So the youth wrestling club my brother Justin and I grew up in was a Burlington-Mediapolis hybrid youth club, coached by my dad (Mark Swafford), Jim Drain and Mike Sayre. In earlier years, the majority of practices took place at Burlington with there being maybe one Mepo practice per week and after a few years that switched around. And then the club kind of gravitated to West Burlington and Mepo. One thing that remained consistent though was that the club always had a combination of guys who would compete in HS for Mepo, Burlington and West Burlington. The split in HS was devastating to some of us. It was like our brothers became our enemies/rivals in a millisecond. Anyways, another thing that remained consistent is that every single year we brought one of the deepest and one of the most hardware-hungry squads to the AAU state tournament. Our team was one of the best in the state, easily. And every year we rebuilt. It was a pretty consistent flow of talent in that club. And I don’t think I was ever introduced to as much raw talent on the initial meeting like I was the first time I saw little Brad Lower at practice. Brad joined our squad as a Kindergartner or 1st grader, when I was a 6th or 7th grader and it took him and another kid named Caleb Martin just a mere week before they seemed like they knew what they were doing and already seemed more advanced than some of the guys who had been wrestling for 2-3 years already. Brad especially. His talent was unmistakable. The only thing that I didn’t have an idea on yet was his work ethic and attitude… I didn’t have a large enough sample size, but I knew that if he had those intangibles to boot, he could be very good for us.
I was able to make up my mind about Brad’s work ethic and attitude the first time he ran finish-ups with us. This was at a Burlington practice. Burlington had these finish-ups that were just grueling. You had to run across the gym, run down two flights of stairs, run across the hallway at the bottom of the stairs, and then run up two flights of stairs and when you reached the point where you began, that counted as one lap. And we had to do roughly 30 of these laps per practice. I kid you not, tiny little Bradley Lower pushed himself so hard in those finish-ups, that he lapped about everyone not named Justin Swafford or Chris Johnson. I was 6 years older than Brad and way bigger…. he lapped me among others at least 6-7 times every time we did these. And when the little guys like Brad would show up the older kids, the older kids had to pay the price via running extra laps….actually, the whole team would have to. When the squad was ordered to run extra laps because of the little guys like Brad were out-running everyone, this would upset Brad as well, but not at the coaches…He wanted his teammates to keep up with him. 1st grade Brad would give some of the older guys a look of contempt like, “come on, guys! Get going!” And to the other kids around his age group who were dogging it, he literally would bark at them to get their butts moving. All while maintaining his own high pace. 1st grade Brad Lower was already a stone cold stud in his first year of wrestling in every facet of the game. I knew that we had an absolute hammer on our hands with this kid. And he became one of the most talented guys to ever wrestle in Southeast Iowa. One of my absolute favorite wrestlers of all time.
What clubs, schools, etc. did you wrestle for?
Growing up I moved around to a couple different clubs depending on where my Dad thought I would get the best work outs at. I started out at the Burlington Youth Club then transitioned into the Mepo Kids Club and then West Burlington. As I got into middle school and up my dad would also drive me anywhere with in a hour of Burlington if he thought it would help and I wrestled at the Monster-USA club in LM, New London and even up at Iowa City West.
What year did you graduate?
I graduated High School in 2007
Who or what encouraged you to give wrestling a try?
My Dads best friend Mike Kissinger who was a 2-time State Runner up at Burlington talked my dad into letting me wrestle when I was 4 and it all started there.
Do you have any family who wrestled or wrestles currently? Parents, children, brothers, etc.? How did they do?
My parents never wrestled, and my older brother did a little bit but never really got into it much. Then, I have two little girls now that are 3 and 6 and haven’t show interest yet in wrestling but with girl’s wrestling growing so much right now you never know!
What were your youth results? Any rivals there?
This question is making me feel old because without digging up all my old medals and results I don’t remember exactly what years I place what haha. I know I won State my 6th and 8th grade years and then had some 3rd, 4th and 5th place finishes sprinkled in throughout the other years. All I remember is the only year I didn’t place was my 7th grade year.
What was your record in HS?
I couldn’t tell you exactly how many wins I have but I believe I had around 7 losses my freshman year, 2 my sophomore year and then got in some trouble and didn’t get to wrestle in HS sanctioned events my junior or senior year.
How did you place at state every year?
I got 6th my freshman year and then won state my sophomore year. Like I said before I didn’t get to wrestle HS events the next two years, so I spent those year traveling around the country with my dad wrestling in national high school tournaments and then a lot of college opens my senior year.
What were some of the most notable adverse challenges or moments you experienced in wrestling and how did it turn out?
I would say not getting to compete in HS sports my last 2 years was tough on me then, but it all worked out for the better in the long run because I ended up going to Iowa City West my senior year. Even though I didn’t get to wrestle in the high school tournament’s that year I got to practice and wrestle in one of the toughest rooms in the country at that time.
How would you describe your wrestling style?
I always had a little bit of funk and was tough on top, but I would say hard work and grind is what usually ended up setting me apart.
How many guys in high school did you go back and forth with or exchange wins with?
Just a couple my freshman year.
Who was your most influential coach?
