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ZADICK IS GOLDEN!!!! Bill Zadick wins World Championship, Pritzlaff wins bronze

GUANGZHOU, China - Bill Zadick doesn't remember his first experience as a wrestler.

That's because he started rolling around with his father, Bob, on the living room carpet in their Great Falls, Mont., home before he could even walk.

But Zadick will never forget the magical moment that took place halfway around the world on Thursday night.

A lifetime of preparation, fueled by his father's long-time dream of seeing his two sons grow up to become Olympic and World Champions, all came down to a coin flip early Thursday night at the Tianhe Sports Center in Guangzhou, China. Zadick became the first American since 1999 to win a World title in men's freestyle.

Zadick won the coin flip at the end of the third period and scored the winning takedown to knock off World bronze medalist Otari Tushishvili of Georgia 1-2, 3-0, 1-0 to win the World Championship in freestyle at 66 kg/145.5 pound finals.

"It is awesome, a dream come true," Zadick said. "It is what everybody trains for. I felt good about my performance. There are always things you can do better. It is a great feeling, a deep satisfaction. I can't put it in words."

The 33-year-old Zadick captured the championship one night after his younger brother, Mike, won a silver medal at the World Championships at 60 kg/132 pounds.

"I couldn't be more excited," Mike Zadick said. "He won by being relentless and not making mistakes. He found a way to win. I didn't find a way to win. He got taken down in the match, but he found a way to get the victory. It was against all odds."

Zadick's title, coupled with Donny Pritzlaff's bronze medal at 74 kg/163 pounds and the bronze won by Sammie Henson the night before at 55 kg/121 pounds, has put the American team in prime position to capture the team title. The U.S. has 35 points with Russia second with 32. Iran and Ukraine are tied for third with 30 points apiece.

The final two freestyle weights will be contested Friday. The U.S. will have Daniel Cormier and World bronze medalist Tolly Thompson competing. Cormier (Stillwater, Okla./Gator WC) will be at 96 kg/211.5 pounds and Thompson (Cedar Falls, Iowa/Sunkist Kids) at 120 kg/264.5 pounds.

The two medals won by U.S. on Thursday pulled the Americans into a tie with Russia atop the race for the most overall medals. Team USA and Russia have a combined seven medals in men's freestyle and Greco-Roman. Iran is next with five medals.

Just a few minutes after his win, USA Wrestling President Jim Ravannack handed Zadick a cell phone. Zadick's college coach, legendary Dan Gable, was on the other end.

"I'm feeling pretty good right now," the low-key Zadick said.

With the match tied at one period apiece, neither wrestler could gain an edge in the final two-minute period. With the match scoreless, a coin was flipped and it came up red. That was the color Zadick was wearing, so Zadick was the offensive wrestler in the leg clinch. Zadick grasped Tushishvili's leg and eventually transferred it into a double to gain the takedown 10 seconds into the 30-second tiebreaker.

Zadick dropped the first period, but kept his poise in working his way back into the match in the second period. Zadick took a 1-0 lead 26 seconds into the second period when Tushishvili was penalized one point for grabbing Zadick's singlet. Zadick stayed on the attack and added two late points when he countered a throw attempt and gained two points for exposing Tushishvili's back to the mat.

"Before the coin toss, I thought it doesn't matter what color comes up, you have to be tough," said Zadick, who was an NCAA champion for Iowa. "You have to wrestle all positions. You hope for the flip, but you have to be prepared to wrestle anyway. I don't think there are any secrets in the clinch position. The first guy to create action, 99 percent of the time wins."

Zadick struggled in recent years after placing seventh in the 2001 World meet. Shortly after placing seventh at the 2004 Olympic Trials, Zadick moved out to Colorado Springs to become a resident-athlete at the U.S. Olympic Training Center. He's flourished under USA Wrestling Resident Coach Terry Brands, a former Hawkeye who won two World titles. Brands was the coach in Zadick's corner in the finals.

"Having the resources and the coaching has been a huge benefit," Zadick said. "I am constantly learning. Terry (Brands) and I had a relationship before we came to Colorado Springs. I got there shortly before he did. We took our relationship and built upon it and moved forward. We had the same goal. He wanted to build World Champions, and I wanted to be one. Kevin Jackson has also been there for me. He was an incredible competitor. Both of these guys have done what I want to do. I try to learn from them."

Jackson, USA Wrestling's National Coach, praised Zadick's performance.

"Two years ago, I had a conversation with Bill and his dad about his potential," Jackson said. "He always had potential in my mind. He had to focus on training full-time in a freestyle-oriented wrestling room every day. He made a sacrifice to leave Iowa and come to the Olympic Training Center.

"Bill is the World champion in the toughest weight class in the world. His weight has the biggest size, and the most World medalists in it. For him to win that weight class five years after the last time he was at the World Championships says a lot about Bill and the resident program. All of the credit must go to Bill himself. Terry Brands has been a major influence on Bill, working with him. Bill always had the ability. He just got the opportunity to get it done."

