“Watching him grow up as he came through our youth program has been fun,” commented longtime Bradley Central wrestling coach Steve Logsdon.
“When his brother Matt was a state champion for us in 2004, Jacob was just a little 10-year-old running around here,” the coach added. “Now he is a key part of what we are doing. His ability has progressed to where he is in the upper tier in Tennessee wrestling.”
High praise for a young man who has had big shoes to fill, plus had an extra hurdle to face while doing so.
“I have aniridia. My eyesight is 20/200,” the 17-year-old junior explained. “It’s like my eyes are dilated all the time. As long as I wear sunglasses (when outside) I’m fine. When I wrestle I can’t see my opponent until we are on the mat. I can’t see him across the gym warming up or anything like that.”
“His eyesight has never been a hindrance on the mat,” Coach Logsdon related. “The only adjustment we have to make is to remember to verbalize what we want him to do rather than try to give him hand signals.”
While wrestling is in his family blood, it also offers Bailey the opportunity to excel athletically. “I played football for a while but quit to concentrate on wrestling,” he remarked. “With the opponent close all the time, the distance sight isn’t that important.”
“Most people don’t realize he has it (aniridia). He doesn’t complain and has never used it as an excuse,” coach Logsdon stated. “He’s a guy who works hard and does his job.”
Nicknamed “Pork Chop” by assistant coach Ben Smith because he was “as wide as he was tall” when he was a youngster, Bailey spent his first year at Bradley on the junior varsity squad.
“I actually felt more pressure that year than the last two because of the tradition here at Bradley and the fact that my brother was a state champion. There were high expectations of me,” he related.
Bailey earned a starting spot midway through last season and posted a 10-3 record with five pins and three technical falls to his credit.
After coming within three seconds of “placing” in last year’s state individual tournament, he has used that experience as motivation for this season.
“I was wrestling a guy who was ranked fifth in the state, but I had beaten him earlier in the year,” Bailey related. “I was ahead of him with just a few seconds to go. All I had to do was keep him from scoring. He took a shot and instead of blocking it, I tried to get fancy to try to score myself and it didn’t work out. That guy went on to wrestle Bailey Jones for the state title.”
Currently ranked fifth in the state among 160-pound wrestlers and with a 25-5 record, including 16 pins, Bailey is hoping to help the Bears claim their 12th state duals title this weekend and their 11th state traditional championship in a couple of weeks.
Along with the help of his big brother and the Bear coaches, Bailey also wants to join the long list of Bradley state medalists.
“Matt is a local police officer and comes by to help the wrestlers, especially ‘Pork Chop,’” coach Logsdon remarked. “Watching them together, you can see they have a special bond.”
“I remember watching him when he wrestled here. I wanted to be like him,” the younger son of Danny and Becky Bailey declared. “He works a lot of overtime, but he comes to practice when he can. It gives us a chance to talk and work out. He makes me better.”
The wrestling bug not only bit the Bailey men, as Jacob explained that his sister, Katie, was a wrestling team manager when she was at Bradley. “She was a year behind Matt in school and volunteered to help with the team.”
With the passion of family and Bear tradition driving him to excel, anyone betting against the youngest Bailey reaching his goals may be “shortsighted.”