Blue Springs alum trying for third time to qualify for Olympics

By Michael Smith
Special to The Examiner

If you ask Blue Springs High School graduate Dom Bradley when most amateur wrestlers retire, it's around age 28 or 29.

But even at 32 years old, Bradley isn’t giving up on his dream of wrestling in the Olympics. He will compete in the U.S. Olympic Trials starting Friday at Dickies Arena in Fort Worth, Texas. Bradley aims to win the freestyle 125-kilogram weight division and qualify for the Tokyo Summer Olympics as he goes into the Trials as the four-seed in his weight class.

He’s competed at the Olympic Trials twice before, with his best finish coming in 2016 when he took third. But Bradley said he feels he is in the best shape of his life and is ready for the competition.

“I feel really good right now,” Bradley said. “I really don’t know when I’m going to retire. I am a heavyweight so I am really not cutting weight. Greatest thing about this sport is that it’s hard but you learn something new every day. That’s what makes it fun.

“It doesn’t feel like a job or something that’s strenuous for me.”

So what makes him continue to want to wrestle?

“This is my (third) Olympic Trials and people look at me like I am crazy,” Bradley said. “And people ask why I am still wrestling. I love to compete, and I want to represent my family. I want to keep competing until the wheels fall off.”

Bradley qualified for the Olympic Trials after taking first place at 125 kilograms (275 pounds) at the Senior Nationals in December 2019 in Fort Worth.

When COVID-19 hit the United States a year ago and rules of social distancing swept the nation, Bradley had to take a month off from wrestling. As a volunteer coach at the University of Missouri, he trained at the Hearnes Center for the most part. But the building shut down during the rise of the pandemic.

However, he still found ways to train during the global pandemic – in friends’ basements and in part of his coach’s backyard.

“COVID definitely put a halt to my training for a little bit, but I still had to find a way to work out to keep myself in shape to try and make the Olympics,” said Bradley, who finished with a 105-15 record and was a two-time All-American at Mizzou in the early 2010s.

Since COVID hit, Bradley has been in three competitions.

His most recent competition was in February, where he went 3-1 in the America’s Cup Tournament in Concord, North Carolina. His only loss came to the No. 1 ranked heavyweight in the U.S. Nick Gwidowski in a 3-0 defeat.

“It was a good tournament to shake the cobwebs off and know what I need to work on,” Bradley said. “It was a good measuring stick.”

During another competition in Cincinnati, Ohio in December and went 4-0 in a dual tournament. His first competition since the pandemic was Senior Nationals in Iowa City, Iowa, where he took third in his weight class.

That was his first competition since February of 2020, when he wrestled an exhibition match against Maryland’s Youssif Hemida at the Hearnes Center.

After that, he had to take a seven-month hiatus from competition before he got to compete at a tournament again.

Helping him train during that period were Kendric Maple, an assistant coach at Mizzou, and legendary high school coach Mike Hagerty, who coached Bradley at Blue Springs.

Bradley said that Hagerty is his life and wrestling coach and still puts him through the same rigorous workouts that he did at Blue Springs.

“They are not the most fun workouts, but they help me train,” Bradley said. “Not a lot of people have their high school coach still coaching them, but I believe in Mike Hagerty.”

But since Bradley got to compete at a tournament in February, the 32-year-old feels like he’s ready for his third try at his Olympic dream. The key, according to Bradley, is to get off to a fast start in his matches at the Trials.

“I just want to score a lot of points,” Bradley said. “If I can get a takedown early and get a second shortly after it will put me in a good position. I have beaten everybody in that bracket. When I get the first two takedowns, my record is pretty dang good.

“A lot of people I’ve wrestled either was a national champ or an All-American in college. I was never a national champ. I am just excited to complete.”

Fans can watch the Olympic Wrestling Trials on the NBC Sports Network (Comcast 46) or on the Peacock app starting at 11 a.m. Friday. The consolation rounds start at 1 p.m. Saturday and the championship matches will air at 7:30 p.m. that same day.