RUMFORD – The spotlight has shined on Brendan Bradley during his stellar career in high school athletics the past two years.
The Mountain Valley High School senior will enjoy some bonus time next month before his career winds down.
Bradley, a three-sport standout currently playing lacrosse, has been selected to wrestle in the 22nd annual Friendship Series. A team comprised of Maine wrestlers will travel to Nebraska in June.
Bradley is the lone local wrestler named to the squad.
“It was kind of a surprise being invited to Nebraska,” Bradley said. “I thought they would have invited James McPhee from Foxcroft, but I’m definitely honored to be going and represent Maine.”
Mountain Valley teammate Dave Smith, who went to Nebraska in 2004, has told Bradley about the activities and the traveling across the Cornhusker state. It’s a full schedule, but he’ll make new friends from other teams in Maine.
Bradley is the two-time Class B state champion at 215-pounds. Bradley excelled on the mat, despite weighing less than 200 pounds as a junior and senior.
“Brendan came out of nowhere last year,” Mountain Valley wrestling coach Gary Dolloff said. “He worked hard and overachieved. But, he did things his own way on the mat because he had a certain style and (executed) it. One of the things that really helped him was realizing the importance of physical conditioning.”
Bradley credits much of his success to partnering with teammates and multi-state champions Chris and Dave Smith.
He’s often received ribbing during weigh-ins because the scale would read 190. The consensus would be, “you could wrestle 189. What are you doing up in 215?”
“I love to eat,” Bradley said. “The past two years have been some of the best times in my life. I mean it has been one big roller coaster ride, and I have had a lot of help along the way. It has been a lot of fun.”
Realizing the importance of being in shape, Bradley always did extra running after practices. He credited Dolloff and Ryan Casey for working with him on conditioning.
This season created an even greater challenge because the pressure on him was greater following a career-ending injury to Dave Smith. Every wrestler needs to figure out their major assets, and Bradley realized opponents had a size advantage.
“I am strong for my size,” Bradley said. “I would utilize my quickness. But, I think just having the determination to overcome the size difference and step up for my team, when they needed me. (Smith’s injury) was a hard loss. Everyone was looking for me to step up because I was now the only state champ from last year still wrestling.”
Bradley saved his best for last when everything was on the line at the state meet. A dominating victory in the semifinals setup a rematch against Joe Brownwell in the state final. Bradley had lost to Brownwell 9-8 in the regional final the previous week. The rematch would be different story.
Bradley came from behind in the third period for a 6-4 decision. His victory also clinched the team title. It was the Falcons second straight state championship.
“Brendan didn’t receive any respect,” Dolloff said. “Usually after winning a state title, there’s a little intimidation, but when opponents had to wrestle him, it was no big deal. But, I honestly believe it helped because he had to work harder.”
Bradley was a two-way starter on the football team that won the Class B state championship in 2004. It was during the Falcons unbeaten run that Bradley was recognized for his reckless abandon and the ability to punish opponents with hard, clean tackles.
“I think the easiest way to sum up how I tick in football is I love to hit,” Bradley said. “It doesn’t matter how. Whether I’m getting hit and getting my bell rung or if I’m the one hitting someone. Of course it’s better for me to be the one (hitting).”
Bradley summed up his philosophy on living and letting thing fall into place.
“I hate to lose,” he said. “But losing is a part of life. Everyone sometimes has to face it. So I just learn from my losses.”