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An Interview with Mizzou Wrestling coaches Dom Bradley and Kendric Maple

I got a chance to talk with Mizzou’s assistant wrestling coaches on coaching and competing at the upcoming US Open

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Wrestling is one of the unique sports that often sees assistant coaches stay active in competition while coaching. Oftentimes, coaches graduate and begin to wrestle more on the international scene, competing in overseas tournaments, Worlds, and even the Olympics. Mizzou is lucky enough to have two coaches who are well established in the international scene— Dom Bradley and Kendric Maple.

I sat down with each of them to ask a few questions before they compete in the US Open this weekend.

Dom Bradley was a 2x All-American for Mizzou, and has been a perennial heavyweight contender going back to his time in high school. Since 2008, he has placed in the top four at the US Open ten times and won it in 2013 and 2016. He’s also placed top four at the Olympic Trials in both 2016 and 2021. A Junior World Champ in 2009, he will be looking to qualify and represent another world team this year.

James Hackney: Do you think staying active in competition helps you as a coach?

Dom Bradley: 110%. I’m showing guys stuff that I’m working on, so I’m not just making something up, and I think it makes it more fun. Like when Zach wrestled Cassioppi in the bloodround, I’m like ‘hey, I wrestled that guy, here’s what I did.’ Obviously I lost, I tore my bicep in that match, but you know it’s just tips that can help him or help Rocky. Rocky and Keegan this summer are going to Junior Worlds and I was like ‘hey this is what you should expect, etc.’ They had great coaches in Coach Maple and Coach Smith that went with them, but I can give them tips to get ready for competition things like that.

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JH: For you, do you have to make a mental adjustment to go from coaching folkstyle to turning around and competing in freestyle?

DB: No, not at all. No, it’s tough, I hate the top bottom days just because Zach Elam is really good on top. I won’t tell him that, but he knows that. On your feet wrestling is wrestling, folkstyle, freestyle, greco. I’ve wrestled every single style, so it doesn’t matter.

JH: What example do you try and set for guys when you compete?

DB: To have fun. We work too hard, do all these crazy workouts. These new bikes here we try and break them, and we’re in the weight room at 6:15 in the morning and it’s so hard and it’s so fun. Some of these guys only get 6 years or 5 years to compete, but it’s like, I’m 33 years old and I’m still competing just because it’s fun. When it’s not fun I won’t do it anymore.

JH: What has been your favorite match in folkstyle or freestyle?

DB: Man, when I go back and look at it, I’ve wrestled a lot of crazy matches, but I don’t really have one favorite. I mean, I guess when I was in college one of my favorites we beat Iowa as a team; that was really cool. First Mizzou team to beat Iowa. Couple years later the team did it again, but that was one of my favorite matches because of the team aspect so that was cool. But there’s too many favorite matches I’ve wrestled. So many good people like Gable Steveson who’s an Olympic champ, Tervel Dlagnev who’s an Olympic bronze medalist, so those matches are fun too so I don’t think I have just one.

Next I spoke with Coach Kendrick Maple.

Kendric Maple began his career at Oklahoma University where he was a 3x All-American and an undefeated national Champ for the Sooners. Post graduation, he really started to hit the freestyle circuit, winning the US Open in 2017 and finishing second at the World Team Trials that same year. Both wrestlers were a part of a historic 2018 US World Cup team that won its first title in 15 years. That was the last time fans saw him compete in freestyle until this year.

JH: So what made you come back to competing?

Kendric Maple: Keegan O’Toole. He wore me down with a bet that if he was gonna win a world title that I would have to compete. Finally said yes to the bet knowing that he was probably gonna win it. Definitely, he’s the biggest reason.

JH: Obviously he won his [Junior World] title last year so how long have you been really preparing and what have you been doing?

KM: It’s been interesting because one of the big things I want to do with this, training for it, is just have fun with it and not make it a way more big deal than it is. And actually I found myself still training really pretty hard for it but having fun at the same time. I think that’s something I’ve learned through the process. And we wrestle everyday as coaches all the time, so we stay in relatively good shape so it’s about adding those extra freestyle workouts to our program.

JH: So wrestling as far as I know is kind of unique in that not a lot of coaches also compete in the sport they’re coaching in, so what’s it like to coach and compete at the same time?

KM: I’d say it’s fun. I mean, I think one thing Coach Smith does really well is make it a learning environment in the room. So in our room we’re learning as coaches just as we’re wrestling with guys anyway. It’s just kind of taking that to the competition level too so it’s not that big of an adjustment, but it’s just something I’m excited to do.

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JH: What has been your favorite match in folkstyle or freestyle?

KM: Kind of like Dom, I don’t know that I have one. A lot of the memories are more of just the experiences of the team, whether I was wrestling for the team, like the World Cup was really fun for all of us, I know me and Dom got to compete in that.

JH: I also asked both coaches if there was anything else they’d like to say to fans of wrestling and fans of Mizzou Athletics. Here’s what they had to say:

Dom Bradley: Support Mizzou Wrestling! We’re really, really good! We’ve been good since 2007. That’s when we were ranked #2 in the country, and that’s why I came here. And I’m a huge Mizzou sports fan. I really want football and basketball to do well, but wrestling, we’ve been in the top 15 for the past 15 years.

Kendric Maple: Show up and support Mizzou, man. We’re a fun team to watch, and we’re gonna shock the world pretty soon. You guys are gonna see it.

You can catch coverage of both coaches at the US Open on FloWrestling starting Friday at 10AM. Check out Matthew Smith’s article on what other Mizzou wrestlers are entered and what they’re competing for.

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