2023-24 Iowa Wrestling

Bradley Hill Embracing 'Next Man Up' Opportunity With Iowa Wrestling

Bradley Hill Embracing 'Next Man Up' Opportunity With Iowa Wrestling

Bradley Hill has watched countless duals in Carver-Hawkeye Arena. On Friday, the Iowa heavyweight will get his opportunity to be center stage.

Dec 6, 2023 by John Bohnenkamp
Bradley Hill Embracing 'Next Man Up' Opportunity With Iowa Wrestling

Bradley Hill was “the next man up” at heavyweight for Iowa, a role that he has wanted for a long time.

Hill talked on Wednesday about how, growing up in nearby Bettendorf, Iowa, he spent a lot of time watching Iowa wrestle at Carver-Hawkeye Arena.

Now, the redshirt freshman is getting his chance to be the performer instead of the spectator.

“Just being down there, it’s completely different,” Hill said. “Everything that goes through your head at an Iowa wrestling meet, it’s completely different from a wrestling perspective. Just settling down, relaxing, and going out there and wrestling, it’s just crazy.”

Hill was going to spend this season behind Tony Cassioppi on the roster, but Cassioppi’s suspension from the NCAA in the wake of the investigation into gambling by Iowa athletes put Hill into the starting lineup.

“With the whole gambling thing, you never really knew what was going to happen,” said Hill, who said he knew “a week” before Iowa’s season opened against Cal Baptist on November 5 that he would be the starter. “Every guy has to be ready — next man up. I was always ready at the time. Ready to wrestle.”

The results have been mixed. Hill is 6-3 overall, 2-2 in duals. He started the season with five consecutive wins followed by three consecutive losses.

Hill is coming off an 8-3 win over Penn’s Cole Urbas last week heading into Friday’s home dual against Columbia.

“I would describe his work ethic as eager, as blue-collar, not afraid of scraping his face, meaning he’ll stick it in there,” Iowa coach Tom Brands said. “I don’t think pain bothers him too much.”

Brands said Hill has shown progress.

“I think that growth that has to continue is (to) keep adding to your conditioning, or your match conditioning if you want to be specific,” he said. “But he’s not afraid to stick his face in there and mix it up.”

Hill was heavily recruited by the Hawkeyes out of high school, where he went 138-28 in his career.

It wasn’t a tough sell to Hill, considering his Iowa fandom.

“It’s awesome, everything I could have hoped for,” Hill said. “To get to wrestle for Tom and Terry (Brands) at Carver, it’s amazing.”

Hill said his favorite memory was Tony Ramos pinning Penn State’s Jordan Conaway in 2013.

“I looked up to those guys,” Hill said. “Those guys were my idols. To be able to be one of those guys, to wrestle at Carver, it’s amazing.”

“He’s definitely embraced the challenge of getting better every day,” Brands said. “But we always liked him.”

Hill wrestled at 195 pounds as a senior in high school after winning a state title at 220 as a junior. Wrestling up a weight class was something he embraced when he came to Iowa.

“I don’t really like cutting weight too much — I don’t think anyone does,” he said. “I went and talked to Tom, and we decided the best thing for me was to get stronger, and focus on getting better at wrestling.”

Brands liked the way Hill worked.

“I don’t think he was probably coddled too much at home by mom and dad, and even his grandparents,” Brands said. “I think they’re pretty hard-nosed people.”

“I was very grateful to have parents who instilled that within me,” Hill said. “Growing up, I wasn’t the most talented, biggest, strongest, fastest. They just told me that hard work beats talent when talent doesn’t work hard. Just work hard, and things will happen.”

Things are happening now for Hill. He was asked if maybe he’ll be a Hawkeye some fan will look up to, the way he did from the Carver-Hawkeye seats.

“I’ve got to do something first. I’ve got to start winning,” he said. “And then … maybe.”

Gambling Appeals

Brands was talking about all of the heavyweights in Iowa’s room when he indicated Cassioppi is one of the wrestlers who is appealing his suspension from the NCAA.

“Cassioppi still has an appeal,” Brands said. “He’s in our room.”

Iowa heads into a holiday break of sorts after Friday’s dual. The Hawkeyes have finals week next week, then don’t wrestle until the Soldier Salute December 29-30 in Coralville. After that, they don’t have a dual until January 12 at Nebraska.

“We’ve got a lot going on,” Brands said. “There’s weight classes that are up for grabs. There’s a lot going on with our roster. I mentioned appeals. There’s just a lot going on.

“We’ve got a lot of work to do, a lot of figuring-out to do, and we’re excited. It’s going to be a lot of fun.”

Asked for a timeline on the appeals, Brands said, “It’s coming up. It’s got to, doesn’t it. It was May 8 when I found out about it. Holy smokes alive.”

Ayala Rebounds

Drake Ayala opened the season with six consecutive wins at 125, including the title at the Luther Open.

His only loss of the season was a 7-6 defeat to Branden Kaylor in the November 19 dual against Oregon State. Since then, Ayala had had wins over Kysen Terukina of Iowa State and Max Gallagher of Penn.

“It’s as simple as I didn’t do my job,” Ayala said, looking back at his lone loss. “I’ve got to get better, I know that. That’s what I’m doing each and every day — getting better.”

Ayala said he didn’t overthink what he needed to do to get better.

“Wrestling is a complicated sport,” Ayala said. “But I think just to keep it simple, I’ve got to wrestle how I normally wrestle. I didn’t do that in that match.”

That response is something Brands appreciates.

“He is accountable,” Brands said. “He owns it. We love it.”

Three at 133

Brands has three wrestlers listed as possibilities at 133 for Friday’s dual — Brody Teske (4-2), Jace Rhodes (4-1) or Cullan Schriever (0-0).

Brands wasn’t about to hint at who will go at that weight class.

“I don’t know what we’re doing at 133,” he said. “I don’t know if I’ll know until I know.”