vening conversation in the living room of the Zadick home in Great Falls, Mont., always came down to some aspect of wrestling. When Bob Zadick's two sons--Bill, the elder by five years, and Mike--were growing up, rather than go to sleep at bedtime, they would eavesdrop at their doors as Bob held court with local wrestlers, coaches or anyone else who shared his passion. Hours later Bob's wife, Toni, would find the boys asleep not in their beds but huddled in blankets and propped up against those bedroom doors. "We've always been a wrestling family," says Bob, 66, who retired in 2001 after 30 years as the coach of the North Montana Wrestling Club. "Wrestling brotherhood really developed in our house."
Never has a wrestling fraternity been quite so fraternal. The Zadick brothers, who are set to compete at this week's wrestling world championships in Guangzhou, China, are coached by identical twin brothers Terry and Tom Brands, who used to attend those informal symposia back in the Zadicks' living room. Terry Brands, a two-time world champion ('93 and '95) and Olympic bronze medalist (2000), coaches Bill Zadick, 33, the U.S. freestyle champion at 145.5 pounds, and Tom Brands, the '93 world champion and Olympic gold medalist in 1996, coaches Mike Zadick, 28, who wrestles at 132 pounds.
"The Brandses were nonstop brawlers," Mike says admiringly. "The last few minutes of a match they turned guys into dog meat until they just quit. Ever since I watched them wrestle in college, I wanted to be like them."
Terry and Tom worked as assistants to legendary coach Dan Gable at Iowa, where the twins helped recruit the Zadicks, who were both four-time state high school champions in Montana. As Hawkeyes, the Zadicks both became All-Americas and Bill was the NCAA champion in 1996. Despite all of their success, however, neither Zadick brother has wrestled in an Olympics--a gap in their r�sum�s that they hope to fill in Beijing in 2008.
In fact, injuries and bad luck have dogged the Zadicks' international careers. Bill missed the trials for the world championships in 2002 after he suffered a concussion from a fall in the bathtub. Mike's chances of competing at the Athens Games in '04 were hampered by a slew of injuries--including a cracked sternum suffered trying to catch a football. Bill achieved ignominy at the '04 Olympic trials when he lost to rival Chris Bono and got into a shoving match with him on the mat afterward.
Such a strong aversion to losing may come from Bob Zadick, who supports his sons with uncompromising fervor. "He's been thrown out of every gym in America," says Mike. Gable recalls one incident from the Big Ten championships in 1996, when he was coaching Bill. "Nobody was watching Bill's match," Gable says, "because there was a better one in the stands involving Bob Zadick." The spark that lit Bob's fuse was a suggestion by another spectator that Bill was stalling during his match.
The brothers' coaches would like to see even more of Bob's fire in Bill and Mike. Tom Brands wants Mike to start faster in his matches. Terry Brands wants Bill to build leads rather than sit back and protect them. "I'm more of a perfectionist, obsessive-compulsive, I guess," says Bill who, according to his coach, never packs for a trip without quadruple-checking his bags for forgotten gear.
Indeed, it might be said that despite the brothers' burning passion for wrestling, they're too stoic. "The Zadicks don't let their emotions get to them," says Tom Brands.
Or not usually. When Bill and Mike qualified for the world championships at the trials in Sioux City, Iowa, in May, Bob Zadick was all smiles as he approached Tom Brands in the arena hallway. "God bless the Brandses," he said gleefully.