Everything about A.J. Bradley’s connection with Southside wrestling seemed to come full circle.
He came through three years with the program and watched three brothers compete on the team. His last season as a member of the Rebels, 1996, was the first year for longtime coach Tony Abbott, and Bradley served as an assistant coach last season, the final year for both his brother Isaiah and Abbott.
And now, A.J. Bradley is tasked with the job of following his former coach.
He was selected as Southside’s new coach recently, replacing Abbott who stepped down after 18 years. Bradley has maintained connections to the program, and said he’s looking forward to inheriting the young Rebel squad.
“It means a lot,” Bradley said of getting the job. “Being from Muncie, going to Southside, wrestling there, having my family go through there and then all the stuff I did with the youth, to finally be the coach there means a lot.”
Bradley served as a volunteer assistant with the Rebels after he graduated college, and then spent seven years coaching at Wilson Middle School.
He also earned 2010 Kids Coach of the Year honors from the Indiana State Wrestling Association and coached various state youth teams.
A.J. Bradley takes over a team he described as young yet experienced. Former star Isaiah Bradley, who won a 152-pound state title in 2012 and finished third in 2013, is gone, but the cupboard isn’t bare with Anthony Wills (120 in 2013) and freshman Excuse Brown coming back after semistate runs, along with highly-ranked sophomore Sage Coy.
A.J. Bradley noted he expects the team will be able to fill out the heavier classes in the lineup in the coming season.
He already has a level of familiarity from last season and his time coaching many of the current Rebels at Wilson, but as he attempts to follow in Abbott’s footsteps, he hopes he can take something from his last high school coach.
“The thing I learned from Tony is the ability to adapt as a coach,” A.J. Bradley said. “With each kid, also each year with the circumstances. The ability to see what a kid needs and realize they don’t all need the same thing, but to know what each kid needs at that exact moment.”