Willie Gadson, former Iowa State wrestler and assistant coach, died Sunday morning after a year-long battle with cancer, hours after his son Kyven won the 197-pound title for the Cyclones at the 2013 Big 12 Wrestling Championships Saturday.
Gadson, 59, who was a two-time NCAA All-American and Big Eight conference champ in the mid-1970s, had been diagnosed with stage four bone and lung cancer in April 2012. In late June 2012, a fundraiser for Willie Gadson was held in Waterloo, Iowa, where he had been head wrestling coach at Waterloo East High School since 2004.
Gadson had wrestled at Huntington High School on Long Island, N.Y., then at Nassau Community College for two years where he was a two-time NJCAA (National Junior College Athletic Association) All-American before enrolling at Iowa State. As a Cyclone, Gadson wrestled at 177 pounds, earning All-American honors by placing third at the 1975 NCAAs, and sixth at the 1976 NCAAs, In addition, he won back-to-back Big Eight titles.
At the conclusion of his mat career, the senior Gadson crafted a coaching career that spanned three decades. He served as assistant coach at Iowa State from 1979 to 1982. Later, Gadson took the head coaching position at Eastern Michigan in 1992, leading the Eagles to their first Mid-American Conference title in 1996. For his efforts, he was named MAC Coach of the Year that year.
"The things that he did at Eastern Michigan on the budget they had, on the scholarship numbers they had speaks volumes about his coaching ability," said Iowa State head coach Kevin Jackson, a friend of Gadson's for 30 years. "His passion, his energy towards the sport is unmatched."
After leaving EMU in 1997, Gadson took his coaching talents to the prep level, first as an assistant coach at Iowa City West, then as head coach at Waterloo East in 2004.
Cyclone coach Jackson linked the two generations of Gadsons, saying, What's positive about it is that I see Willie in Kyven in a lot of ways. As sad as we are about Willie's passing, I believe he is in a better place and I believe it was his time and things happen for a reason. It's now Kyven's chance to really become the man that his mom and dad raised him to be."
Kyven Gadson issued a statement on behalf of his family:
"Thank you everyone for all the love that you're sending to my family. We truly appreciate the support. The family is in good spirits. We love you all. Remember to smile at the memories! Willie would want you to smile instead of cry and to push forward instead of taking a step back. God is Great!"
Monday evening, Kyven Tweeted information on funeral arrangements for his father:
"The funeral services for Willie Lee "Coach" Gadson are set for 11 a.m. Monday, March 18, 2013 at East High School, 214 High Street, Waterloo."
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