From the Ground Up: Marian University Wrestling

Linny Rousseau, Writer

Steven Bradley found himself staring at his computer while on vacation back in 2015. He spotted a job listing on a wrestling website that intrigued him. Marian University was searching for the first head coach of the wrestling program.

“When I stuck my nose in, I never really left,” Bradley said.

Shortly after finding the job listing, he reached out to Art Canales, a theology professor and assistant wrestling coach at Marian. The rest is history.

The team has now kicked off their fourth season as an established program and is thriving more than ever. They are currently ranked #3 in the NAIA, #1 in the American Midwest Conference, and have a number of individuals ranked both in conference and nationally in their respective weight classes.

The team has quickly caught up to the winning culture of Marian and so much of that is thanks to the efforts of Bradley.

When reflecting on his time here at Marian, Bradley mentioned that the recruiting processes proved tough in the beginning. He explained that while many coaches are pretty outgoing, he is the opposite. This challenged the team to say the least.

He remembers the feeling of having his first committed wrestler, Nick Ellis, who is a senior today.

Bradley said, “Prior to Nick signing, I had this thought of ‘what happens if I don’t get kids.’” The first signing gave the program confidence that they would soon find their way.

After Ellis committed to Marian, things started to fall into place. Before he knew it, Bradley had an entire team ready to take the mat and hunt after a championship.

It is clear that this group has bought into Bradley’s system.

Nick Ellis, now a student assistant coach, also spoke about his pathway to getting here.

He said, “Coming out of high school, I was not sure if I wanted to wrestle in college. My high school career did not end the way I wanted it to, and I was not sure if it was something I wanted

to continue. Once Marian got a program and Coach Bradley became the head coach, it was obvious that that was the place to be.”

Many of his teammates at Marian shared a similar situation with getting here.

Senior Logan Hurley had a connection with Bradley when looking at colleges. Hurley knew that even though he was heading into a brand-new team, he was going to be successful because of Bradley.

Senior Chris Sharp had no intentions of wrestling in college until he was approached by the program. After getting familiar with the intended direction of this team, Sharp thought to himself, “maybe this coach can push me to be something different.”

Junior wrestler Ethan Bunce had a mutual friend between Bradley and himself. From what he knew, Bunce understood that he had the potential to compete against the best wrestling programs in the NAIA because of what Bradley was capable of.

After getting through the battle of the first few years, the wrestling program at Marian University has blossomed. One part that could be to blame for their success is the idea of goal-setting that Bradley has persistently pushed onto his roster.

Hurley stressed this when talking about Bradley. He always emphasized goal setting in order for each wrestler to be the best version of themselves.

Hurley said, “Your work reflects results.” This is a statement he received from Bradley.

Each wrestler must meet with Bradley at the beginning of the season to talk about their goals. This year, the Knights are aiming high.

Hurley is facing his last season as a Marian wrestler. He wants to make it back to the National Tournament and be an All-American. His true goal reflects the impact Bradley has had on this team. Hurley conversely said he strives to “pay back Bradley” to show the amazing reflection on his coaching.

Sharp said his goal this season is going out on top. Sharp explained a part of the first 4-year team has been pretty special to him. He wants nothing more than to land on top at nationals

With one season remaining, Bunce also has high goals for himself. Similarly Bunces wants to go back to the National Tournament and to become an All-American.

Bradley has built this team from the bottom up and has had so many team accomplishments along the way. Most of the roster agree that their biggest accomplishment came last season, winning conference for the first time in program history and sending nine wrestlers to the national tournament.

At Marian, the recruiting process is gaining considerable momentum compared to when the team first began. Bradley spoke highly of the talent and the coaching specifically in the Central Indiana area. He believes his team will continue to succeed.

Bradley offers a simple piece of advice for those interested in pursuing college wrestling.

He said, “Be at a place that you are going to be happy.” He highlighted the importance of prospective students finding where they will fit best in all aspects.

This team has a full season ahead of itself and this program has a full history to write, but one thing seems to be certain: the Knights are in good hands for years to come with Bradley. The team hopes to only go up from here