Columbian’s Conley keeps season going, claims a national title in Virginia Beach

Lots of people like a sport.

Lots of people love a sport.

But there’s another group of people — top athletes, coaches and others — who have an intense passion for one.

Columbian wrestler Brody Conley appears to be one of these people. Yes, he played football this fall. But wrestling appears to be his passion.

After a grueling prep season — one where he won 50 matches and finished fourth in the OHSAA Division II individual tournament — the freshman had earned a break.

He didn’t take it.

“It never really stops,” Conley said. “I wrestle all year, camps, practices, whatever I can get into.”

So, when the state meet concluded, Conley didn’t take much time to reflect.

“Basically, yeah. I finished state, and then I said, ‘Oh, we’ve got nationals coming up,'” Conley said.

Nationals meant a trip to Virginia Beach, Va., where Conley participated in the National High School Coaches Association Nationals.

It’s a tournament Conley has gone to for years.

“It’s been a lot of fun, going down with a bunch of people from different schools, together, just having fun,” Conley said.

This was the first year Conley was competing at a high school level, going against other freshmen from other states. Conley wrestled at 145 pounds.

Columbian coach Travis Salyer went down to Virginia Beach with Conley. He didn’t coach him, but he observed his wrestler’s performance.

“He’s just a worker. You know what you’re going to get out of him,” Salyer said. “And, he still impresses you each week. You know what you’re going to get. He still goes above and beyond, and does something where you just say ‘wow.'”

In this case, the “Wow,” was a national title. Conley went though six wrestlers, including state champions from Florida and Delaware.

To win the national title, he had to get through Georgia’s Sam Harris.

Conley won that match 6-1.

“I watched it transpire. It was great. He didn’t give up an offensive point all weekend,” Salyer said. “I think he gave up four total points, nobody scored points on him.

“It just shows the drive that he has to be the best,” Salyer said. “I heard him say he wasn’t satisfied with his fourth-place finish (at the state meet last month), and that’s a true statement. He wants more out of himself, he expects more out of himself. So, going out and competing for a national title a few weeks after the season is a perfect opportunity for him, and he takes advantage of it.”

Conley, who has won state titles at the junior high level, called the championship at Virginia Beach his biggest accomplishment — so far.

“Yeah, definitely,” he said. “(Last) weekend was a lot of fun. I’ve always looked forward to winning nationals, and being at the top of the podium at the national level.”

But Conley isn’t stopping to celebrate.

“After this weekend, I start training for freestyle now,” he said. “Freestyle Greco. I’m gonna go to a qualifier next weekend, and I’m gonna go to state duals, and then freestyle state next week.”

Conley’s path to this point has been a little different. He said he took an interest in wrestling when he was 3 years old.

Conley’s father is a wrestling coach, and works with his son.

“When I was 5 or 6, and started going to tournaments, getting better, training,” he said. “My dad, he’s just always known what I’ve had to do to get to the next level.”

Conley’s focus has been on club wrestling until this season. He never wrestled for a school until joining Columbian’s team as a freshman.

“In junior high, that’s all I did. I didn’t wrestle for the school. I wrestled on club teams, so I went out to New Jersey, Oklahoma, I went to Virginia, we went all over the country,” Conley said. “That’s just how it was in junior high. A lot of big tournaments.”

And Conley said he thinks that approach has helped him.

“You know, there’s a difference. You can see, the kids that wrestle junior high — the kids that only wrestle junior high — you see them not on a spot in high school,” he said, “and you see me, I’m in the starting lineup, I’m doing all this stuff … that’s the difference between an eighth-place freshman and a fourth-place freshman.”

Salyer was asked if Conley had to adjust to being on a high school team this winter.

The coach said no.

“The team voted him for the leadership award, and that was a team vote, not a coaches vote,” he said. “That just goes to show the effect he has on his teammates. It was voted (by) the team. That’s what his team saw. I think it speaks volumes of his character, and actually makes sense why his season has went the way it has.

“He’s a good leader for the team,” Salyer said. “He’s a good role model. He’s outspoken, and he leads mostly by example. He does the right things.”

And Conley is still pushing, with high expectations. He wasn’t satisfied with last month’s state meet.

“Every tournament I go to, if I don’t win it, I think it’s a waste of a weekend,” he said. “And, it just makes me hungry for next year, the next three years. I don’t want to get beat. I want to be on top of everybody else.”

And he’ll put the work in to make that happen. That’s how much he loves wrestling.

Zach Baker is the sports editor for The Advertiser-Tribune.

Contact him at:

zbaker@advertiser-tribune.com, or on Twitter@Zachthewriter