Mike Zadick s aggressive approach pays off as he claims spot on his first World Team

By Craig Sesker | May 28, 2006, 1:21 p.m. (ET)
SIOUX CITY, Iowa - Mike Zadick never reached his collegiate goal of winning an NCAA championship for the Iowa Hawkeyes.

He never even made it up onto the elevated platform for a national title match.

But that hasn't stopped Zadick in his relentless pursuit of a much loftier goal.

The fourth-seeded Zadick climbed onto the elevated platform at the Tyson Events Center late Saturday and won two of the biggest matches of his life, sweeping No. 1 seed Michael Lightner to win the U.S. World Team Trials freestyle title at 132 pounds.

Zadick's reaction to winning was relatively subdued as he jogged off the mat and was congratulated by new Iowa coach Tom Brands and Hawkeye Wrestling Club coach Mike Duroe, who also is the World Team coach. The 27-year-old Zadick finally broke through after placing second in the 2003 World Team Trials and 2004 Olympic Trials.

"I never worried about it," Zadick said when asked if he thought this day would ever come. "It ate at me when it didn't come sooner than I wanted it to be. But it is here now."

Zadick was one of seven wrestlers who won titles and punched their tickets to September's World Championships in Guangzhou, China. All seven winners swept their best-of-3 finals Saturday.

Also winning titles Saturday in freestyle were Sammie Henson of the Sunkist Kids (121) and Daniel Cormier of the Gator Wrestling Club (211.5). They will be joined in China by Greco-Roman champs Harry Lester of the U.S. Olympic Education Center/Gator Wrestling Club (145.5), T.C. Dantzler (163) of the Gator Wrestling Club, Justin Ruiz of the New York Athletic Club (211.5) and Dremiel Byers of the U.S. Army (264.5).

The remaining seven weight classes - four in freestyle and three in Greco-Roman - are set for Sunday. Wrestling resumes at 9 a.m. Sunday with the best-of-3 finals set to begin at 4 p.m.

The hard-charging Zadick attacked 2005 World Team member Lightner from start to finish Saturday in winning the best-of-3 series.

Zadick fired in for a single-leg takedown just 30 seconds into the match and then countered a shot attempt by Lightner to win the first period of the first match 2-0. He won the second period 1-0 on another attack and then came back about an hour later to clinch his berth on the team.

In the second match, Zadick fell behind 1-0 when Lightner shot in on a single and pushed Zadick out of bounds with 10 seconds left in the first period. But Zadick barreled in on a low-level leg attack and also gained exposure with one second left to take the period 2-1. Looking to be in peak condition, Zadick collected the winning takedown with 11 seconds left in the second period on another leg attack to win the match.

So what made the difference for Zadick this time?

"Maturity," he said. "I am putting a lot of things together. I have really felt good solidly for the last two months. In the past, I've had a month, but now a few months like this."

Zadick struggled to a fourth-place finish at the U.S. Nationals while not being 100 percent physically. He still wears protective padding under his singlet after breaking his sternum last year.

Zadick credits the influence of Tom Brands for his success.

"Overall, it is like gold to me," Zadick said of Brands' return to Iowa City. "It's the most important thing anywhere. You can't take him out of there. It's like Tom Brands in Iowa, John Smith in Oklahoma. Sure, people talk about Dan Gable. Dan Gable had his time. Tom Brands is huge in wrestling, huge in Iowa and he's huge for me."

One of the most entertaining bouts of the night came as expected at 121 when 35-year-old Sammie Henson used his experience and strength to overcome a spirited effort by 19-year-old phenom Henry Cejudo.

Cejudo charged out strong and shot in for a late takedown and gained exposure to win the first period 3-1 against Henson, a past World champion and Olympic silver medalist. But the powerful Henson appeared to wear Cejudo down from there in winning the next four periods to gain a spot on his third World Team.

"The one thing I want to say, you keep talking about his age," Henson said. "That kid is well beyond his years. He is going to win some World and Olympic titles. You can't worry about age. I am 35 years old. At this point, if you have the desire, age makes no difference.

"I'm happy with my performance. I just like to win. I love it. When I'm doing it, I hate it. I get sick. But it is in me. The lights are on."

To Cejudo's credit, he fell behind 3-0 in the second period of the second match but came back with two single-leg takedowns in the last 40 seconds to close within 3-2. He tried valiantly to tie it in the closing seconds, but came up just short.

Cormier made his third straight World Team by rolling to a sweep over Damion Hahn, relying on an assortment of gut wrenches in cruising to the title. Cormier also was fourth in the 2004 Olympics.

"It is not tough to get motivated," Cormier said. "This is what we do. You want to win gold medals. You have to be motivated or else you don't get the opportunity."

