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The NAIA Weighs In: Shea Swafford, Mediapolis/Graceland University


The Swafford brothers’ ages go like this: Me (Josh) 37, Justin 35, Shea 23 and Brennan 20. Whenever people ask me how on Earth that happened, I say the same thing every time… “I’m guessing my parents started listening to that damn Boyz 2 Men album!” And thank God for Boyz 2 Men and their cunning ability to put upper 30’s aged married couples in rekindled romantic moods, for I don’t know what I’d be without those two baby brothers of mine.

I am glad that I was able to do one of these for Shea before he graduated college because otherwise, I would have felt bad.  All my relationships with my siblings are very unique.  I am very close to Shea in a way where we have some things that are “just” he and I things. This is despite the fact that I am prone to being argued with by him and he is prone to being trolled by me. Since he was born, I’ve referred to him as “Sheabob.” I guess I got that from Spongebob Squarepants, but holy cow, the nickname has stuck for 23 years and counting. There have been 5000 other nicknames. I’m not exaggerating. 

He is the one brother of the 4 that wasn’t athletically inclined to be good at wrestling at first.  Wrestling was a lengthy, consistent, year-by-year process and he ended up placing 3X as many times as I did in HS by the time he was through.  It wasn’t an easy road for him, though. His journey had moments that made me bawl, for I felt so bad for him, which made it that much sweeter when he finally started seeing some success around the time he hit 7th grade. 

Shea and I have a much more heated sibling rivalry than any other combination in our family.  We are competitive with the same silly games as each other, such as MarioKart, Mario Super Sluggers, Sarges War, Ping Pong. Hell, won’t be too long and he will have his own wrestling media website launched and will be dead set on sinking this Pin Doctors ship. Get this… to practice wrestling with him (and to torment him terribly) we would have these wrestling matches when he was a kid and I would make up these totally despicable and ridiculous characters that just epitomized everything that is obnoxious as hell.  And in these matches, I played the role of the opponent, the ref, the crowd, etc… You better believe he didn’t have any calls go his way and it goes without saying that the crowd was always booing him.  AND HE TOOK IT SERIOUSLY.  He would get so pissed.  I would let him get up 14-0 with a minute left and end up beating him 15-14. 🙂 Holy cow that was so funny.  He argued with the “ref” constantly, in which I always had to penalize him like 12 points. I am not joking when I say that these silly little ordeals made him better at wrestling which was totally inadvertent, for I was just trying to torment him like the big, macho oldest brother I am. 

God, he’s funny. Some of our smack-talking sessions made us look like a couple of raged out baboons. Things got so funny with he and I that I even had a “victory song” that I would blast on our stereo the moment I defeated him at something. “Unstoppable,” by Foxy Shazam!!! Believe it or not, I am pretty cocky when it comes to Swafford-Family competitions and rightfully so because I win so frequently, but if and when I am ever humbled, it is usually a result of a “determined to dethrone the evil Joshua” Sheabob that knocks me down a peg.

If Shea wrestled against me in every match he wrestled, he would be a 4X undefeated state champ and would have just wrapped up his undefeated, 4X NAIA national champion campaign a couple weeks ago. 

And Shea was sold immediately on Graceland wrestling, which is something that has been unraveling as one of the best things to happen to our family. Thank God for his good judgment there! I know he loves Graceland deeply and I am glad that he found it for it is quite apparent that Graceland loves him deeply as well.  He is a very respectful kid and doesn’t put himself on an imaginary pedestal. That is unless the situation includes myself and I already created the imaginary pedestal, in which I am standing on top of it and running my mouth, reminding him to look at me standing on top of it… that may prompt him to create an imaginary pedestal.  He is willing to talk to anyone about anything and will not come off as condescending in the process because to him, everyone’s voice is equally valuable.  I’m proud of the man he has become and  I am sad that I won’t get to see him wrestle again. Thank God we can always play Mario Super Sluggers. And again, thank God for Boyz 2 Men.




Who or what encouraged you to give wrestling a try?

Really my dad just kinda threw me into it and I ended up liking it so I stayed. Also it helped having friends like Luke Erickson in my grade getting into it at the same time.


Do you have any family who wrestled or wrestles currently? Parents, children, brothers, etc.? How did they do?

Pretty much the whole family wrestled. Between us 4 brothers we hold 12 state medals and dad was a state qualifier. My uncles are state qualifiers. Not to mention my cousin, John, is a 2x state placer.


How proud are you of your Mepo roots?

I’m very proud of being a mepo wrestler especially in that era. Not many know the amount of work that went into the success of the program throughout my high school year. That was years of grooming by our parents and coaching starting in 1st grade just got get 1 state title. I’m more proud of their sacrifice rather than just the program.


What were your youth results? Any rivals there?

In youth I was 1 round from placing at state my 4th through 6th grade year. I always ran into the kid that took 3rd in the bracket and lost by a point or two in that round. My 7th and 8th grade year I finally got over the hump and placed both of those years. My biggest rivals growing up were definitely Justin Vedepo, KIRK Momsen, Jacob Fenske, and Nathan Feldman.


What was your record in HS?

I think my career record was something like 160-41. Not really sure.


How did you place at state every year?

