August 05. 2008 11:17PM
Zadick's hope
By J.R. Ogden

The Gazette

Eric Guerrero of Stillwater, Okla., (right) flips Mike Zadick during the U.S. Olympic Trials in 2004 at Indianapolis. Zadick won the 132-pound title at the 2008 Trials but is in limbo heading to Beijing this week after the U.S. didn't earn a berth at 132 pounds.

IOWA CITY ? Mike Zadick isn't looking for riches. He isn't looking for sympathy or even a pat on the back. All Mike Zadick wants is a chance. All he has is hope.

A three-time All-American wrestler for the University of Iowa, Zadick will travel to Beijing this week with the hope of wrestling for the United States freestyle team. Zadick, 30, won the 132-pound title at the U.S. Olympic Trials in Las Vegas in June, but the U.S. did not qualify that weight for the Olympics. Zadick blames himself.

"I realize it's mainly all on me and I put it all on me," he said Monday while working out in the Dan Gable Wrestling Complex in Carver-Hawkeye Arena. Zadick lost in the first round of the 2007 World Championships, one of the first Olympic qualifiers. He didn't wrestle well in another and skipped a third qualifier.

"I did have an opportunity to qualify the weight and didn't do it," he said.

Other U.S. 132-pounders had opportunities, but nobody did well enough at a qualifier to give the U.S. that spot. And all seven wild cards issued went to China.

"The last 25 years of my training has come down to this right now," he said. "It's not the most exciting thing to deal with, I'll tell you that."

Zadick leaves today for Beijing, hoping one of the 344 Olympic wrestlers is injured, misses weight or can't make the trip. He said it doesn't matter what weight or what style (men's and women's freestyle, Greco-Roman).

"They want 344 in the Olympics, no matter what," he said. "What I've heard is they are giving me the nod to be the first in line."

That hope is what keeps Zadick going. It keeps him running. It keeps him drilling in Iowa City and Colorado Springs.

"It's a wait-and-see game," said Iowa Coach Tom Brands, who hopes to be in Zadick's corner this month. "You have to be tremendously optimistic. If anything, you have to use your imagination to put yourself in the environment that you're the guy to go ... to get yourself ready."

Zadick admits it hasn't been easy since the Trials. After the U.S. was denied the wild-card spots, there was doubt his dream would ever be realized.

"It was hard to work out, I'll tell you that," he said. "I just had a lot of negative energy in me. It was hard to do a whole lot with that energy. It's something you have to learn to overcome. I'm still dealing with it."

The hope helps with the dealing.

"For some reason, it's always been my gut feeling, my dad's gut feeling and a lot of people I've talked to (say) 'I really feel like you're going to wrestle,'" he said. "At the time, I didn't know how. But I knew there was a way. It wasn't a closed door."

If given a chance, Zadick said, he could make a good case for himself. He won a silver medal at the 2006 World Championships. In those qualifying tournament losses, he lost to a World champion and to an Olympic silver medalist. He has won international events, placed in many big tournaments and beaten top-quality opponents.

"I really can't say how much it means to me because everyone, probably, feels that way." he said when asked what he would tell Olympic officials if given the opportunity. "I lived it my whole life. I was the guy in the weight class who lived it every single day, thought about it every day. It really drove me in everything I did.

"I pray for it and wish for it."

Zadick isn't praying and wishing to be famous or to get on the cover of a cereal box. Wrestlers generally don't get the big endorsements. There are no professional contracts on the line.

"It's a challenge with yourself every day," he said. "You want to prove to yourself once you get in a competition setting that what you did and everything you believed in is working and produces results.

"That's the opportunity at hand right now."

All he wants is a chance. If he gets that, he's confident he'll be a threat to win or at least earn an Olympic medal.

"I have to be real positive, and I feel I'm on that track right now," he said. "I've put myself in the position to do what I can."

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All ex-Hawkeye wants is shot to compete in Olympic tourney