Rare Disease Poses Challenge for Mizzou Wrestler
COLUMBIA -- Missouri wrestling coach Brian Smith describes his 157 pounder Kyle Bradley as reserved and quiet, but expect him to make plenty of noise this season after two straight trips to the NCAA Championships.
Facing Kyle Bradley on the wrestling mat is a test.
"He has the talent to be an All-American National Champ. He's been beating some of the best people in the country," said Coach Brian Smith.
He won 25 matches last season but he doesn't overpower opponents.
Smith said, "He's going to finesse you and going to beat you with technique and he's getting better at that. He can wrestle that stronger guy but he's going to out technique them."
"That's funny that he said that because my little league coach strived on being a technician and hitting on a lot of repetitions and things like that and getting perfect technique," said Bradley
Perfect technique is necessary when you compete with a rare disease.
Bradley said, "I found out when I was young I would sit close to the TV and my parents would move me back and I'd move closer so they started taking me to eye doctor after eye doctor and finally found out I had this really rare disease."
It's called Retinoschisis. Surgery isn't an option and glasses don't help it much.
"It's like little blisters on my retina," said Bradley. "It's like having a pair of binoculars and not being able to focus in all the way."
"He's legally blind and he can't see. When we're in matches I always let him know the score and the time... how much is left on the scoreboard," Smith said.
Without the disease Bradley might never have found wrestling.
"He told me I couldn't play sports with a small ball so baseball was eliminated and he recommended wrestling and soccer," said Bradley.
"He's never let it bother him," Smith said. "That's the great thing about it. You would never know. He's out there wrestling and in public and you don't realize it."
After last season Bradley won the Wilma Rudolph Award. It honors student athletes who have overcome odds to achieve success.
"A lot of people told me what I could and couldn't do growing up." Bradley said, "Like I couldn't drive and they thought I'd be blind by now."
Instead he sees more than most because he doesn't see any limitations to what he can do.
Bradley said, "They thought by now I'd be blind and it would get gradually worse over time, but I've been lucky enough it's stayed the same."
"I think he's an inspiration to any kid with a disability. This is a disability, but he doesn't let it bother his life," said Smith.
The NCAA invited Bradley to speak at an upcoming convention in Dallas. Bradley will wrestle at a larger weight class this season, moving up from 149 to 157 pounds.