When Bristen Dial made it to the Indiana High School Athletic Association state wrestling championship this year, it was his first time competing. But it wasn’t his first time there.
His stepfather, Chad Condon, had driven him to the championship each year since he was a sophomore, even though he only qualified his senior year.
Seeing the fire Dial had for wrestling, Condon wanted to help keep it going.
When Dial watched the wrestlers from the stands, he thought of the hours of training, the dedication and the discipline that each put into getting to where they were. He saw the whole for all its working parts.
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“It was really breathtaking,” Dial said.
Dial remembers himself in seventh grade as heading down a bad path and hanging out with the wrong crowd.
Brown County High School wrestling coach Mark Bruner — who was Dial’s physical education teacher — just remembers a seventh-grader who could really move.
“He’d be falling, rolling, get right back up to his feet,” Bruner said.
“So, I talked to him and said, ‘Hey, just to let you know, you’re going to wrestle this year,’” Bruner said.
Dial wasn’t sold on the idea immediately, but he did show up to practice.
It was a rough one, Dial said.
Afterward, Bruner recommended he get a haircut, and Dial went home and did just that.
Six months later, Dial had dropped several weight classes and was hooked on wrestling.
He was big for his age in junior high, yet still very agile, Bruner said.
“I went undefeated my junior high career, actually,” Dial said.
Dial had sparred with the high school team and went into his freshman year expecting to be the best, he said.
“I mean, I still had a winning record, but nowhere near — it was more of a humbling experience,” he said. “It definitely made me close my mouth and open my eyes.”
Dial was a freshman wrestling seniors, Bruner said.
The harder it got, the harder he worked.
“When you have that success, and then you don’t have it, you still want it,” Bruner said. “And I think that was part of his drive: he had that early success, kept working, and wanted to get back to it.”
Thinking it through
Dial approaches wrestling as a mental exercise, Bruner said. He takes even his defeats as an opportunity to learn.
“He dissects things. He breaks everything down,” said Dial’s mother, Tonya Condon.
Dial only has one thing on his mind when a tournament is over, he said. “Can I have the iPad, please?”
He immediately reviews video his parents take of his matches. He analyzes everything he did wrong and everything he did right, regardless the outcome, he said.
And he doesn’t just look to his own matches for inspiration.
“I don’t know a day I haven’t sat down and just watched wrestling videos,” he said.
From NCAA wrestlers to Olympians, Dial takes apart the matches, looking for ways to improve.
And wrestling isn’t the only part of his life where Dial thinks things through and dissects them, his parents said.
Both of them laughed recalling disagreements at home.
“He analyzes what was said, what it means when you said it, and then tries to get that back around to prove his point,” Chad Condon said.
Even when he’s watching a movie and relaxing, he’s still doing it.
“I’ll sit there and look at symbols, or, like, ‘What does this mean in context to society compared to that time period?’” he said.
Dial has a reputation as a good student, Bruner said.
“If he’s not working out or lifting or wrestling, he’s usually doing homework and studying — or he’s at work,” Tonya Condon said.
Even time with his girlfriend, Wells Scholar Corina Greiner, is usually spent studying, Dial said.
“It’s funny, to see them all in there, you know, thinking back to the way it was when I was in school,” Chad Condon said. “The group of kids get together, and they’re not hanging out, they’re doing homework.”
“Several times, I’ve had seven or eight kids laying in my living room in a circle — with school work,” Tonya Condon said.
“We all passed that test with an A,” Dial added.
Dial has a good group of friends, his mother said.
With both his friends and his family, he shows that he understands and respects the support they give to him, Chad Condon said.
“I don’t know if that’s something that’s been instilled, or he’s recognized the fact that we’re there to support him,” Chad Condon said.
Dial tracked his attitude to wrestling, though Chad Condon said he thinks wrestling reinforced something that was already a part of who Dial is.
Dial remembers the first time he realized how many people were pulling for him and helping him — both as a wrestler and as a student.
“The idea of having people to support me made me want to be around people like that even more and try even harder,” he said.
Dial demonstrates a sincere desire to do the right thing, Bruner said.
“He wants the adults in his life to be happy with what he’s done.”
Bruner talked about a recent workout session in the high school weight room when Dial spotted a junior high student off to the side by himself.
Dial invited the boy to join the high school athletes and learn how to use the weights properly, Bruner said.
“He’s willing to help. He’s caring. He doesn’t want anybody to be left out,” Bruner said. “But on the same token, he wants to make sure you’re doing what you should be doing.
“He likes everybody to be successful.”
Dial has been recruited to wrestle at Wabash College, where he would like to study biochemistry.
Recurring staphylococcus infections throughout his childhood inspired an interest in medicine, Dial said. He wants to study why people who have a staph infection are prone to recurrence and look for a way to prevent it, he said.
Whether he follows the medicine path or other graduate-level education, he wants to keep his academic sights high.
Though Wabash wasn’t the only school that recruited him, it was the school’s academic standards that made his decision, Dial said.
Bristen Dial has been invited to participate in a wrestling event in Australia.
The 18th Annual Down Under Wrestling Meet is an event for wrestlers from the United States and South Pacific with four days of training and sightseeing culminating in a two-day tournament.
The cost to participate is around $4,000, Dial said.
Dial intends to raise most of the money through working at Casa del Sol. However, he has also created a GoFundMe page so that people who want to help him get to Australia, can.
His page is gofundme.com/v9uefbt8.