From freshman to senior year: didn’t qualify, 7th, 4th, and 5th.


What were some of the most notable adverse challenges or moments you experienced in wrestling and how did it turn out?

Hmmm there is so many that it’s hard to pick a specific one but I think honestly pretty much blowing out my knee first round of senior year at state and taking 5th on it. That was horrible and I wouldn’t wish it on my worst enemy.


How would you describe your wrestling style?

Everyone usually calls me a technician. I have really clean technique but I’m like awkward bodied so it’s unique.


Who was your most influential coach?

Excluding my HS and college coaches, I’m going to have to say John and Johnny Siegel at DC Elite. I don’t know where I’d be without them getting me to believe in myself. That goes for all realms of life.


What was the most upset you ever felt after a loss?

The most upset I felt after a loss was after my Semis match with Ryan Leisure. It sucked losing but when I went to check my weight I saw the kid I beat in the district finals to get to state was going to meet up with Leisure in the finals. Something about that not only rubbed me the wrong way but also made me realize how close I was to this dream of mine.


Was your team competitive in HS/college?

Yeah both of them really. State champs and runner ups my Freshman through Junior year and at college we ended up cracking the top 20 in the nation.


Who was your most influential wrestler that you looked up to growing up?

Definitely Cary Kolat. That dude was an animal on the mat and a genuine dude off the mat.


How do you feel your skills have changed since going to Graceland?

It’s personified my style on funk and using your legs to control someone. In high school I wrestled very basic but now I’m scrambling heavy, riding legs, doing a lot more funk, etc. I wish I would have learned that growing up.


How did you end up at Graceland?

If we’re being honest it was the money that brought me here but other than that there was this family vibe I got that I really liked. This vibe wasn’t just on the team but on campus as well. I felt like I was in a genuine place.


Does NAIA have potential to grow the fan base?

Oh 100% it’s the fastest growing division in college wrestling. I remember my freshman year the crowd at nationals wasn’t near as big as it is now.


What made you more upset…losing a wrestling match or losing to me in Mario Super Sluggers?

Depends on the match. If we’re talking on average then Mario Super Sluggers for sure, but if I lost to someone I wasn’t supposed to then my reaction was more explosive.


What would you say is the “role” that you fulfill in the Swafford family?

I guess I would say I’m just kind of the fun loving goofball I guess.


Would you say guys like Kruz Adamson, Dylan Brazell, yourself, Trey, etc. started what can potentially become a nice little dynasty at Graceland in due time?

Oh for sure. We had a very good dynamic that I’m confident that others will step up and replace. Leadership is so key amongst athletes in college bc coaches can’t have eyes on us 24/7.


Who was the fiercest competitors you have faced at the NAIA level?

Josh Wenger and Renaldo Rodrigues-Spencer without a doubt.


How do some of the D1 and NAIA guys compare to each other from your experience? Do you feel some NAIA guys can compete at that level?

Yes I really do. In fact, more than you think came from a D1 level but dropped out or had something come up and were given a second chance at NAIA. College wrestling in all realms is just tough.


Where was your best performance this year?

I would have to say the Missouri Valley invite even though I tore up my shoulder pretty bad which was a handicap the rest the season.


If you could go back and change one thing about your wrestling career, what would it be?

How I trained in high school. I wish I would have not screwed around as much and put all my focus into wrestling. I also wish I would have realized how important mentality is.


Do you see yourself coaching someday?

I see myself coaching tomorrow and for the rest of my life from that point.


What is your best wrestling memory/accomplishment? How hard did you work?

I’d have to say in high school when I beat Cam Sadeghi for the first time. In previous years he’d kicked my butt, but got bigger while I stayed small. The year before I had taken 7th at 113 and was up at 126 so I was a little nervous to see first of all if I was competitive at 126 and if Cam was still way better than me. When I beat him it was just reassurance of my training and how far I’d come.


Did you wrestle all year or was it seasonal for you?

Year round but not like 12 months. It was like 1-2 times a week over summer and maybe once a week during football.


What other sports did you play?

Football and Track.


What are your favorite sports teams?

Kansas City Chiefs and St. Louis cards baby.


What are your hobbies?

Acting, singing, music, games, country living, etc. a better question would be what’s not my hobby?


How has wrestling shaped you as a person to this day?

Everything I believe in can probably be reinforced by some sort of experience with the sport of wrestling. My college degree can be attributed to it, my friends, my work ethic, everything has some sort of attachment one way or another.


Any advice for upcoming wrestlers?

Always believe in yourself and seek every new opportunity to get better.


Would you like to give a shout out to anyone you wrestled with, against, coached, etc.?

Coach Mullins and Coach Fisher. I have told Coach Mullins this before, and I truly believe it, he has been like my second father to me. Any time I have something going on in my life he’s right there to hold me up and give me his best advice moving forward. That goes beyond wrestling. His nurturing is something I will take with me for the rest of my life. Coach Fisher always keeps the energy positive and the motivation up which is something that is hard to pull out of someone. Thank you both for your time and energy you have put into my career.


Do you have anything to add? Funny/interesting stories? Trivia? Etc

I do but I can’t think of anything that would be appropriate to post in public😂



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