This is a hard question because every coach I have ever had has influenced me in a good way somehow. All the way from Jim Drain in kids club who I spent so much time traveling all over the country with to wrestle at different national tournaments, to my high school coaches Mike Richart who was a technique dictionary and then Mark Reiland who treated me like a son and took me in my senior year. After that I learned how to just grind with Moffit at Iowa Central. But if I had to pick one specific coach though it would be Nick Mitchell at Grand View and not just because I got better at wrestling over those years but mostly that he taught me so many lessons about life in general and I don’t think I would be the man or even the father I am today without him.
Was your team competitive in HS/college?
Burlington wasn’t really competitive when I was there. There were only 2 of us that made it to State my freshmen year and then I was the only one that made it the next year. In college though we won nationals both years I was at Iowa Central and set the point record my 2nd year. Then my senior year at Grand View we won the first national title and they have won every one since then going on 9 in a row!
How would you describe the Burlington-West Burlington-Mepo hybrid youth club that we were both in? If all those guys would have stayed together on the same team in HS, could we have won a team state championship?
The Burlington-West Burlington- Mepo club was awesome and was where I think my gritty style of wrestling started at. I think I was a little too young and would of missed the boat but if all of the guys from that club that were a little older than me could of went to the same high school, I think you for sure could of competed for a state title. There were a lot of studs that came out of that club.
So the finish ups that BHS is notorious for where you run across the gym, down the stairs, across the hallway and up the stairs and that’s one lap just destroyed a lot of people, but you handled it with ease, lapping 8th graders such as myself when you were in 1st or 2nd grade… do you remember putting all the older kids to shame in finish ups?
Haha I remember those laps all too well but as far as lapping people you might remember that more than me.
Who was your most influential wrestler that you looked up to growing up?
I really looked up to the guys that were a little older than me that came up through the Burlington – Mepo- West Burlington Club. Guys like you (Joshua Swafford), your brother Justin, Aaron Drain and Chris Johnson are some that come to mind.
Who would you consider the GOAT Iowa HS wrestler?
It is hard to say who the absolute GOAT is because like I say below wrestling has changed and evolved over the years a lot but in my biased opinion, I would say Nick Moore. He was a freshman my senior year that I went to Iowa City West and he was a hammer along with the rest of the studs on that team. He was a 4 timer and believe only had 1 loss during high school.
Who are your favorite current wrestlers?
I am a Hawkeye fan, so I enjoy watching Spencer Lee, Desanto and Marinelli.
What music would you listen to back in the wrestling days?
My 2 go to songs back in the day were Headstrong by Trapt and Can’t Stop by Red Hot Chili Peppers. Used to play them on repeat on my CD Walkman at every tournament haha.
What was the most upset you ever felt after a loss?
I lost in the national finals my freshman and senior year in college. Those were both hard but mostly because I had beaten both of those guys pretty soundly earlier those years.
If you could go back and change one thing about your wrestling career, what would it be?
You would think with missing my junior and senior year of HS wrestling and the other trouble I got in when I was younger that there would be a lot I would change but everything that happened got me to where I am now so it would be hard to say I would change any of that.
What was your best wrestling memory or accomplishment?
Helping Grand View win the first team national title my senior year. Even though I personally came in 2nd I felt like I did everything I possibly could inside and outside the wrestling room that year and it was still a great accomplishment.
Did you wrestle all year or was it seasonal for you?
I started wrestling all year around in middle school I believe but didn’t take freestyle and Greco that serious until my junior year.
How would the guys from your day stack up against the guys today?
That is a good question. I think with how much wrestling has evolved in just the last 10 years with scrambling and different techniques that if you took someone from my day and put them in a match with someone today without having any time to adapt then they would have a tough time.
Did you wrestle after high school?
Yes, I wrestled at Iowa Central and then Grand View University.
What other sports did you play?
Baseball and Football up until my Sophomore year
What are your favorite sports teams?
Honestly, the only sports I really watch are MMA and wrestling.
What are your hobbies other than wrestling?
Mostly hanging out with my kids and family, I like to work out, then watching MMA and grilling or BBQing up good food.
How good does it make you feel to give back to the sport?
With how my work schedules have been since I got out of college I haven’t given back as much as I would like to. Hopefully that can change.
How has wrestling shaped you as a person to this day?
A lot, I think the work ethic that wrestling helped instill in me at a young age has helped me be successful today.
What do you do now?
I am a Sales Executive for a Technology Job Board called Dice.com
Any advice for upcoming wrestlers?
There are a couple different interviews that Nick Mitchell has done this year and in the past and he talks about the “Championship Lifestyle” which is essentially trying to be the best at everything you do every day not just in the wrestling room. So being the best student, the best son or daughter or trying to be the best at every aspect of your life. This is something that I didn’t 100% buy into until my senior year at Grand View and it not only helped me be a better person over all but helped in the wrestling room as well. Because I knew that I was doing everything else in my life right it made working hard at practice everyday that much easier. So, if there is one piece of advice I could give it would be to try and be great at every aspect of life not just wrestling because they do all bleed into each other.
Any chance we see you wrestle again at an Old Timer’s tournament?
Haha probably not.
Would you like to give a shout out to anyone you wrestled with, against, coached, etc.?
The biggest shot out I could give would be to my ol man, Scott Lower. He coached me since I was 4 up to about high school and spent so much time and money taking me to tournaments all over the country and then rarely ever missed a tournament once I got to college. He was always there to keep pushing me through all the ups and downs and I know I would have never got to where I was without him.