Zadick rallied to beat Albert Batryov of Belarus 0-1, 1-0, 2-1 in the 66 kg/145.5 pound semifinals early Thursday afternoon. Zadick (Colorado Springs, Colo./Gator WC) survived an early scare before knocking off World bronze medalist Geandry Garzon of Cuba 4-0, 1-4, 3-1 in the second round. Zadick placed seventh in the 2001 World Championships.

In the semifinals, Zadick started slowly after Baytrov snapped him down for a takedown midway though the first period. But the former Iowa Hawkeye standout barreled in on double-leg shot in the second period and finished for takedown with 37 seconds left. Zadick shot in for two third-period takedowns on leg attacks to put it away.

"I'm trying to go out and wrestle how we trained and prepared ourselves, to win some gold medals," Zadick said. "I feel good with the results. There are things I would have done better, though.

"I am more prepared, and having the experience of being here makes a difference. You can't take things for granted. You have to seize your opportunities when they come."

Pritzlaff (Madison, Wis./New York AC) made his first trip to the World Championships a memorable one after he rallied to beat World silver medalist Murad Gaidarov of Belarus 1-3, 1-0, 1-0 in the bronze-medal match Thursday night.

"It feels good - it is awesome," Pritzlaff said. "I felt I wrestled with poise, but I let go. I got my offense to go. I felt better with every match. It is very exciting now.

"I didn't achieve my goal here. But I remember we had a team meeting over at Terry Brands' house I was talking with the guys. Daniel Cormier said if you lose and you get a chance to take the bronze, you better seize the moment. He had a few chances and didn't get it done. He said if you get the chance to get a bronze, wrestle like it is the gold."

Pritzlaff, a two-time NCAA champ during his days at Wisconsin, used his superior conditioning to medal in his first World meet. Pritzlaff simply wore down Gaidarov, who was second in the World in 2003, with a relentless offensive attack.

Pritzlaff dropped the first period 3-1, but came back in the second period. Nobody scored in the first two minutes and Pritzlaff won the coin flip. He capitalized by immediately driving Gaidarov out of bounds to win the period. Pritzlaff, a past Junior World Champion, shot in on another single and drove his opponent out of bounds for the winning points at 1:31.

Pritzlaff downed Abdulkharim Shapiyev of Kazakhstan 3-2, 3-0 in the Repechage to advance to the bronze-medal match. He peppered Shapiyev with a constant barrage of single-leg attacks in the win.

Pritzlaff beat World bronze medalist Ryslan Kokaev of Armenia in the second round before falling to Ali Asgharbazrei of Iran in the quarterfinals by scores of 2-0 and 1-1. Pritzlaff, competing in his first World meet, received a chance to wrestle back after Asgharbazrei advanced to the finals.

"I let that one get away from me a little bit," Pritzlaff said his quarterfinal loss. "I didn't open up. I was a little tentative. I didn't train to be tentative. I was in a groove coming in. He had a style that was difficult."

American Andy Hrovat (Ann Arbor, Mich./New York AC) dropped his first match 2-2, 5-3 to Armenia's Vadim Laliev on Thursday morning. Hrovat, competing in his first World meet, was eliminated when Laliev failed to reach the finals at 84 kg/185 pounds.

Hrovat used a pair of reverse body locks and turns to take leads in both periods of his first-round setback. He led 3-1 in the second period before Laliev hit back-to-back takedowns on leg attacks to tie it 3-3. Laliev then used a two-point gut-wrench in the closing seconds to clinch the win.

"For me, every match is the same," Hrovat said. "You go out there and do what you are best at. That is what I tried. I wasn't good enough to beat him. This isn't different than any other tournament. You can't put it on a pedestal."

Pritzlaff dropped a tough quarterfinal bout to Asgharbazrei, who scored on a single-leg takedown and pushout in the first period. Pritzlaff charged out strong in the second period, driving in on a single-leg takedown to lead 1-0 at 1:11. The Iranian then scored on a pushout at 1:21 and held off Pritzlaff. Asgharbazrei won the period by virtue of scoring last.

Canada's Matt Gentry, an NCAA champion for Stanford, dropped his first match in freestyle Thursday at 74 kg/163 pounds. Turkey's Ahmet Gulhan beat Gentry 1-1, 3-0, 3-0. Gentry has dual citizenship between Canada and the U.S.

Day 5 of the seven-day tournament is set for Friday with the men's freestyle competition finishing and the women's freestyle competition beginning. They include Cormier and Thompson in freestyle, and Mary Kelly (Colorado Springs, Colo./New York AC) at 48 kg/105.5 pounds in women's freestyle.

Cormier was fifth in this event in 2003 and Thompson was a World bronze medalist in 2005. Kelly is competing in her first World Championship.
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