IOWA CITY — Mike Zadick’s vision became clear at a young age.
At 5, he already determined he wanted to reach the acme of amateur wrestling, which is an Olympic gold medal.
Now, he will likely make one last big at completing that mission when he competes in the 132-pound men’s freestyle division of the USA Wrestling’s Olympic Wrestling Team Trials on April 21-22 at Carver-Hawkeye Arena. Wrestlers in men’s and women’s freestyle and Greco-Roman will contend for spots on the 2012 U.S. Olympic Team and a chance to compete in the Olympic Games this summer in London, England.
“That’s one thing I wrote down and have been in the sport at (33) years old still trying to accomplish,” Zadick said. “That’s why it’s driven you and etched in stone. That’s my motivation.”
As determined as Zadick is for another successful Olympic Trial performance to match his championship in 2008, he’s just as realistic about it being his last opportunity to make an Olympic team. When the end of his career is apparent, Zadick will move forward in life, but that time is not now. He said he feels as confident in his ability as ever.
“I feel great. Different than I was at 24 or 35,” Zadick said. “It’s a different type of training. Smarter, for sure. It’s just a different approach. You can’t run yourself through walls at 33 like you could at 23. … Right now, in life where I’m at with the sport, I’ve learned that a lot and feel good where I’m at and we’ll see.”
Not only is Zadick excited about the possibility of his international wrestling accomplishments like his silver medals at the 2006 World Championships and 2007 Pan Am Games and his 2008 Olympic Games appearance in Beijing, China, but he’s excited for the event to be held in a familiar arena. He welcomes the chance to compete in front of the University of Iowa fans, who watched him as a three-time All-American for the Hawkeyes and help lead Iowa as an assistant coach under Jim Zalesky and current head coach Tom Brands.
“It’s thrilling to be showcased in front of your fans to give them something to see,” said Zadick, a 2010 U.S. World Team member. “It’s definitely a motivation to let the people set back in their chair and have an ice cream cone, enjoy it and know it’s on your shoulders that they’re enjoying it.”
Similar to 2008, the U.S. is not qualified at his weight. Then he had to continue to prepare without knowing he’d wrestle and then was a last-minute replacement. USA Wrestling has not announced who will represent the country in Olympic qualifiers tournament, but Zadick expects 2011 U.S. World Team Trials champion Reece Humphrey or runner-up Shawn Bunch to be selected. If they qualify and Zadick wins the Trials, a secondary competition will be held to determine the Olympic Team spot.
“It’s very relative to where we’re at today with the weight class,” Zadick said. “I look at it as an advantage just because I’ve been through the process and learned a lot from it. Just the ups and downs and the roller coaster of it.”
He’s also learned plenty by his role of coach while preparing himself and competing. Some aspects become a little more clear while helping the Hawkeyes train to be one of the top programs in the country, and he can apply it to his own wrestling.
“I think you become smarter and wiser coach and athlete in general, being around it and seeing it,” Zadick said. “You’re kind of stepping outside your body and watching when you’re around the guys.”
Iowa assistant wrestling coach Terry Brands, a former U.S. Olympic Team coach, said the additional focus on wrestling has helped refine his coaching ability.
“Mike Zadick has done a great job,” Brands said. “He’s on track.I would say I’ve seen him do some of his best wrestling in the last six weeks.”
Zadick, of Solon, will have his hands full possibly facing the likes of Humphrey, Bunch and Coleman Scott, who was third at the 2011 U.S. World Team Trials. NCAA champion Logan Stieber, of Ohio State, is highly ranked in men’s freestyle and received a wildcard for the tournament, as did Oklahoma State’s Jordan Oliver.
He is looking for one more run to get in position for the longtime goal to be an Olympic champion.
“We’ve all wrestled each other. I’ve beaten every one of them,” Zadick said. “That’s just the way I look at it. You’ve got to get the job done every time. You’ve got to show up every day and when the time comes on the 21st, take care of your business.
“It’s what you’ve done to get yourself ready as opposed to what they’ve done and I really believe in this facility, this program and getting to that level.”