Iowa Hawkeyes

Ex-Hawkeye Barry Davis remains close to wrestling

Ogden column: Former Wisconsin coach still has plenty give sport he loves

Former Iowa Hawkeyes wrestler Barry Davis talks with people before the Big Ten Conference dual at Carver-Hawkeye Arena in Iowa City on Friday. (Stephen Mally/The Gazette)
Former Iowa Hawkeyes wrestler Barry Davis talks with people before the Big Ten Conference dual at Carver-Hawkeye Arena in Iowa City on Friday. (Stephen Mally/The Gazette)

It’s hard to think of Barry Davis and not think of wrestling.

The first time he stood, it was probably in a wrestling stance.

He grew up outside Cedar Rapids and won three prep state titles at Prairie High School. He moved down the road to Iowa City and won three NCAA titles for Dan Gable and the University of Iowa.

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

He, naturally, went into coaching, first working under Gable at Iowa before moving east to Madison, Wis., where he became the head coach at the University of Wisconsin in 1994.

Last March, he retired after leading the Badger program for 25 years.

If you thought that was the end of Davis’ love affair with the sport, you don’t know Barry Davis.

Although he said Sunday his college coaching days are over, he’s still coaching and, likely, always will.

“I just want to be involved in the sport of wrestling and give back to wrestling,” he said.

His full-time job these days is with Silver Star Nutrition, which focuses its all-natural menu on athletes of all levels. He also is a volunteer coach at New Lisbon, Wis., helping one of his former wrestlers, Brian Slater, coach aspiring collegians and Olympians.

And, he has talked to one of his former assistant coaches, ex-Hawkeye standout Terry Steiner, about working with the women’s freestyle program Steiner oversees for USA Wrestling.

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“I think it’s a great thing,” the 57-year-old father of two daughters and grandfather of one granddaughter said about the growing sport of women’s wrestling. “It just creates great opportunities for women.”

The dream? Davis would love to help coach the U.S. women’s team in the 2024 Olympics, then head over to the track to watch his youngest, Amy, run. Amy is a junior at Wisconsin and — like her mother, Nan Doak-Davis — is an All-American runner.

But what he really wants to do is give back, to take what he has learned from his mother and father and multitude of coaches and share with anyone who will listen.

“It’s all about helping people and changing lives,” he said.

Many of Gable’s former wrestlers have given back to the sport in big ways and several still are coaching at the highest level — Tom Ryan at Ohio State, Jim Heffernan at Illinois, Tom Brands at Iowa. But, to Davis, it goes back even farther than that,

“(My dad) was a blue-collar worker, worked two jobs,” Davis said. “He once told me ‘I never had a lot, but I always had enough.’

“My dad would always give ... that’s a good trait to have.”

Davis admits this first year away from big-time college wrestling has been tough at times, but he hasn’t wandered far. He was at an Iowa dual recently in Minnesota and was back at Carver-Hawkeye Arena on Friday, watching his alma mater take down Maryland.

He’s not your typical fan in the stands.

“I still take notes. I write stuff down,” he said. “I’m a detail guy. I’m always learning about the sport, making changes.

“I like to challenge myself.”

He said he’ll be in Minneapolis for the first day of the Big Ten Championships next month and will attend the NCAA Championships in Pittsburgh. He’ll have his notebook.

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“I’m still coaching and teaching,” he said. “I still need to be on my game.”

Davis still has plenty of game and plenty to give.

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

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