Wrestling legend Bill Weick dies at 85

  • Written by Jeff Vorva

Stock in Mary Jane candy and a couple of cigar factories may have taken a dip.

Anyone who knew Brother Rice wrestling coach Bill Weick, who died Aug. 15 at age 85, loved his cigars and his Mary Jane candy. And he loved wrestling even more.

The Chicago Ridge resident loved the sport so much, he was willing to spend any time he could trying to teach it to various generations of grapplers.

Weick touched many lives during his career as a wrestler and coach, which also included stints with the U.S. Olympic team and Mount Carmel. Even in his eighth decade on earth, he was never too busy to teach.

“A few years ago, I was able to witness some of the magic of Bill Weick,’’ Robert Tipsword wrote on a USA Wrestling message board. “He had his Brother Rice team at a tournament at Buffalo Grove High School. The Buffalo Grove youth wrestling team happened to be practicing in an adjacent gym. During a break in the high school tournament, we found Bill working with the kids on the youth wrestling team.

“A great man, sharing some of his vast knowledge with the little guys.”

It’s likely impossible to figure out how many “little guys” he taught who grew up to be great wrestlers and great members of society, but there were a lot. USA Wrestling President Bruce Baumgartner, a two-time Olympic champion and three-time World champion, told the USA Wrestling website about how much Weick shaped his career.

“Bill Weick was my personal coach at the Olympic Games and World Championships many times. He was instrumental in developing the skills, work ethic and mental toughness that set the foundation for my success over the years,’’ he said. “I first met Bill in 1981, when he was coach of the World University Team. It was one of the toughest camps I had ever gone to. It was my second international experience, and I won. I owe a lot of my success to many coaches, and Bill was one of them who made a difference and set the groundwork for my success.’’

“He was known for old-school toughness and love,’’ added Lee Roy Smith, the executive directior of the National Wrestling Hall of Fame. “He would make you laugh and challenge you to do what was best for you to become a better wrestler. It was much more than you thought you could do. He helped wrestlers get their hands raised at all levels. He coached from youth to the juniors to high school and up to the Olympic level. There was nobody else like Bill. He had a way to get inside wrestlers and make a difference for them.”

His first coaching job was at Maquoketa High School in Iowa, before returning to Illinois to coach at Tilden Tech, where he had won a state title in 1949.

He coached 21 state champs at Mt.Carmel including Olympic star Joe Williams.  Weick took over the Brother Rice program in 2004 and nine years later, Rudy Yates became the school’s first state champion. Under his watch, the Crusaders had 41 state qualifiers.

The Rice wrestling room was dedicated to him in May 2015 and that ceremony featured an appearance from former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld.

Vistatation for Weick was Sunday at the Curley Funeral Home and the funeral mass was held at Most Holy Redeemer Church in Evergreen Park.