Athletes remember Coach Willie Gadson as tough but caring - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

Athletes remember Coach Willie Gadson as tough but caring

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Coach Willie Gadson Coach Willie Gadson
WATERLOO (KWWL) -

Family and friends gathered Monday morning to remember Willie "Coach" Gadson.

Gadson died after a battle with Stage 4 lung and bone cancer on March 10.

Coach Gadson was remembered by his athletes as a tough coach, but always caring. Some of his wrestlers said they thought of Gadson as a father figure.

When Gadson's wrestlers found out he had cancer, they were devastated. But they said you couldn't tell he was sick in the wrestling room.

Gadson coached 16 state qualifiers at Waterloo East High School and was himself a two-time All-American at Iowa State.

Gadson's wrestlers said it was more than wrestling for this man -- he wanted his athletes to be good role models for their community.

"Great man. Always there for us," said Davon Caldwell, a Waterloo East wrestler. "He loved us. Never let us down. Always kept getting at us about anything. Always stressed student first, athlete second. Put school over anything. Great man."

"He was a role model," added Dedrick Jordan, another Waterloo East wrestler. "He inspired me to do my best all the time even after he became sick. I dedicated everything I did to him, getting better and continuing to work hard."

Coach Gadson died one day after his son Kyven won his first Big 12 individual title at Iowa State.

Gadson's funeral is set to start at 11 a.m., with a public vitiation starting one hour prior.

Gadson was 59 years old.

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