By Kevin Donnellan
When Missouri won the Big 12 wrestling championship on March 3 you could forgive Dom Bradley if his feelings were conflicted. He could have been there, but until April, at least, his focus must lay elsewhere.
The weekend of April 21-22 is the current focus for Bradley. Last year’s Big 12 Conference champion and All-American took a redshirt this year in the hopes of representing the United States at the Olympics in London. The potential reward for the year away from collegiate wrestling is huge, but it hasn’t come without a few regrets.
“It’s difficult, it still is difficult. I want to be on the team right now cause we’re doing so great,” Bradley said, who will be wrestling in the 264 pound weight class. “I know I had to get my goals of being on a Olympic team, I had to do those for my own personal reasons… so next year when I come back it’ll be even better, it’ll be worth it, next year.”
A hard decision was made easier by the advice from a man Bradley obviously has a lot of faith in; wrestling coach Brain Smith.
“Coach Smith told me, ‘Don’t you want to be on the Olympic team? Don’t you want to be an Olympic gold medalist? You need to do this, you need to take some time for yourself,’” said Bradley. “So that’s why I did it, that’s what it came down to.”
Olympic wrestling is contested in two disciplines; Greco-Roman and freestyle. Bradley will compete in freestyle, a change from folk style in collegiate wrestling. Bradley is relaxed about the changes needed to compete at Olympic level, saying the change is “not really difficult,” but coach Smith points out that there are plenty of adjustments to be made.
“In freestyle you have to win every period, so it’s a two minute period. Whereas in folk style it’s an accumulation over seven minutes, the whole match,” Smith said. “Freestyle is mostly on your feet, the big thing too is if you push the guy out of the circle in freestyle it’s a point, so finishes aren’t as important as getting to the leg and being able to do push outs.”
Aside from a few trips to the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, Bradley has continued to train at the Hearnes Center with the college team.
Looking past a potential Olympic appearance there is also senior year to look forward to. “I’m still going to be on a great team next year, still going to be able to graduate from Missouri, still going to try to leave here as a national champ,” Bradley said. “Another goals is just to graduate college, being on an a great team and getting another All-American National Championship.”
Bradley does admit there is one aspect of college life he hasn’t missed greatly; classes. “That’s the part I’m not looking forward to, its going to be difficult, going back to class, taking class again,” Bradley said with a smile. “It’s going to be hard to get used to.”
For now though third weekend in April is the focus. For Bradley there are some nerves, but mostly confidence. “Its going to be a once in a lifetime experience, it’s just a mix of emotions,” Bradley said. “But I’m not going to be happy unless I win it.”
Bradley’s mentor shares his confidence. “He’s a great freestyler…he’s ranked third in the U.S. right now, he’s got to beat the two guys in front of him to make the Olympic team but he’s right there and he’s had a good year,” Smith said. “I’m looking forward to April.”
The 2012 U.S. Olympic Wrestling Trials are April 21-22 at Carver-Hawkeye Arena in Iowa City, Iowa. Here is the schedule for the trails.