Other than a two-week TSSAA mandatory “dead period” the last week of June and the first week of July, off-season conditioning and competitions are going on.
“This is our ‘spring practice,’” Bradley Central wrestling coach Ben Smith said in reference to the annual football spring drills. “From May 23 through June 23 we can have 15 practices and 10 days of competition before the dead period begins.”
“We are offering several options to accommodate all of our wrestlers,” he added. “We have the Sun Rise Run with me at 7 each morning, then we will have (weight) lifting with Coach (Justin) Anglin at 5 p.m. three days a week before we have a practice at 6 or 6:30. We also have eight competition days set up so far.”
The Bear wrestlers went to the Pigeon Forge Duals Thursday and Friday, winning seven of eight dual meets.
“We don’t keep an official score, but we won the majority of matches in all but one of our meets,” coach Smith related. “The only one to beat us was Maryville Heritage, who had nine of their starters there and we only had four.”
Bradley was one of the teams at the event to wear special red head bands with the nickname “Rooster” on them to honor Heritage wrestler Skyler Boring, who was killed in an shooting accident earlier this week.
“When we (Bradley and Heritage) go to Atlanta in a couple of weeks we are going to have shirts made up to wear to honor him,” the Bear coach remarked.
The Bears will travel to Atlanta June 14-16 for the Militia Duals before spending three days at the University of Tennessee-Chattanooga Camp June 17-19.
“We have a busy June planned, then after the dead period we will go back to strictly conditioning with runs in the mornings and lifts in the late afternoons available three days a week,” coach Smith remarked. “Coach (Steve) Logsdon used to say ‘You can’t learn to swim by riding a bike,” so we want to give our guys as much opportunity to get on the mat as possible.”
“We’ve been having anywhere from 10-15 at the morning runs, 15-20 at the lifts and 15-25 at the mat practices so far,” he explained. “We want to provide as many opportunities for our guys to get better as we can. What they do now, goes a long way to how successful they are when the (high school) season comes around.”
The Bradley Pride Wrestling Club also allows wrestlers the opportunity to get in some valuable mat experience.
“(Former Bear state medalist) Ryan Ensminger coaches at Lake Forest Middle School and is the head coach of the Bradley Pride middle school. BPWC is a club team that is run out of our facility at Bradley that is open to any wrestler from any school that wants to get better, free of charge,” coach Smith stated. “Back in the spring, he and his team won the Tennessee AAU middle school club state championship and had six of our middle school clubbers on the Team Tennessee that represented the our state at the National Duals in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, that was held in the exact same venue that the recent NCAA Division I wrestling championships were held in.”
A duo of former Bear state wrestling champions — Ethan Hames and David Graham — are also working with the BPWC high school team. “We are also hoping to have Travis Creagan (another former Bradley state champion) being able to work with us as he works on his Masters degree,” commented coach Smith.
“Our club system is functioning at a very high level,” coach Smith praised. “They are having a lot of success at the events they are participating in and the numbers are better than they’ve been in 5-to-10 years.”
Along with what the team is offering, several Bear wrestlers will also attend summer camps on their own. “We have some guys who are going to the Penn State Wrestling Camp that will be held at Berry College,” explained coach Smith.
“We have guys who are doing everything they can to get better and get to that state championship level,” he added.
The Bears had two individual state champions this past season as sophomore Toribio Navarro won the 106-pound title, while senior Robbie Clark captured the 160-pound crown.
“What we do now can set the tone for next season and what we are able to do with these (incoming) freshmen could set the tone for their whole career,” proclaimed coach Smith.
“To get back to the top of the state, where we were for so long, we have to pay the price by working hard not just during the season but in the off-season as well,” he declared. Bradley has won a total of 22 TSSAA state dual and traditional team titles, but none have come in the last two seasons.
“My goal is to be the hardest working coach in the state and I want us to be the hardest working team,” Coach Smith concluded.