The magnetic draw of the Iowa wrestling program that brought Ryan Morningstar back to the Hawkeyes was the same pull that kept Mike Zadick tethered to the program for nearly half his life.
They both grew up planning to wrestle for the Hawkeyes long before the ink dried on their intent letters, both developed into multi-time all-Americans and both set their sights on coaching at Iowa.
But while Morningstar prepared to return to the Hawkeyes, the man he’s set to replace pondered his future Wednesday after being bumped out of his chair in the Iowa corner.
On Wednesday, Iowa formally announced the hiring of Morningstar, a 25-year-old who spent last season as the top assistant to Barry Davis at Wisconsin.
“He obviously has strong ties to the Iowa program and I have no doubt he takes a tremendous amount of pride in Hawkeye wrestling,” Iowa coach Tom Brands said in a statement. “I know he gained some valuable experience in the coaching ranks last season and I think, once again, he’s going to be a tremendous asset to our program.”
Morningstar moves into the position formerly occupied by Zadick, who spent the past six seasons on Brands’ staff, including the last two in a full-time coaching position. The 33-year-old has been with the program since 1997 when he arrived at Iowa as a freshman.
“I’m still kind of dealing with it,” Zadick said. “I don’t know how to say it. It’s kind of like I was walking around the backside of a horse and he kicked me. … I’ve been kicked by a horse before, (and) that’s kind of the way I feel.”
Brands promoted Zadick two years ago into an assistant position on a temporary basis after Doug Schwab left the Hawkeyes to become the head coach at Northern Iowa. Zadick didn’t close the door on possibly staying with the program in another role.
“I know I’ll be all right no matter what I decide (to do next season),” Zadick said. “I liked how important wrestling was in the Iowa family, the Hawkeye family and to the people in the state. I have been and will forever be honored to be a Hawkeye.”
Morningstar’s allegiance to the Iowa program is tattooed on his left shoulder blade. He left the Hawkeyes last summer for his first full-time coaching opportunity.
Morningstar said his responsibilities will include “a lot of recruiting” and training the wrestlers around his weight. He placed third in 2009 at the NCAA Championships at 165 pounds and seventh as a senior in 2010, despite wrestling the entire tournament with torn medial collateral and posterior cruciate ligaments in his right knee.
“I told Barry, ‘There could’ve been a hundred other schools that could’ve come after me, but the one that would make me leave is the University of Iowa,’” Morningstar said. “I wanted to make my way back eventually, but I didn’t think it would come around this soon. I’m very excited to get back home to my alma mater and work with the guys … and I’m excited to take on the role.”