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|Missouri heavyweight Dom Bradley has eyes on big prizes in 2013|
By Craig Sesker USA Wrestling
Missouri’s Dom Bradley defeated All-American Mike McMullan of Northwestern in the NWCA All-Star Classic. Tony Rotundo photo.
Dom Bradley had never experienced anything like it.
Bradley looked on intently when Americans Jordan Burroughs and Jake Varner captured Olympic gold medals in freestyle wrestling this past August in London, England.
Bradley was part of the U.S. contingent at the Olympic Games, serving as a training partner for American heavyweight Tervel Dlagnev.
“It was awesome to be over there and see it – it was really exciting,” Bradley said. “It was a great experience. I saw some of the greatest wrestling I have ever seen in my life. It really motivated me to think I can compete with those guys if I set my mind to it. My goal is to make the World Team this season and my dream is to wrestle in the Olympics in Rio in 2016.”
Bradley made significant gains while taking an Olympic redshirt during the 2011-12 school year. He is now back competing at Missouri for his senior season. He is ranked third nationally at heavyweight after placing third at the 2011 NCAA tournament.
Bradley won the Cliff Keen Invitational this past weekend in Las Vegas. He defeated Oregon State’s Chad Hanke, another Olympic redshirt and past U.S. National Team member, by a 3-2 score in the finals.
“It was a good tournament for me,” Bradley said. “I could’ve done better, but it’s only December. I’m trying to get better every week. The transition back to college has been a lot easier than I thought it would be. The hardest part is the grind of going to school while having two practices a day. But everything is going real well.”
Bradley, 23, experienced some success during his Olympic redshirt season as he took a break from school while focusing full-time on freestyle wrestling.
He won the Sunkist Kids International and the Dave Schultz Memorial this past season at 120 kg/264.5 lbs. He competes for the Sunkist Kids.
Bradley made three straight U.S. Senior National Teams in freestyle from 2009-11. He placed third at the U.S. World Team Trials in those three years. He won a Junior World title in 2009.
“I like where Dom is at this point in his career,” U.S. National Coach Zeke Jones said. “He’s had some solid results. Dom moves well for a big man, his leg attacks are getting better, and he has a pretty good handle on most of the freestyle tactics. There’s no doubt he knows what he’s got to do to get to the next level. With Brian Smith and Sammie Henson there guiding him at Missouri, he will be ready this Olympic cycle.”
Bradley had high hopes entering the U.S. Olympic Team Trials this past April, but he dropped a three-period battle to Jarod Trice in the quarterfinals of the Challenge Tournament.
Bradley rebounded to sweep Justin Grant before falling to 2008 Olympian Steve Mocco in three periods.
“I lost two really close matches, and it just wasn’t my day,” Bradley said. “It was disappointing. I had a bad day. It was a great honor to be able to compete in the Olympic Trials, and it was a good experience. I just have to learn from it and get better.”
Bradley went right back to work after the Olympic Trials.
“Dom was supposed to take a week off after the Trials, but he was back in the room on Monday,” Missouri coach Brian Smith said. “He was ready to get right back to work and start training to be an NCAA champion this season. That’s what makes him special. He always wants to improve.”
Bradley is in a tough heavyweight division in college that includes returning NCAA champion Tony Nelson of Minnesota. Nelson beat Bradley in the finals of the University Nationals earlier this year.
The fourth-ranked Trice is also back after taking an Olympic redshirt while Oklahoma State’s Alan Gelogaev is ranked second after coming back from an injury. Hanke is ranked sixth. All-Americans Mike McMullan of Northwestern and Bobby Telford of Iowa also are in the mix.
“There about seven or eight guys that are right in there,” Bradley said. “There are a lot of high-caliber guys. I am excited to get the chance to compete against them.”
Bradley came to Missouri with sparkling credentials after winning three state high school titles. He was ranked No. 1 nationally in high school.
Bradley redshirted before being stuck behind NCAA champion Mark Ellis for two seasons with the Tigers. Bradley then placed third in the country in his first season as a full-time starter as a junior.
“They battled it out and Ellis won the spot,” Smith said. “It was tough on Dom because he had beaten a lot of the best kids in the country from other schools. He just kept working and I think it made him stronger.”
Bradley has improved his wrestling down on the mat this season.
“Dom lost on riding time against (eventual NCAA champion) Zach Rey two years ago at nationals,” Smith said. “Dom has worked hard to improve in that area. He is riding better and getting out better.”
Bradley’s forte is on his feet.
“Dom is really hard to take down,” Smith said. “He moves really well. He’s the fastest guy on the team from one to two yards, and that’s all you need. He can get to the leg and he’s really good at it. He has to get to his shots and make something happen. He can take anybody down in the country. He just can’t get caught standing around when guys try to slow him down.”
Bradley is part of a strong Missouri team that placed a close second behind Ohio State at the Cliff Keen event. The Tigers are ranked seventh nationally by Amateur Wrestling News.
“We have a great team,” Bradley said. “We have a solid lineup from top to bottom. We had a real good performance in Vegas and now people know who we are.”
Bradley is scheduled to graduate in the spring semester with a major in hotel restaurant management and a minor in business. He will only have one class left after the Christmas break.
Bradley said he is glad he took the Olympic redshirt.
“I went to a bunch of international tournaments and a lot of training camps in Colorado,” he said. “I trained at Missouri and I worked out with (past World bronze medalist) Tervel Dlagnev quite a bit. It was great having a year to get better in freestyle and continue to improve. I came up short of what I wanted at the Olympic Trials, but it was a good experience for me. I think I’m a smarter wrestler and I am ready to be the guy for the U.S.”
Smith said Bradley’s athleticism translates well to international wrestling. Bradley is ranked third, behind Dlagnev and Trice, in the U.S. Senior freestyle rankings at heavyweight.
“He’s really, really hard to take down,” Smith said. “He’s so powerful, and he can score with underhooks by getting pushouts. He’s also got a great high single that he can score with. With his style, he’s built to be successful in freestyle. He stays in such good position.”
Smith envisions Bradley making a huge impact in the very near future on the mat.
“He can be an NCAA champion and an Olympic gold medalist,” Smith said. “That’s his mindset. He believes he can do it and I believe he can do it. I’m excited to see what happens. Dom is a phenomenal kid and he’s like having another coach on our staff. He’s been great to work with.”