The burly Cormier's biggest challenge has been in cutting down to 211.5

"The weight has been tough," he said. "I've gotten bigger this year. But this is crunch time. I can't let something as simple as making weight to be a factor if I want to be a World champion."

Ruiz, a 2005 World bronze medalist, executed a pair of spectacular five-point throws in notching a sweep over surprise finalist Phil Johnston of the U.S. Army. Johnston upset No. 2 seed Adam Wheeler of the U.S. Olympic Education Center/Gator Wrestling Club in the finals of the Challenge Tournament.

Ruiz had a bye to the finals since he was a returning World medalist and had won the U.S. Nationals last month in Las Vegas. Ruiz will compete in the World Championships for the third time. Only having to wrestle twice was a luxury Ruiz enjoyed having.

"It helps a lot," Ruiz said of having the bye. "I felt good those last few matches. I'll take this any day, rather than having to wrestle all those other matches. I felt on today. (Johnston's) a tough guy. I train with him. I know what he has, but he also knows what I have."

Byers, a 2002 World champion, made his fourth World Team by sweeping Russ Davie of the New York Athletic Club in the finals.

"This gives me redemption after I wrestled poorly last year at the Worlds," Byers said. "I made a rookie mistake against George from Kazakhstan and it was the wrong thing for me to do. I knew he had great defense. I didn't respect him enough. I can't do that again."

The 22-year-old Lester made his second straight World Team with an impressive performance over 35-year-old Marcel Cooper of the U.S. Army, a past World Team member who had won last month in Vegas after Lester skipped the event. Lester injured his ribs in a tournament in Bulgaria in March.

"I haven't been around that long," Lester said. "I've been on the circuit for four years. I still have a lot to learn. I have to learn everything on my feet and also in par terre."

Another 35-year-old, Dantzler, continues to thrive with the new Greco-Roman rules that emphasize the reverse lift as he held off a determined charge by Brandon McNab of the U.S. Army in the finals. Dantzler made his fourth World Team. He was the No. 1 seed for this event for the first time after winning U.S. Nationals for the first time.

"These are better rules for me," Dantzler said. "I want to thank FILA for these rules. Without FILA, none of this would be possible. I'm more prepared. Last year, I wasn't as prepared as I thought I was. This time, I was very prepared."

The third-seeded McNab continues to excel this year after finishing third at the U.S. Nationals. He knocked off past World Team member and Army teammate Keith Sieracki in the semifinals. Sieracki was seeded second.


Henry Cejudo, Colorado Springs, Colo. (Sunkist Kids) vs. Sammie Henson, Flintstone, Ga. (Sunkist Kids)

Match 1: Henson dec. Cejudo 1-3, 3-1, 2-0
Match 2: Henson dec. Cejudo 2-0, 3-2 (Henson wins series 2-0)

Mike Zadick, Solon, Iowa (Hawkeye WC) vs. Michael Lightner, Norman, Okla. (Sunkist Kids)

Match 1: Zadick dec. Lightner 2-0, 1-0
Match 2: Zadick dec. Lightner 2-1, 1-0 (Zadick wins series 2-0)

Daniel Cormier, Stillwater, Okla. (Gator WC) vs. Damion Hahn, Minneapolis, Minn. (Minnesota Storm)

Match 1: Cormier dec. Hahn 4-0, 4-0
Match 2: Cormier dec. Hahn 4-0, 4-0 (Cormier wins series 2-0)

Marcel Cooper, Colorado Springs, Colo. (U.S. Army) vs. Harry Lester, Akron, Ohio (USOEC/Gator WC)

Match 1: Lester dec. Cooper 4-0, 2-0
Match 2: Lester dec. Cooper 3-0, 1-1 (Lester wins series 2-0)

T.C. Dantzler, Colorado Springs, Colo. (Gator WC) vs. Brandon McNab, Colorado Springs, Colo. (U.S. Army)

Match 1: Dantzler dec. McNab 2-4, 1-1, 3-1
Match 2: Dantzler dec. McNab 4-0, 4-3 (Dantzler wins series 2-0)

96 KG/211.5 LBS.
Justin Ruiz, Colorado Springs, Colo. (New York AC) vs. Phil Johnston, Colorado Springs, Colo. (U.S. Army)

Match 1: Ruiz dec. Johnston 5-0, 5-0
Match 2: Ruiz dec. Johnston 5-0, 1-1 (Ruiz wins series 2-0)

120 KG/264.5 LBS.
Dremiel Byers, Colorado Springs, Colo. (U.S. Army) vs. Russ Davie, Colorado Springs, Colo. (New York AC)

Match 1: Byers dec. Davie 6-0, 4-0
Match 2: Byers dec. Davie 1-1, 2-1 (Byers wins series 2-0)