Iowa Hawkeyes

Wrestling will always be part of Barry Davis' life

Ogden column: Wisconsin coach and ex-Hawkeye great doesn't know where he will land

Barry Davis, shouting instructions to one of his wrestlers at the 2009 NWCA/Cliff Keen National Duals in Cedar Falls, resigned Monday as Wisconsin’s wrestling coach and doesn’t know what his next move will be. (Cliff Jette/The Gazette)
Barry Davis, shouting instructions to one of his wrestlers at the 2009 NWCA/Cliff Keen National Duals in Cedar Falls, resigned Monday as Wisconsin’s wrestling coach and doesn’t know what his next move will be. (Cliff Jette/The Gazette)
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Barry Davis isn’t sure where the road will eventually lead him, but he knows a couple of things.

For the next week-plus, he will focus on getting his Wisconsin qualifiers ready for the NCAA Division I Wrestling Championships in Cleveland.

And wrestling will be in his future.

Davis resigned Monday as wrestling coach at Wisconsin after a 25-year run that included four top-10 finishes in the NCAA Championships, a runner-up finish at the 2007 Big Ten Championships and 234 dual-meet wins. This year’s team finished 7-5 in duals (3-5 in the rugged Big Ten) for the second year in a row, placed sixth at last weekend’s Big Ten meet in East Lansing, Mich., and qualified seven for next week’s national tournament.

He had his detractors — who doesn’t? — some who felt Wisconsin shouldn’t lose top in-state recruits to the Oklahoma States, Iowas and Missouris of the wrestling world. Some felt Wisconsin should be a consistent top-five program.

But, in reality, it was a good run. If wrestling has shown anything over its history, it’s that becoming a consistently dominant program is difficult. As good as Penn State and Ohio State have been in recent years, they haven’t dented what Iowa and Oklahoma State have done and — on some level — still do.

“It’s time to move on,” Davis said in a telephone interview on Tuesday.

Move on to what?

“I don’t know yet,” he said.

But Davis isn’t looking to escape.

“It’s a great sport,” he said. “I’m never going to retire. That word is not in my vocabulary.”

Wrestling has been Davis’ life — outside his wife of 32 years, Nan, daughters Amanda and Amy and, now, two grandchildren. Amanda is married now and has a son and daughter. Amy, like her mother (Nan Doak was an all-American in track and cross country at Iowa), is an outstanding runner, a junior at Wisconsin who is competing at the NCAA Indoor Championships this weekend.

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For those who don’t remember Davis as a wrestler, he was one of the greatest to wear a black-and-gold singlet. After capturing three state high school championships at Cedar Rapids Prairie, he won a school-record 162 matches at Iowa, including three NCAA titles and four Big Ten crowns.

He was a two-time Olympian, winning a silver medal in 1984.

He wore down opponents with a relentless attacking style. He coached much the same way.

Davis admits things could have been better at Wisconsin. His team’s best NCAA finish was fourth in 2010. That was followed by a 10th, 41st, 27th, 16th, 17th, 23rd and 13th.

“You always want to do better,” he said.

Davis said he won’t get sentimental next week in Cleveland and simply wants to be remembered at Wisconsin for making “better men coming out then they were going in.”

He said he and Nan likely won’t stay in Madson, but wouldn’t predict where they will land.

“I’m not going far from wrestling,” he said. Then, when asked if he would return to Cedar Rapids or Eastern Iowa, he laughed and added “you never know where I’ll end up.”

There’s no doubt, however, it will be on his feet.

l Comments: (319) 368-8696; jr.ogden@thegazette.com

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