HERSHEY — Athens sophomore Gavin Bradley entered the 2020 PIAA Class AA Wrestling Championships looking to win a state title, but a loss in the first round would quickly dash that dream.
Bradley could have easily thrown in the towel after that, but the 113-pound standout battled back into medal contention and would come home Saturday from Hershey with a seventh-place medal — his second piece of state hardware in as many years.
“I was put in a crappy situation because I lost that first bout, but I never gave up,” Bradley said. “It would have been really easy for me to just lose to the Hickory kid (in the first round of consolations) and it could have been even easier for me to not even go into overtime with (Muncy’s Scott) Johnson (in the blood round) and not even score two to get a state medal, but I did.”
Bradley would use three takedowns in his seventh-place match with Littlestown’s Connor Brown to pick up a 6-3 decision on Saturday afternoon in the Giant Center.
“He was hungry. He wanted it,” said Athens Assistant Coach Jay White on Bradley’s seventh-place match.
The match started with neither wrestler scoring in the first and then — with Brown taking bottom in the second — Bradley was called for an illegal hold while on top to give the Littlestown wrestler a 1-0 lead.
Brown would add an escape at the 1:24 mark to make it 2-0, but Bradley responded with a pair of takedowns late in the period and held a 4-3 lead into the third.
In the third, Bradley chose neutral and scored another takedown to put the match away.
“He was a little bit too hungry, so he was rushing things and pushing with his head and getting out of position, blocking himself with his shots. We fixed that after a little bit and he was able to get in on legs and he was able to finish,” White said.
White understands that the sophomore was frustrated with his finish after he placed sixth last year at 106 pounds, but the Athens assistant also explained that Bradley was wrestling at a slight disadvantage this year.
“As you notice, he looks small. He is small. He is a little depressed he didn’t finish as high as he did last year (when he was wrestling 106), but he’s basically the same size as he was last year — he just bumped up a weight class and really isn’t that much bigger,” said White. “Size-wise (being at 113) hurt him, not on strength because he’s stronger than everyone he wrestles but on length.”
Even with wrestling as one of the smallest 113-pounders in the state tournament and also making some mistakes in Hershey, Bradley still accomplished something most wrestlers only dream of.
“He didn’t have the best weekend wrestling, but he’s still on the podium in one of the best states in the country,” White said.
Bradley was proud of the way he battled through and got a medal this past weekend.
“I wanted to stand at the top of the podium, I really did, that’s all I wanted, but it didn’t happened, I can’t change it — and no matter what anybody says I came back and I (persevered) and made the best out of a worse situation,” he said.
Now, Bradley will put his second state medal on a shelf somewhere and get right back to work to achieve his dream of becoming a state champion.
“(It feels) really good even though I didn’t get the place I wanted. I still worked as hard as I could. I’m just going to keep on working, keep on improving every day, keep on advancing, that’s my goal,” Bradley said.