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|Nate Gallick driven to make his first U.S. World Team in freestyle wrestling|
By Craig Sesker USA Wrestling
Bobby Douglas has been directly involved in international wrestling as a competitor and a coach for more than four decades.
He knows a top prospect when he sees one.
And the 2004 United States Olympic freestyle coach likes what he sees in Nate Gallick.
Gallick has secured the inside track on making the 2007 U.S. World Team at 60 kg/132 lbs. after winning the U.S. Nationals on April 7 in Las Vegas. That win, coupled with the gold medal he won at the 2005 World University Games, has clinched Gallick a spot in the best-of-3 finals for the U.S. World Team Trials on June 9 in Las Vegas.
"Nate's right there - he can win a gold medal at the World Championships this year," said Douglas, who coached Gallick to a gold medal at the 2006 NCAA Championships for Iowa State. "Nate's the real deal. He has all the ingredients you need to be a great wrestler, and he's still learning. He's still gaining experience and he keeps getting better."
The 24-year-old Gallick rallied to beat 2006 World silver medalist Mike Zadick 0-1, 3-0, 2-0 in the finals of the U.S. Nationals. Gallick was named the Outstanding Wrestler of the tournament. Gallick has beaten Zadick three straight times. He countered a pair of Zadick shots to win the final two periods in their most recent battle.
"Zadick's real tough to score on and real hard to wrestle," Gallick said. "He was second in the World for a reason. He wrestles hard and he knows what he's doing. I was in earlier in the match on a couple of shots that I thought I should've finished. I've got some things I need to work on."
So what does Douglas like about Gallick?
"Nate has World class speed - he is real fast," Douglas said. "I've never had anybody faster and that includes (2004 Olympic gold medalist) Cael Sanderson. He's also getting stronger and maturing physically. He stays in such good position and doesn't make many mistakes. He has a great feel for wrestling and he's a really hard worker.
"Nate's very consistent and very smart. He had a very good game plan and battle plan for each match at the U.S. Nationals and stuck to it.
Gallick is well aware that reaching the best-of-3 finals provides no guarantees for making a World Team. By the same token, he likes the position he is in right now as he needs just two wins to make his first U.S. World Team.
The remaining American freestyle wrestlers in the Trials at 132 pounds will have to go through a challenge tournament earlier in the day for the right to meet Gallick that evening in the best-of-3 finals. The final round is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. All matches in a particular weight class are contested in one day to mirror the one-day format used by FILA, the governing body for international wrestling, at the World Championships.
"Being in the best-of-3, I think it gives me a huge edge," Gallick said. "I feel pretty confident that I'm going to be hard to beat twice within a short period of time, especially being fresh and having sat out the whole day. At the same time, I have to be at my best. If I'm at my best, I think I'm the best guy at this weight class. I'm training just as hard as I would be if I had to wrestle the whole day. I'm not taking anything lightly."
The 2007 World Championships are set for Sept. 18-23 in Baku, Azerbaijan.
"My ultimate goal has always been to win a World title and an Olympic gold medal," Gallick said. "Any tournament I wrestle in, I go in with the mindset that I'm going to win. Short-term, I'm just trying to get on the World Team. If I make the team, I want to win a World title. That's the mentality you need to have."
Gallick, a native of Tucson, Ariz., has made a steady progression up the American freestyle ladder at the Senior level. He was fourth at the 2004 U.S. Olympic Team Trials before placing second at the 2005 U.S. World Team Trials. He then won the World University Games in 2005.
Gallick followed that performance by winning the NCAA title in 2006. He avenged a loss from the 2005 finals by beating long-time rival and two-time national champion Teyon Ware of Oklahoma 3-2 in the 2006 finals in Ware's backyard of Oklahoma City. Gallick placed fifth at the 2004 NCAA meet.
"It was a big relief to finally win it," Gallick said. "I felt like I was really close to being a national champ the two previous years. I really mentally felt like I had a shot to win it as a sophomore and junior. It was a perfect way to end my college career. It was very rewarding."
Gallick jumped right into international competition after the long collegiate season and placed third at the U.S. Nationals. He followed by reaching the semifinals of the 2006 U.S. World Team Trials. He then fell to Michael Lightner, the same guy who beat him in the finals of the 2005 Trials.
Taking very little time off from the start of the 2005 college season to the end of the 2006 international season took its toll on Gallick.
"Last year was a real long season," Gallick said. "I really focused on finishing my college career with a national title. I had been training pretty hard for a long time and I think it caught up with me during the freestyle season. I beat Zadick for third place at U.S. Nationals and lost to Lightner in the semis in the Trials, but I think I was a little burned out by the end of the year."
Not having to wrestle a college season this year has made a difference for Gallick in 2007.
"This year I only have to peak a couple times instead of having to peak four or five times like I did when I was wrestling in college and wrestling freestyle," Gallick said. "I'm able to just concentrate on freestyle now and that makes a big difference. I'm so much fresher now."
Gallick has excelled overseas. He won a bronze medal at the rugged Ivan Yarygin tournament in Krasnoyarsk, Russia in late January and also earned a bronze medal at the Henri Deglane Challenge in France.
"Nate has gained some confidence and gained some experience that he needed," said Kevin Jackson, USA Wrestling's National Freestyle Coach. "Nate has all the tools and all the skills. He's very difficult to score on. He likes to win and hates losing. He has a real bright future ahead of him."
Gallick also had an opportunity to face 2004 Olympic champion Mavlet Batirov of Russia in a January dual meet in Russia. Batirov swept Gallick 3-0, 2-0.
"That was a real eye-opening experience," Gallick said. "Batirov is the toughest opponent I've ever wrestled. He was real solid and stayed in real good position, and kept me out of position. I was almost beating myself because he kept me off-balance the whole match. That match is still in the back of my mind. I will go in with a different mindset the next time we wrestle."
Gallick lives and trains in Ames, Iowa, where he is scheduled to complete his degree in sociology from Iowa State University this summer. He is part of the support staff for the Iowa State program under Sanderson, who succeeded Douglas as ISU's head coach this past season. The Cyclones finished a close second to Minnesota at the 2007 NCAA meet.
"We've got a lot of young kids at Iowa State with a lot of energy who are really excited to compete," Gallick said. "They're really good and really talented. To watch them get better is fun to watch."
One of the wrestlers Gallick has trained and worked with is his younger brother, Nick, an NCAA qualifier for the Cyclones as a freshman this past season at 133 pounds.
"It's been great having Nick around and having some family around," Nate Gallick said. "I struggled early in my career and Nick did too, but he is starting to come around now. I expect him to have a real good career at Iowa State. Technically, he is ahead of where I was at this point in my career."
Douglas said Nate Gallick "will make an excellent coach."
"He loves the game and loves working with kids - he knows how to motivate them and teach them," Douglas said. "He's really passionate about wrestling and is a great people person. I can't say enough about him."