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July 02, 2002|Larry Stewart

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What: "The Season: Iowa Wrestling"

Where: ESPN, tonight, 6

This episode of the "The Season," ESPN's popular series that takes viewers behind the scenes as it follows a team through a season, is the first of two one-hour shows focusing on wrestling at the University of Iowa. The second part will be shown a week from tonight.

The documentary, narrated by actor Dylan McDermott, provides an up-close look at a college sport that demands so much, yet returns so little. Viewers will get a first-hand look at the raw emotion wrestlers go through after a devastating loss. However, after a win, these wrestlers show little emotion. That's because winning is expected at Iowa.

The school enjoyed one of the sport's all-time dynasties when Dan Gable was coaching there. But Gable retired after the 1997 season, and now, five years later, the Hawkeyes are not as dominating as they used to be, when they won 20 national titles in 27 seasons. Now, under Coach Jim Zalesky, wins are not routine.

A particularly tough loss featured in tonight's show comes at the hands of rival Iowa State. The Cyclones are led by the phenomenal Cael Sanderson, who goes into the meeting with Iowa with a win streak of 133.

The show takes a close look at a number of the Hawkeyes. Some, such as senior Mike Zadick of Great Falls, Mont., are living up to expectations. Others, such as fifth-year senior Josh Budke of Cedar Falls, Iowa, are not.

Zadick was groomed by his father Bob to be a wrestler at Iowa, as was an older brother.

Of Mike, Bob Zadick says, "I was very tough on [him]. People complained about it.... I've had people accuse me of child abuse and threaten to turn me in. [Wrestling] was really important--next to family and church and God, it was important. It was more important to me than to see him be an A student."

Budke, of his decision to endure another year in a final attempt to crack the starting lineup, says, "When I was a little kid my dad and I would come to watch Iowa wrestling....

"Wrestling for Iowa was a dream of mine.... There's a lot of nights I don't sleep well, just because of the pain and frustration and the pain that comes along with being on the sidelines watching.

"When I have my own son, I'd probably push him in another direction."

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