By SCOTT MANSCH â€“ Great Falls TribuneÂ
When world-class amateur wrestlers retire, they mark a final match by leaving their shoes on the mat. It’s an attention-grabbing symbolic send-off.Â
And it’s not Bill Zadick’s style.Â
The Great Falls High graduate and former world champion wrestler finished second at the U.S. Olympic Team Trials last June in Las Vegas. The 145 1/2-pound freestyle mat star made no announcement regarding his future following the match, but Wednesday the ex-Iowa Hawkeye NCAA champion indicated his days on the mat are pretty much over.
“It’s not 100 percent sure, but I think I’m looking at retiring from competition and getting into the coaching side of things,” said Zadick, who is home visiting his family in Great Falls. “I think it’s just time. My body is telling me it’s time.”Â
Zadick, 35, won four straight Class AA state championships at Great Falls High and in 1996 won an NCAA title at Iowa under legendary head coach Dan Gable, arguably the greatest wrestling coach of all-time.Â
Zadick won the U.S. World Team Trials at his weight in both 2001 and 2006, the equivalent of earning a spot on the U.S. Olympic Team, and in 2006 reached the zenith of his sport with a world championship.Â
“There’s really nothing in the world like the feeling of winning a wrestling match, especially a big one,” Zadick said.Â
His mat career began 30 years ago in Great Falls under the tutelage of his father, Bob, and family friend Jabby Young, who have been longtime wrestling coaches in the Electric City.
“Bill has given me and my family so much gratification,” said Young. “He’s shown what sacrifice and hard work does for the person. The payoff was a world championship.”Â
There’s a long list of youth champions who were trained by Young and Bob Zadick. Among them are Young’s sons Bobby, Dustin and Jesse, and Bill’s younger brother Michael, who competed for Team USA at last summer’s Summer Olympics in China.Â
Bill Zadick, whose photograph hangs above the entrance to the old Bison gymnasium at Great Falls High, has been an inspiration to a generation of wrestlers in the Electric City. He was in his little brother’s corner during the China Olympics.Â
“The quality of person he is off the mat is what’s really special,” said Jabby Young. “He’s a great individual and everyone in USA Wrestling thinks the world of him.”Â
Zadick’s consistency and dedication to the sport set him apart. In the last three decades, he’s never taken so much as one year off from competition. In a sport where burnout is common and injuries are a fact of life, Zadick was an iron man.Â
And even today, Zadick is ranked No. 2 in the nation among 145 1/2-pound freestyle wrestlers.
“There’s no other sport like it,” said Jabby Young. “Think about it. Your job is to write stories and mine is to fix airplanes and that’s what we do every day. But their job as wrestlers is to go into a wrestling room and brutalize themselves two and three times a day for how many years. For Bill to maintain that level of intensity is phenomenal.”Â
Bill Zadick has always seemed uncomfortable in receiving praise, and it was no different on Wednesday.Â
“There’s a lot more I would have liked to have accomplished in the sport,” he said. “But wrestling’s done a lot for me and I’ve loved every bit of it. And I love the future of the sport, too.”
And what might that future hold? Well, this weekend Zadick will be in Missoula at an Athletes In Action banquet and youth wrestling clinic. He said he knows of some available college coaching positions, as well as some openings within USA Wrestling.Â
“All the great coaches I know have turned that competitive fire they had when they competed into coaching and passed it on to so many young kids,” said Zadick. “That’s what I’d like to do now.”
Leave your shoes on the wrestling mat?Â
Not Bill Zadick. Because if he’s going to follow in the footsteps of others who have converted personal glory into coaching success, he’s going to need them.