When Dom Bradley first heard his shot at Olympic wrestling glory had been put on hold, he didn’t feel anger or despair.
Quite the opposite, actually.
“I was kind of just relieved,” Bradley said. “I can take a break and really focus on my health in this crazy time right now.”
It sounds crazy, because for years Bradley has been focused on making the U.S. Olympic wrestling team. And after establishing himself as one of the top heavyweights in the country this season, the former Blue Springs High School and University of Missouri standout appeared a sure shot to make it through the team trials.
But like everything else in the COVID-19 coronavirus-ravaged sports landscape, the tournament, scheduled for April 4-5 at Penn State’s Bryce Jordan Center, is on hold. And no one knows when – or if – it will be held.
So all Bradley can do now is work out and wait. And keep everything in a mature perspective.
“It’s definitely No. 1, but I’d say it’s 1B; family’s 1A,” Bradley said. “I’m thinking about it, but there’s not much I can do right now but think about it. I can’t get upset or stressed about it. You can only control what you can control.”
There are other priorities now for Bradley besides wrestling, and that’s helped him see the big picture. He’s a family man now, with a 3-year-old boy and a 3-year-old girl with fiance Kayla Horton. Currently a volunteer assistant coach at Missouri and a one-time assistant at Blue Springs, he’s serious about launching his coaching career.
Neither of those, he realizes, are worth the risk of getting sick.
“It’s just tough,” Bradley said. “You want to work out; it’s what you’re trained to do. Your thought process is, is it worth it?
“I really want to be an Olympic champ, that’s the ultimate goal, but I’d rather almost see my kids be healthy and see them be successful. So it’s kind of tough right now.”
Coaching at Mizzou, where he went 105-15 from 2009-13, placed third in the 2011 NCAA championships and won Big 12 and MAC titles, offered Bradley the opportunity to pursue his Olympic dream. He just missed making the 2016 team, and he qualified for another shot by winning the Senior Nationals 125-kilogram division last December.
Bradley expected to be seeded third in the heavyweight field at the Olympic trials, but he’d beaten the likely No.1 and No. 2 seeds. Win the division, and he’s off to Tokyo.
“I’ve been training really hard and doing everything right so it (stinks),” said Bradley, who turned 31 last week. “I’m in the best shape of my life. I’m in the last couple of tournaments in my career, and it’s been like let’s do everything right and I have been running and lifting and wrestling.”
Bradley is trying to work out on his own, but it isn’t easy. The wrestling facility at MU, like everything else on campus, is closed. He does some running and has some bands for weight work, but some things are more difficult at home. Like eating right.
“My kids always want to eat this crazy stuff,” Bradley said. “They want to eat cakes and cookies and it’s just like, no you’ve got to be smart. Your best coach is yourself. I think your best motivator is yourself in anything you do. I guess I’ve got to push myself in my own ways.”
Bradley isn’t aware of any timetable for rescheduling the trials, but he knows they haven’t been canceled outright. And since the Olympics don’t begin until July – at least for now – he believes there’s still plenty of time to select the team.
He also believes he’ll be just fine if it doesn’t happen.
“I wish I could win every match and be the best, but at the end of the day I’d rather be a better person, a great coach, a great father, a great mentor,” Bradley said. “That’s more important than Olympic gold. Going to the Olympics and competing would be awesome, but if it doesn’t happen I’ve got other things to keep me busy and keep me excited.”