Ion Baciu (Baciu meaning Sheppard) was born in a street of a small village called Tunari, close to Bucharest, Romania on 12 May 1944 during the Second World War. His mother was on her way to safety when Russian soldiers found her with the baby and took her to family for help.

Ion grow up in Bucharest with two brothers, his father a carpenter and his mother a factory worker. Ion started wrestling at the age of fifteen at the Rapid Railroad Wrestling Club, after his supervisor at work inspired him to start with the sport. He was quickly recognised as a gifted athlete and was junior champion at the aged of sixteen in the 57 Kg class only one year later.

At age 17 Ion won the senior Romanian championship. In 1962 Ion and Mariana met during a sport tournament in Helsinki, Finland. Mariana was a table tennis champion in 1959 and 1960, including the European champion. She also won the South African veterans championship in 2002. Ion and Mariana got married in 1966 and their son, Cristian was born in 1967, he now lives in Canada. They were married for 38 years.

On the 3rd of September 1967 Ion became world champion when he won the World Championship held in Romania that year, and the Romanian team finishing third overall. At this stage he was the youngest world champion. At the 1968 Olympics games in Mexico Ion won a silver medal, losing only with half a point.

Ion served in the Romanian national defence force for 30 years, mainly involved with the wrestling team and the club called Steaua, meaning star. He had the rank of Colonel.

Ion coached wrestling in United States of America from 1974-1989. Ion’s earnings as a coach were paid to the Romanian government, due to the Communist regime that was still in control. Ion and Mariana could also not travel together, the communist party feared that they would not return once they leave the country as a couple.

Ion arrived in South Africa in 1995 on invite from the president of the Pietersburg Amateur Wrestling Club; Mr Jaco van As. Ion immediately became involved with the club, couching his passion, wrestling. At this stage he was actively involved with promoting the sport at various schools and clubs across the province.

Ion also shared his knowledge and passion for the sport with other coaches, including Jan Roets, the current head coach of Ion Baciu Wrestling Academy, appropriately named after the Romanian champion. Rudi Botha handles the coaching in the Mokopani area and regularly shares his knowledge in coach workshop and wrestling camps.

Ion tragically died on 3 rd of May 2005 when a truck failed to stop at the 4 way crossing, Dendron. He was on his way home after coaching wrestling in Vivo.

Ion is well remembered by all for his exceptional wrestling knowledge, passion and total commitment to the sport of amateur wrestling.