BY NOAH GRIFFITH / FOR THE OBSERVER
Brady Campbell is entering his junior year as a wrestler at Opelika, and he’s already climbed the mountain. Or so it seems.
But there’s still further to go after his state championship title last season, according to Campbell. Opelika’s wrestling season is approaching in November, and he’s looking to lead the Bulldogs to new heights this year on the mat after having two state qualifiers in his sophomore year.
“Last year, we only had one [other] state placer, and then me the state champ, but I want the team to do better this year,” Campbell said. “[For me], it’s still the same goals … Of course win two more state titles, but I want to go undefeated these next two years. I lost one match last year, but these next two seasons I want to go undefeated.”
Opelika’s roster is full of upperclassmen, but few have the years of experience that Campbell has. With his father coaching wrestling since he was about 2-years-old, Campbell has over a decade of wrestling experience. He has been involved in wrestling every year since moving to Opelika in sixth grade.
In addition to the years of wrestling, the experience of winning the state championship is something Campbell is able to pass on to his team.
Lee Simpson has quickly discovered Campbell to be a leader in his first season as Opelika’s wrestling coach. He described Campbell as a guy that the team can depend on to get a job done and do it wholeheartedly.
“One of the things I’m most excited for [with coaching Brady] is the level of leadership he brings to the table,” Simpson said. “Everybody in the room looks up to him. Any time we’ve been working on something, trying to work on certain techniques or anything like that, he’s always the first one over to help somebody else out.
“He’s got really good leadership qualities. He’s one of the guys I could tell ‘Hey, I need you to go tear down this brick wall by Monday.’ If I told him that on Friday night, when I got there on Monday, if the wall’s not down he’d still be working on it.”
Campbell is keeping most of his preparation the same this year, but he is anticipating a move up two weight classes from his 145-pound weight last season. The wrestler he lost to last year from Gardendale High School has since graduated, but he is keeping himself motivated by wrestling against, and training with, new guys this offseason.
This summer, Campbell also went to a college camp for the first time at the Citadel and plans to visit there again in the spring. He described that experience as fun and insightful, fueling his next-level aspirations.
Chase Campbell, Brady’s father and an assistant wrestling coach at Opelika, was a former wrestler in high school before joining the military after graduation. Returning to wrestling meant getting to see his son wrestle and grow to love the sport himself. After watching him up close all these years, Brady’s father said he sees the potential for Brady to wrestle at a Division 1 program.
But first, he’ll look to hammer home an impressive career with the Bulldogs. Brady said he knows being a reigning state champion will come with challenges, but he welcomes the challenges that come his way.
“Just knowing, like, as a state champ you have a target on your back,” Campbell said. “Everyone wants to be a state champ or beat a state champ. Just staying focused and being myself — training and putting in the work every day to become the best that I can be. Just staying mentally strong.”