Before heading off to SIU-Edwardsville, Bradley Gillum had one last piece of DeKalb business to tackle.
The recent DeKalb graduate won a national championship Friday at the 2022 U.S. Marine Corps Junior Greco National Championships in Fargo, North Dakota, scoring the final seven points to win, 7-5.
“I knew I wanted to go out with one last win, something big,” Gillum said. “I didn’t do too well at freestyle, so I needed to come back even harder if I wanted to make this last tournament count.”
Gillum competed earlier this week in the freestyle division but did not place. He said he definitely wanted to make sure to close his high school career on a positive note.
It didn’t start that way, as Gillum fell behind, 5-0, to Georgia’s Omaury Alvarez in the first period. With Greco scoring different from folkstyle, the type of wrestling used in high school, Gillum battled back and tied things up late on a passivity – the equivalent of a stall in folkstyle – and a pair of takedowns. There are no escape points in Greco.
Even with the score tied, Gillum was going to lose on the tiebreaker if he couldn’t come up with points in the final seconds. That’s when his coach, J.D. Olivia, said the training Gillum has been doing for months came into play.
Gillum used a gut wrench – wrapping his arms around his opponent and squeezing – to turn Alvarez and win, 7-5, the second national championship of his career.
“At the beginning of the season, he told me he wanted to have the best gut wrench in the country,” Olivia said. “I told him, ‘If you’re serious, you need to spend 20 minutes after practice every day.’ And every day after practice he would grab a partner and train for that one specific move. And then with 10 seconds left he needed that move to win a national title. He was literally training six months for that one moment.”
In addition to his 2019 title in Fargo, Gillum twice took second in the IHSA state tournament, as a sophomore and as a senior.
“It feels pretty good,” Gillum said. “It was a tough match, and I had to battle the entire time and give it my all. I’m pretty tired right now.”
And now there’s less than a month until Gillum heads to SIU-E, as he starts Aug. 17.
“I like the coaches there. They’re super-nice people,” Gillum said. “All the other wrestlers were great people too, and I’m super excited to be with them next year and compete with them.”