed silver at the 2006 World Championships. He's at prime age for freestyle success, turning 30 next month.
Yet Zadick momentarily wondered last month if his shot at grabbing the gold at 132 pounds (60 kilograms) would be gone before he ever arrived in Las Vegas for this weekend's Olympic Trials.
Zadick sat in front of his computer during the early hours of May 3, watching the results flash across his monitor from a tournament in Poland. USA Wrestling had sent Nate Gallick in Zadick's place to wrestle in the final Olympic qualifying tournament, and Gallick's first-round exit from the tournament sent Zadick into a restless haze.
"I laid there and tossed and turned, and I was sick," he said. "It was a weird feeling. I wasn't mad. I was just completely drained, like somebody sliced me open and walked away from me -- and I lived. That's how I felt."
A couple of days passed. Zadick didn't sleep.
"I went a lot longer than that," he said. "I was up at my house at night for four nights straight. I was walking around, doing push-ups, doing anything just to make the time go by, and it seemed like the longest four days of my life. I was doing a lot of thinking."
At first, Zadick figured he was left with an unwanted but obvious choice -- stay at 60 kg for this weekend's Olympic Trials with no ticket to Beijing on the line, or move up a weight class and possibly encounter some all too familiar opponents at 145.5 pounds (66 kg).
"My whole goal is to go wrestle, win and win an Olympic gold medal," Zadick said. "If I flat out knew I wasn't going at 60 kilos, I'd go up (to 66). I wouldn't win the Olympic Trials just to say I won the Olympic Trials and not compete in the Olympics. I'd much rather go and win the Olympic Trials at 66, even though that's the competitive side of me coming out. There's a lot more sensitive issues there (with personal relationships)."
But Zadick won't have to deal with his older brother Bill, the 2006 World champion at 66 kg. He won't have to move up a weight to take on Doug Schwab, his former college teammate and current colleague on the Iowa coaching staff. He won't have to face Brent Metcalf, who Zadick helped coach to an NCAA title this past season with the Hawkeyes.
Zadick learned about the Olympic wild card qualifying process after he came up short in his last chance to qualify the weight for the U.S. in April. Then he learned through USA Wrestling last month that the Americans have a reasonable chance to receive one of the final spots in the Olympics.
The Association of National Olympic Committees, the International Olympic Committee and FILA, the governing body of International wrestling, will extend seven wild card invitations shortly after the Olympic Trials. The last tickets to Beijing will be spread across 18 Olympic weights for men's and women's freestyle and Greco-Roman.
Zadick thinks USA Wrestling has assembled a solid case for the Americans to secure a spot in the tournament at 66 kg. They can point to Zadick's World silver two years ago and Gallick's title at the World University Games in 2005. They can mention Zadick's victory two years ago against Russian Mavlet Batirov, a rare loss for the 2004 Olympic champion and reigning World champ. They can cite the brilliant track record of the U.S. in Olympic competition around the 132-pound weight class with Americans Randy Lewis, John Smith, Tom Brands and Kendall Cross claiming gold at the adjoining weights during a 12-year stretch ending in 1996.
They can make note of Zadick's rugged draws in Olympic qualifying tournaments during the past year. He needed to place eighth or better at the 2007 World Championships to earn a spot in Beijing. He lost in the first round to Albanian Sahit Prizreni, the eventual bronze medalist. He needed to win the Pan Am Championships and placed third, losing to Canadian Guivi Sissaouri, a 2001 World champion. He needed to place fourth or better at a qualifier in Switzerland and dropped a second-round match to Iranian Sayed Mohammadi, who beat Zadick in the 2006 World title match.
"Hopefully, (the members of the wild card panel) want to have the strongest field they can possibly have," Zadick said. "If that's the case, we'll get in."
But that's only part of the battle for Zadick. First he needs to get through his bracket Saturday in Las Vegas. He'll step into the Thomas & Mack Center spurred by getting bypassed for the opportunity to wrestle in the final Olympic qualifier and energized by the possibility that Beijing isn't as far away as it seemed a month ago.
"For some crazy reason, I've wrestled my entire life knowing I was wrestling in the Olympic Games and winning an Olympic gold medal," Zadick said. "I've had this unbelievable feeling the last couple years that things are on track, I'm very capable, and then having it end (without getting the opportunity to wrestle in Beijing), for some reason, I just don't feel like that's the way it's supposed to be. I feel I'm meant to do something more."
Reach Andy Hamilton at 339-7368 or firstname.lastname@example.org.