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Oklahoma Student-Athlete Spotlight: Zack Bailey
December 21, 2010
By Nikkole Zwolenik
Big 12 Campus Correspondent

Oklahoma senior Zack Bailey does not let anything slow him down when it comes to being great, especially if it comes in between him and the mat.

The No. 6-ranked wrestler in the 141-pound weight class has been competing since he was six years old, learning the power that comes from perseverance.

"If you can wrestle, you can pretty much do anything," Bailey said. "It is pretty much why I have been so passionate about it. It is just a test of will power and it takes a lot of dedication to be good at it."

While most wrestlers hang up their uniforms after the first season-ending injury, Bailey fought back from four major shoulder injuries to become one of the elite in collegiate wrestling today.

Bailey began his battle before his senior year of high school. After winning three straight Missouri state titles in his class at Oak Park High School, he had his first surgery. He recovered and took his fourth straight state title before having another surgery after his second shoulder injury in two years.

"They weren't short surgeries, they were six-month layovers," Bailey said.  "In that time I improved my game and then I'd step back so I had to start all over."

Even through the setbacks, Bailey managed to hold a record of 158-4 in high school and lead his team to three state championships during his career.

Bailey sustained his third season-ending injury in November 2006, prompting his third surgery and a redshirt for the season. After that, Bailey knew that he had to make fundamental changes if he wanted to continue to compete.

"I had to make some changes to the way I trained and just the way I lived my life," Bailey said. "Trying to stay as healthy as possible and not getting beat down through workouts, it was a long process."

Bailey never lost sight of his goals, even after a fourth shoulder injury in January 2008. Despite recommendations to quit, Bailey rebounded and bettered his game to account for his vulnerable shoulder.

"I had to learn how to wrestle with a shoulder that's not 100 percent," Bailey said. "That's just the way I trained and the way I drilled, not getting into those situations that put my shoulder in jeopardy."

Bailey took fourth in the NCAA's in 2009, an accomplishment that he holds in high regard. Bailey wrestled nine matches and took five straight after losing in the first round of the double-elimination tournament.

"Having a marathon of wrestling like that is just pretty fun and it was nice to get the All-American status," Bailey said.

Bailey finished the season with a 31-8 record to go along with his All-American achievement.

Bailey is continuing to improve through his senior season, currently holding a 14-2 record, and is aiming for another shot at the national championship trophy in March.

"It's been a long run to get to where I need to be and I still have work if I'm going to try for the nationals this year," Bailey said. "I have still got to improve, but it's been a good journey, I've learned from it."

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