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What a night! Newly elected Hall of Famer Barry Davis guides Wisconsin to historic win over Iowa



There have been an abundance of special moments in the wrestling career of Barry Davis.

  • Winning three NCAA titles as an Iowa Hawkeye.

  • Capturing an Olympic silver medal in 1984 before earning silver and bronze medals at the World Championships.

  • Coaching future World bronze medalist Donny Pritzlaff to a pair of NCAA titles at the University of Wisconsin.

    No matter how much the 45-year-old Davis may try to downplay his role in it, Saturday night's dual meet between his Wisconsin Badgers and the Iowa Hawkeyes certainly had to rank as one of those special moments.

    It was a memorable homecoming for Davis, who guided Wisconsin to its first win over Iowa in more than four decades when the No. 10 Badgers upset No. 5 Iowa 21-14 before 6,225 fans at Carver-Hawkeye Arena in Iowa City.

    Wisconsin beat the Hawkeyes for the first time since 1965. Iowa had won 32 straight duals in the series.

    "It's not really about me - it's about the team and the athletes," Davis said. "It was a great victory for our program as we keep improving and making strides. Going back to Iowa is still fun for me because I have family and friends still back there, plus I have great memories from when I competed there. But Wisconsin is my home now. It was a very good win for our wrestlers in front of a big crowd. That's not an easy place to wrestle in. Our wrestlers deserve all the credit."

    Before the dual, Iowa Sports Information Director Phil Haddy announced to the crowd that Davis had just been elected for induction later this year into the National Wrestling Hall of Fame in Stillwater, Okla.

    "I got a great ovation from the fans and that was very special," said Davis, who grew up about a half hour drive north of the Iowa campus in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. "I had to kind of compose myself after that - I got a little emotional. I've been gone a long time from Iowa and for the people there to still remember me means a lot."

    Davis is hoping to lead the Badgers to their best NCAA finish in his 13 seasons in Madison. Wisconsin tied for ninth at the 2000 national tournament and placed 10th a year later with Pritzlaff winning NCAA titles both seasons.

    Wisconsin is 16-1 in dual meets this season. The Badgers are now ranked ninth by InterMat. The Badgers knocked off Iowa one night after falling 19-18 at Northwestern.

    "This team is very unique - they're real close and real tight," Davis said. "We have a lot of fun when we travel and spend time together. We have great chemistry where each guy is pulling for each other. It's an all-out war when guys wrestle each other in the room. But when practice ends, the guys go and hang out with each other. We have 30 guys in our room and all 30 are pulling for each other, and that's just great to see. We have guys willing to sacrifice to be successful."

    Wisconsin's strong season has come in part because Davis brought in a No. 1 ranked recruiting class in 2004 that included current starters Craig Henning (157), Dallas Herbst (197), Zach Tanelli (133) and Kyle Massey (285).

    In the win over Iowa, the Badgers won key bouts by rallying for wins at 133, 141 and 184. Tanelli rallied for a 7-5 win over Mario Galanakis before freshman teammate Kyle Ruschell beat Iowa's sixth-ranked Alex Tsirtsis 6-4 at 141. Wisconsin's Trevor Branvold later came back from surrendering the opening takedown to beat Phil Keddy 6-2 in a key match at 184.

    "We outscored them 18-1 in the three matches in coming back," Davis said. "That says a lot about our guys in how we competed and wrestled. Our guys, they have a lot of fight and they just don't quit."

    Davis said even though Wisconsin's Collin Cudd lost 12-9 to Iowa's Charlie Falck to start the dual at 125, the match seemed to provide a spark for his team.

    "Cudd got caught on his back and gave up five points," Davis said. "But Cudd didn't stop and he scored a couple takedowns to get back into the match. He lost the match, but the way he fought back really inspired us. The same thing happened at 133 where we fell behind, but this time we came back to win the match. That definitely fired everybody up."

    Davis said his Wisconsin team did not spend much time celebrating after the landmark win over his alma mater.

    "We enjoyed the win and enjoyed the bus ride home," Davis said. "But I came into my office the next day on Sunday morning and I had three guys there working out already. Every guy that wrestled in the dual came in the next day to work out even though it was our day off. That says a lot about our team. They were already getting ready for the next meet."

    Davis said he "never mentioned" the long losing streak Wisconsin had against Iowa in the time leading up to the dual.

    "Our guys knew all about it, but that wasn't the focus," Davis said. "The focus was on each individual match in this year's dual. We couldn't worry about the past. That's why we were able to win the dual."

    Henning, a junior, is the leader of the Wisconsin team. He is ranked sixth nationally at 157. Henning was an All-American last season, placing eighth at the NCAA tournament.

    "Craig took eighth last year, but he wanted much more than that," Davis said. "The way he finished last year is a big motivating factor for him this year. He has one goal and that is to win it. He is a good leader and works hard. He's smart and he's willing to make changes to get better. He's just a great kid to be around - he's fun to spend time with."

    Davis also credited his assistants, Bart Chelesvig, Pritzlaff and Cory Wallman, for the team's success. Chelesvig, a three-time All-American for Iowa, has been with Davis for his entire tenure as Wisconsin's head coach.

    "We have a great group of coaches," Davis said. "Everybody has good ideas and we all learn from each other."

    Davis said the success of other athletic programs at Wisconsin also has had an impact on the wrestling team. The Badgers finished 12-1 in football and the Wisconsin basketball team is ranked No. 2 in the nation. The Badgers also won NCAA titles in men's and women's hockey in 2006.

    "Barry Alvarez has done a great job bringing all the different sports together as an athletic director," Davis said. "All the coaches in the different sports talk about how to make each other better. We have a lot of great coaches up here. It's a very successful athletic program."

    The Badgers hope their run of success continues with Big Ten road duals coming up this weekend against Purdue and Michigan, and that is where Davis has shifted his focus.

    But last Saturday's trip back to Iowa City was a night Davis won't soon forget.

    "I had a guy come up to me before the dual and hand me an old sports page from 1983," Davis said. "There was a picture of me on the front of the Cedar Rapids Gazette after I beat the Russian in Cedar Rapids. He kept the sports section for 23 years and asked me to sign it. Iowa is a special place and I have a lot of good memories from there. It's nice to be appreciated and remembered."
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