By KEVIN HARRIS
NEW ALBANY —
Lunden Bradford is like all the wrestlers on the New Albany High School wrestling team — he wants to win, and he works every day to put himself in position to get those possible victories.
But there is one obstacle that Bradford has to battle each day in trying to become a triumphant grappler.
The senior, who wrestles in the 113-pound weight class, has been deaf since birth. But his disability does not discourage him from competing in the sport he loves.
“He goes out there and does the best he can do,” said Romarro Bradford, Lunden’s younger brother and a 126-pound junior grappler for the Bulldogs. “After he’s done with his match, he comes over and listens to me. I tell him what he did wrong and I tell him what he did right. In every match, he does a good job. He always tries his moves.”
Lunden Bradford joined the New Albany wrestling program last year as a 106-pound grappler after never participating in the sport in his early years. He decided to join the Bulldogs to compete alongside his brother.
“I talked him into joining. When it comes to wrestling, that’s really what brings us together,” said Romarro Bradford, who sports a 14-6 record this season. “Being his second year, he’s gotten better. He’s progressed. He really tries to learn the moves. He really does go out there and put 110 percent into it. He can’t put himself down because it’s only been his second year.”
Wins have been hard to come by for Lunden Bradford the past two years. He has gotten several victories this season, but all of them have been by forfeit.
But this past summer, he picked up his first victory in his wrestling career in a Kentucky state championship meet.
New Albany junior Hunter Castleberry, who helps Lunden Bradford with his wrestling moves, says the win gave his teammate a huge confidence boost.
“He got real excited about that,” Castleberry said. “He’s progressed a lot. I try to give him confidence like I do to a lot of the kids. I try to tell him to go out there and try things. At first, he would go out there and mess with the kids. I would tell him to go out and take a shot.
“That’s what I try to teach him — to go after people. That’s what I stress to him and the other kids a lot.”
Lunden Bradford can wear his hearing aids during practice. But when he weighs in before a meet and most importantly when he competes in matches, the referees will not allow him to wear his hearing aid.
According to New Albany wrestling coach Eric Burres, Bradford cannot use his hearing aid during a match for safety purposes.
“I think more than anything it’s just so he won’t get hurt,” Burres said. “The headgear can get pulled down and ripped, and [the hearing aid] could cause some damage. It could break the hearing aid.”
A certain protocol is followed when Bradford competes in matches.
Before the match, one of the Bulldog coaches will inform the referee that Bradford is deaf. During the match, the referee must tap Bradford on the shoulder when a period starts and ends.
Romarro Bradford is pretty much on his own when the match starts.
“He has to try to think about the moves on his own,” the younger Bradford said. “It’s hard for all wrestlers to hear with their headgear on. But he can’t wear his hearing aids out there, so he really can’t hear.”
For Burres, he must give instructions or advice to Lunden during a match in a different way. Instead of shouting guidance to Bradford while the match is in progress, he demonstrates maneuvers to his grappler during breaks in the match.
“I usually do a lot of stuff with my hands,” Burres said. “It’s tough. It’s not like as he’s wrestling, he can look over at you because he’s got to keep his eyes on the competitor. Now when there are breaks in the matches, you can do it by having him reading my lips or I’ll grab a hold of somebody and show him.
“The best thing that I found is I’ll grab a hold of someone and I’ll start showing moves on that person that I want him to do.”
Despite dealing with his disability during matches, Lunden Bradford gets plenty of support from his teammates and coaches.
“During a match, he gets a lot of help,” Romarro said. “I try to get into a position where he can see me. If he looks up, I tell him what to do. In his first year wrestling, Hunter Castleberry helped him a lot. Sometimes after a meet if I really think he needed some really big help, we’ll wrestle at home a little bit. When he’s at practice, he gets a lot of help from me and Hunter.”
Lunden Bradford seems to not be bothered about being prevented from wearing his hearing aids during a match. When asked if he thought that ruling is fair, he gave a simple answer.
“Yes,” said Lunden, who also has a speech impediment.
Castleberry says not wearing a hearing aid can work to the senior’s advantage.
“It definitely hurts him, but it also can help him in a way because he remains focused when he’s out there,” Castleberry said. “He overcomes a lot of it just by working hard. He really tries to watch and learn. He really wants to be good and you can tell by how he wrestles.”
Lunden Bradford’s perseverance to perform on the mat has been an inspiration to his teammates, especially his brother.
“Him winning [last summer in Kentucky] was a really good thing to me. It inspires me more to work hard,” Romarro Bradford said. “He has the heart to come out here and do something while dealing with a disability. Not only is he hearing impaired, he has a speech impediment as well. Him coming out here and wrestling is a really good inspiration for me.”
Burres says the supreme effort that Lunden gives in practices and matches proves he does not let his disability stand in his way.
“He’s completely fine with it,” Burres said. “He gets discouraged because he’s competitive and he wants to win. I don’t think he gets discouraged because of his disability. He gets discouraged because he wants to do well.
“He’s just like all these other kids — they want to win and not everybody is going to win.”
IHSAA SAYS BRADFORD CAN WEAR HEARING AIDS
Even though referees do not allow New Albany senior Lunden Bradford to wear his hearing aids in competition, the IHSAA thinks otherwise.
