From State Titles to Global Championships: The Wrestling Journey of Dom Bradley

Dom Bradley has a resume loaded with impressive accomplishments on the wrestling mat.

But, now his future will be only on the corner of the mat. 

The Missouri assistant wrestling coach announced to Zebulin Miller on a GOhioCasts podcast that he officially retired.

Watch the full interview here

At 35 years old, he announced he was done after taking third at the U.S. Olympic Trials last month in Pennsylvania. It was the fourth team trial for Bradley, a Blue Springs High School graduate. He is considered an alternate in the 125 kg division at the upcoming Paris Olympics but he says it is over.

However, he did take off his shoes on the mat which is customary for many wrestlers when they announce their retirement.

Even his old collegiate coach and current boss, Brian Smith, isn’t so sure.

“I was lifting the other day, I lifted twice and Coach Smith said, ‘I thought you were retired? Why are you lifting?” Bradley said. 

Bradley told his boss he still needed to stay in shape.

Bradley downed 2024 NCAA 285-pound champion Greg Kerkvilet 2-2 in the third-place match, winning on criteria.

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He also picked up a win over Air Force’s Wyatt Hendrickson — a third-place finisher at the NCAA finals — at the trials. He won that match 12-8 in the quarterfinals. Hayden Zillmer beat Bradley, 5-0, to send him to the consolation bracket. Bradley beat Trent Hillger before facing Kerkvilet. In the true third match, he lost to Nick Gwiazdowski by a 7-4 decision. 

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“After I beat Hendrickson my dad’s like, ‘Hey, you got to hit this move’ and I’m like, I’m not hitting that move,” Bradley said. “I’m going to do what I want to do. I’m not thinking about it like that, but it’s great my dad still cares. But, it’s like, hey man, I have like four matches left in this body. Let’s just see what happens.”

He said the win over Hendrickson was big since he lost by a tech fall to him last year— the only time he lost like that in 20-plus years of wrestling. 

Some of his coaching experience came back to help in that match against Hendrickson — who is now in the portal and looking for a new college. Missouri’s Zach Elam wrestled Hendrickson and he remembers telling Elam to circle left to keep Hendrickson from shooting. Before Bradley had a chance against Hendrickson again, it was Elam telling Bradley to circle left and use underhooks. 

Bradley said this was the first tournament he ever had to cut weight to compete in and mentioned how much he hated it. 

He said when this school year started, he wasn’t planning on wrestling competitively but things changed. Slowly but surely, a number of the current Tigers got injured this year and Bradley became the practice partner of Zach Elam. 

“I was like, alright, if I’m going to wrestle with a Junior World silver medalist and a returning All-American at the time, every day for a month and a half, I’m like … I guess I better go wrestle and see what happens.”

Bradley’s resume on the mat that spans three decades with three state titles at Blue Springs (2005-07) and helped the Wildcats bring home three trophies during that span as well. 

During the summer of 2009, Bradley claimed the Junior Freestyle World Championship title in Ankara, Turkey. Bradley had a solid freestyle season, finishing third at the Senior World Team Trials and fourth at the U.S. Senior Nationals. He also claimed the FILA Junior Team Trials and FILA Junior Nationals titles that year.

In the 2010-11 season, he became a starter for the Tigers and took third place at the 2011 NCAA Championships. He also won a Big 12 Conference championship that year.

He took an Olympic redshirt year in 2011-12 but returned the next year to take fourth at the NCAA Championships in 2012-13 and won a MAC Championship. Bradley was 105-15 as Mizzou.

He later added accomplishments such as:

Two-time U.S Open Champion (2013, 2016)

Two-time Pan American Champion (2016-’17)

Two-time Dave Schultz Memorial International Champion (2012, 2017), 

He represented USA wrestling on national teams eight different times. He’s collected dozens of trophies, plaques and stop signs over the years. A few of them sit in his office at the Hearnes Center, others are in storage and he said some of them may still be at his parents’ house.

Miller asked Bradley to rank some of the top foes he’s had in his career. That group included Tervel Dlagnev, Tommy Rowlands, Steve Mocco, J’den Cox and Gable Steveson.

Some of those he beat a few times, others just once, but they will provide memories for a lifetime.

“It’s just crazy when you’ve been wrestling for so long that your idols become your rivals,” Bradley said. 

Bradley said his career trajectory was molded in high school under the guidance of Mike Hagerty, a hall-of-fame wrestling coach. Hagerty, with over 25 years of experience, is a renowned NCAA Division I wrestling official and a Meritorious Official inductee into the National Wrestling Hall of Fame. He has officiated at major championships including the NCAA Division I Championships (2003-2017), 14 Division II Championships, and various other conference championships such as the Big 12 and Pac-12. Hagerty also founded the Inter-Collegiate Wrestling Officials Association in 2015 and has held significant roles in wrestling coaching and administration, coaching the USA World Team six times and winning the World University Championship in 2015. Additionally, he has an extensive coaching background, having led the University of Central Missouri and Blue Springs High School to multiple championships and producing numerous All-Americans and national qualifiers.

Bradley qualified for state as a freshman at Blue Springs — the only year he didn’t win a title. But, he learned lessons in that room that still resonate with him years later.

The 189-pounder was Louis Caputo, who went to Harvard and became a four-time NCAA qualifier. The heavyweight at the time was Jaron Baston, who ended up at Missouri as well but as a defensive tackle. An all-state wrestler for the Wildcats, he ended up signing with the Denver Broncos after being a defensive lineman for the Tigers. 

“It was just me and those two and then our high school coach and I would get my ass whopped every freaking day for two years,” Bradley said. “I couldn’t wait for a tournament or a dual because you know, I was like ‘Hey, I don’t have to get my ass whooped today.’ I knew it wasn’t going to be as bad as these guys beating me.”

Hagerty also pushed Bradley into competing in Fargo and the Cadet nationals and having him enter both the Cadets and Juniors to be tested. He even wrestled heavyweight at times when he was only about 215 pounds. 

Among his accomplishments at Blue Springs was winning a title the first year of the KC Stampede — now a go-to tournament for teams across the nation.

Now, Bradley is the one pushing people to get better on the mat. Being Coach Bradley is one of the reasons he knows it is time to hang it up.

“I would love to keep wrestling but it’s just selfish of my family and it’s getting really tough,” he said. “I’m going to still train and I’m still going to work out and I’m still going to lift weights but the competing part is just hard on my body. I’m at the Hearnes Center from 8 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. every Monday and Wednesday for four or five months and it’s a grind. I have a son who’s seven and he will be eight in June and I have a daughter who’s six. They both wrestled this year.”

Along with being a wrestling dad now, he’s also a gymnastic dad and juggles keep his athletic family busy. 

“People have said keep going and keep going and I’m like I would love to but with my kids and my family and my coaching, it’s just hard,” Bradley said. 

Thank you for all the wrestling memories, Dom, looking forward to many more successes from you.

What do you think?

Cody Thorn

Written by Cody Thorn

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