Brandon Mills’ junior season on the mat didn’t sit well with him.
In fact, it changed him altogether.
Mills earned a spot in Fort Dodge’s varsity lineup a year ago, jockeying between 145 and 152 pounds. But after compiling a 13-13 record, he wanted more.
“Seeing those guys (2019 state qualifiers) on the poster and their names on the back of t-shirts — I wanted to be the next guy to step up,” Mills said. “It would have been nicer to be on the roster sooner and do better, but if it didn’t happen this way, I maybe wouldn’t have had the drive to succeed that it gave me.”
That drive came before his senior year. Mills used his inconsistency on the mat as motivation, and was bound and determined to change the direction of his career.
That began with an improved training regimen.
“I didn’t want to be 13-13 again,” Mills said. “I wanted to turn it around and be the best.
“I hit the gym and worked out twice a day every day. I traveled out of state and (participated in) wrestling camps.”
Mills competed for the Dodgers’ fourth-place state duals team a year ago. That pushed him even more.
“Going to down to Des Moines (last year) and seeing the support everyone got,” Mills said. “I wanted to be that guy that everyone cheered on and the guy they could cheer on inside Wells Fargo Arena.”
Now Mills is reaping the benefits of his hard work. The Dodger 145-pounder is ranked eighth in the state and earned the sixth seed in Class 3A. He has compiled a 29-11 record so far for FDSH.
Mills took center stage when he upset second-ranked Colby Schreiver, a University of Iowa recruit, by pinning him in the district championship round last Saturday.
With the success that his followed him, Mills isn’t taking all the credit. His support system has been there through thick and thin.
“All of my coaches on the Fort Dodge staff, Carl Valley (of Valley Wrestling Club), and Max Askren and his wrestling academy,” Mills said. “They all have been a huge force for me to take it to the next level.”
Closer to home, Mills’ mother, Brandy, and his grandfather, Richard, have been both cheerleaders anda sounding board.
“I always want to make my grandpa proud,” Mills said. “If there is anything to think about, I just think about what he would do. I wanted to get down to Des Moines and make him proud.
“My mom is my biggest fan and the strongest-willed individual in my life to say the least. She is always there fighting for and with me.”
Mills has personified the image of a Dodger, and lives the lifestyle of what he believes an FDSH wrestler should stand for at the end of the day.
“I believe a Dodger is a well-mannered individual with a blue-collar background,” Mills said. “Someone who is respected, and going to beat whoever is in front of them.”
Mills is undecided on his future plans.
TIMEOUT WITH BRANDON MILLS
Vacation destination: Las Vegas.
People I would like to have dinner with: my grandpa Richard, Allen Henderson, Ronald Reagan.
My sports role model: my dad Matt Hughes.
My everyday role model: my grandpa Richard Mills.
I can’t go a day without: chocolate milk; when not in season cosmic brownies.
Superstition: can’t wear my favorite pizza planet socks when I wrestle.
Most heated rivalry: Southeast Polk.
Favorite road trip: wrestling camp to Wisconsin to Askren Academy.
What are you listening to right now? Johnny Cash.
Team: Kansas City Chiefs.
Book or Magazine: American Sniper.
Phone app: YouTube.