Based on a conversation with IHSAA assistant commissioner Robert Faulkens, IHSAA sports information director Jason Wille said wrestlers can wear a hearing aid during a match.
“There is a mention in the rule book that no electronic devices may be used by a wrestler that would assist in communication with the coach, but a hearing aid should not fall into that category,” Wille said in an email last week. “We believe, based on the rule book, that this interpretation may have been mis-applied. As long as the hearing aid is covered up by his headgear and he weighs in with the aids inserted, there should be no problem.”
In addition, the National Federation of High School Associations made a statement in October 2012 that medical appliances, like hearing aids, can be worn by any high school athlete under certain conditions.
The NFHS statement said: “When it is necessary for an athlete to wear a medical appliance [such as an insulin pump] during athletic competitions, the device shall be padded and securely attached to the player’s body underneath the uniform. Devices attached to the head [such as hearing aids and cochlear implants] do not need to be padded, but shall be firmly secured to the body. No medical appliance should pose a risk of injury to others. It is recommended that the athlete notify the official of the presence of the medical appliance prior to a contest.”
FOREST PARK INVITATIONAL
At Forest Park
• DUAL-MEET RESULTS: Charlestown d. North Posey; Charlestown d. South Spencer; Charlestown d. North Knox; Charlestown d. Forest Park; Pike Central d. Charlestown.
• CHARLESTOWN HIGHLIGHTS: Luke Woods (113), 5-0; Bryant Haynes (126), 5-0; Cameron Hopson (132), 4-1; Antonyo Gaddie (160), 4-1; Zach Higdon (170), 5-0; Josh Hurley (220), 5-0; Christian Davenport (285), 4-1.
• QUOTES: Charlestown coach Adam Doherty, “Overall, everybody wrestled well after a tough match at Floyd Central on Friday.”
• UPCOMING MEETS: At Jeffersonville, dual meet, tonight; at Southern Indiana Wrestling Conference meet, Saturday, at Southwestern.
At Floyd Central
• RESULTS: Floyd Central d. Charlestown, no score reported.
• CHARLESTOWN WINNERS: Woods (113), Haynes (126), Dillon Gray (138), Hurley (220), Davenport (285).
• DUAL-MEET SCORES: Eastern 54, Paoli 16; Mt. Vernon (Posey) 68, Eastern 9; Jennings County 64, Eastern 15; Eastern 48, Mitchell 15; Southridge 67, Eastern 9.
• EASTERN HIGHLIGHTS: Jordan Gray (106/113), 4-1; Robbie Stein (106/113), 4-1; Caleb Donoho (182), 3-2.
• QUOTES: Eastern coach Justin Long, “We wrestled harder Saturday than we have in my previous four years at Eastern. We did not give up no matter who we were wrestling, and did our best to compete at our highest level. I was a proud coach and can’t wait to see how our team responds this week in an individual tournament.”
• NOTES: The Musketeers’ home dual meet against Scottsburg, which was originally scheduled for Jan. 9, has been rescheduled for next Tuesday at Eastern.
• NEXT: At SIWC meet, Saturday, at Southwestern.
OLD CAPITAL INVITATIONAL
At Corydon Central
• FLOYD CENTRAL HIGHLIGHTS: Sean Brown, fifth place; Nick Burkland, fourth; Tyler Crowl, runner-up; Jarrod Cunningham, runner-up; Drew Davis, sixth; Karl Hauser, sixth; Chase Herron, champion; Brayden Hoke, runner-up; Franklin Korte, third; Tobin Smith, fourth; John Strobel, fourth; Austin Ward, champion; Lance Youtsey, third.
• NOTES: The Highlanders finished second as a team.
• QUOTES: Floyd Central coach Brandon Sisson, “We placed second as a team behind Zionsville. We were only supposed to place six in the top four, but placed 10. We were also only supposed to have two in the finals and ended up with five. The boys have continued to improve throughout the season, and we are extremely excited about this upcoming weekend at [the Hoosier Hills Conference meet].”
• NEXT: At Hoosier Hills Conference meet, Saturday, at Bedford North Lawrence.
• DUAL-MEET RESULTS: Jeff d. Triton Central; Franklin d. Jeff; Yorktown d. Jeff; Holt (Mich.) d. Jeff; Indianapolis Ben Davis d. Jeff.
• JEFF HIGHLIGHTS: Noah Morrison (106), 3-2; Kevin Cain (182), 3-2; Gavan Jolley-Little (285), 4-1.
• QUOTES: Jeff coach Danny Struck, “It was a tough day versus tough competition for the Red Devil wrestling team. While we had a great weekend of team unity, fun and improving, we also had a weekend of the toughest competition we’ve seen all year.”
• UPCOMING MEETS: Hosts Charlestown, dual meet, tonight; at Hoosier Hills Conference meet, Saturday, at Bedford.
PROVIDENCE SIX-WAY MEET
• DUAL-MEET SCORES: New Washington 43, Jennings County 33; New Washington 42, Milan 41; New Washington 60, Southwestern 18; New Washington 66, T.C. Howe 12; New Washington 54, Providence 27.
• NOTES: The Mustangs won the meet by going 5-0. On Saturday, they avenged a 39-38 dual-meet loss to Jennings County from last Thursday.
• UPCOMING MEETS: Host Corydon Central, dual meet, tonight; At SIWC meet, Saturday, at Southwestern.