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Improved Mike Zadick focused on winning World title

A trip to a mall in Iran was in some ways eerily similar to a trip to the shopping mall in Iowa City for Mike Zadick.

Just about everywhere the former Iowa Hawkeye standout went during a recent trip to Iran for the Takhti Cup, he was recognized. Some of the most fanatical wrestling fans on the planet had no trouble picking out the 2006 World silver medalist from a group of American wrestlers.

"They would look at me," Zadick said. "and say 'Mourad Mohammadi.'"

Zadick lost to Iran's Seyad Mourad Mohammadi in the 60 kg/132 pound freestyle finals of the World Championships last September in Guangzhou, China. Mohammadi prevailed 1-0, 1-1 in the gold-medal match. The match was shown live last fall on Iranian television.

Zadick said the fans weren't being mean-spirited when they referred to Mohammadi. Not that the 28-year-old Zadick needed the mention of Mohammadi's name to provide him with any more motivation entering the 2007 season.

"The World Championships was a good indicator for me that I was prepared to reach my goals," Zadick said. "I'm holding a silver medal and nobody works for a silver medal. I did what I needed to up until the finals. I didn't wrestle well in that last match against Mohammadi."

Zadick scored the only takedown of the finals match with Mohammadi, but still lost. Nobody scored in the first two minutes of the match, so the first period went to a leg clinch. Zadick won the coin flip, but couldn't finish for a takedown and Mohammadi was awarded a point to win the period 1-0.

Zadick fired in for a double-leg takedown at the 1:03 mark to lead the second period 1-0, but Mohammadi pushed him out of bounds with nine seconds left to tie the score 1-1. Mohammadi won the period, and swept the match, by virtue of scoring last in the second period.

"Losing the way I did, it was all my fault," Zadick said. "It shouldn't ever happen again. I let up and it cost me. I was pounding on the guy and was the aggressor in the match, but I ended up getting shoved out of bounds. I had the only takedown of the match, but I lost because of a Sumo wrestling move where I got pushed out. It was a really tough way to lose that match."

Zadick, who made his first World Team in 2006, said he's adjusting to the rules changes FILA made in 2005.

"I've worked hard and learned from my mistakes in that match," Zadick said. "I've dealt with it and moved on. I feel real good going into this season. My practices have been going well and I'm excited. I have very high hopes. I want to achieve more and dominate more. I'm a lot better wrestler now than I was last September (at the World Championships.)"

Zadick's next competition will be the Chicago Cup dual meet on Tuesday, Feb. 6 at Northwestern University in Evanston, Ill. A team from the U.S. will wrestle a team from Russia.

"I've never been in one of these international duals, so it will be fun to have a dual in the U.S. against Russia," Zadick said. "Russia has tough wrestlers and they are the best team in the World right now. They are not coming over here to lose and they're not coming over here for sightseeing. They love to beat Americans and laugh at them afterwards. It works both ways."

Zadick said don't be surprised if his older brother, Bill, a 2006 World Champion, has another big season in freestyle at 66 kg/145.5 pounds.

"Bill's still getting better, even at age 33," Mike said. "He's real confident and he can build off the success he had last year. Seeing him win a World title was very satisfying because I know how hard he's worked. A lot of people were kind of doubting Bill. It's always fun to shut somebody up the way he did."

Mike Zadick knocked off the wrestler many considered the favorite, Russia's Mavlet Batirov, in the semifinals of the 2006 World Championships. Batirov was a 2004 Olympic Gold Medalist.

Zadick was unable to compete in the Takhti Cup in Iran, which was held on Jan. 18-19. He said he wasn't quite ready to return to competition as he recovers from surgery on his hand. But he said the trip still was a memorable experience.

"It was really cool to be in a place where wrestling is the No. 1 sport - it's their national sport in Iran," he said. "The arena we competed in was sold out with about 4,000 people packed in there. The atmosphere reminded me of Carver-Hawkeye Arena in Iowa City. The fans were loud and had a lot of fire and enthusiasm. And they were very respectful of the wrestlers. It was a great crowd.

"There were a bunch of people outside the arena who couldn't get in and they needed security people to keep them out. That tournament was a very big deal to those people. They are really fanatical about their wrestling over there. It was pretty crazy."

American wrestler Mo Lawal became a huge fan favorite in Iran. Lawal won a gold medal at the Takhti Cup at 96 kg/211.5 pounds.

"Mo was like the President over there," Zadick said with a laugh. "Mo puts on a great show when he steps on the mat and gets the crowd involved. He waved and clapped with the fans and was dancing after he won, and the crowd just loved that. The crowd was chanting 'Muhammad, Muhammad' after Mo won. We went over to the mall the next day and everybody wanted to know where he was. People wanted to have their picture taken with him. It was like the paparazzi was following him."

Zadick said USA Wrestling Freestyle Resident Coach Terry Brands ran into similar experiences with Iranian fans.

"People were coming up to Terry and saying, 'Ali Reza Dabir' because that was the Iranian who Terry wrestled in the Olympics," Zadick said. "They also know Terry because he won two World titles and a bronze medal in the Olympics. They are very knowledgeable. They love their wrestling over there."

Zadick said the coverage of the event in Iran was interesting.

"Every time an Iranian beat an American they would interview the wrestler from Iran," Zadick said. "I was watching TV and they showed one of their wrestlers doing a fireman's carry on one of the Americans. They just kept showing that move over and over on TV. I think they liked showing an American getting whipped."

Zadick works as an assistant coach at the University of Iowa under first-year Hawkeye head coach Tom Brands, a 1996 Olympic gold medalist who coaches Zadick in freestyle.

"Tom is doing a great job with the Iowa team," Zadick said. "He's worked his tail off. He brings so much intensity to the room and he is so determined to succeed. He's relentless in his mentality to make these guys the best wrestlers in the entire world. He expects nothing less. It's been fun to watch the change, it's been great."

Among the wrestlers Zadick trains with is past Hawkeye NCAA champion Doug Schwab, who competes internationally at 66 kg/145.5 pounds. He also works out with the college guys who are in the room.

Zadick is a big fan of Hawkeye newcomer Brent Metcalf, a transfer from Virginia Tech who will be eligible next season. Metcalf made the Junior World Team in freestyle at 66 kg/145.5 pounds this past summer and already is being touted as a future Olympian.

Since he is not eligible this season after transferring to Iowa, Metcalf may compete at the Dave Schultz Memorial International on Feb. 9-10 in Colorado Springs.

"I think Metcalf is going to back up all the hype," Zadick said. "He will do whatever it takes to win. He wants to win and will not be denied in achieving his goals. He wants to be the greatest. He has expectations to be the greatest college wrestler and the greatest wrestler in the World. He's a lot like Tom. He's coachable and just buys into everything. He's very talented and very tough. And he works his tail off."

Zadick is back working hard as well after he was sidelined briefly with an infection in his hand that required surgery.

"I have high expectations," he said. "My whole plan is winning. I think I'm heading in the right direction."
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