Julien Broderson weighed around 150 pounds his freshman season.
It would have been logical for Broderson to compete at 152 or 160 pounds for Davenport Assumption's wrestling team, but returning starters Nicholas Johnson and Joe Argo occupied those spots.
“Julien never asked for a wrestle-off because he respected the seniors that were there too much,” former Assumption coach Pete Bush said. “It was more about the team than his individual record.”
Broderson wrestled at 170 pounds that season.
He had success with a Mississippi Athletic Conference championship and contributed to a Class 2A state duals title, but a third-place finish at districts prevented him from participating at the individual state tournament.
Based on what transpired the past three seasons -- three state titles and a 112-match win streak -- it would be understandable for Broderson to think what could have been if he wrestled at his true weight class that freshman season.
Broderson has no regrets in how it turned out.
“What happened that freshman season really motivated me going into that offseason,” he said. “I trained all summer and things just really started to click with my wrestling. Who knows if I would have had that same level of desire if things were different that year?”
Even in a program rich with tradition, including names like Bush, Grothus, Carton, Watts and Garvin, Broderson developed into one of the best to come through Assumption’s wrestling room.
His wrestling accolades, coupled with Class 3A first team all-state honors in baseball and a contributor on defense for the football team this past fall, have led to Broderson being selected as the Quad-City Times Male Athlete of the Year.
The Iowa State wrestling recruit is the third Assumption male, first since Willie Argo in 2008, to claim the award.
“Julien has a ton of God-given ability, but he has a thirst for knowledge and his competitiveness is off the charts,” Bush said. “He has all the tools in the bag to be a national champion in college.
“If he can adjust to the college style — the grind and constant work — I have no doubt great things are in store for him at Iowa State.”
Start in wrestling
Nobody in Broderson’s family had much of a wrestling background.
His older brother, Noah, brought home a flyer from elementary school about the Davenport West wrestling club.
“I don’t know what sparked the idea for my dad to get us into wrestling, but we went to that first practice,” Broderson said.
Broderson was hooked.
"I’ve loved the sport since the first day I wrestled," he said.
In Broderson’s first tournament, a local four-man round robin, he placed third.
The victories and trophies soon followed. He won multiple AAU state championships starting in kindergarten.
“I knew wrestling was my sport,” Broderson admitted.
By junior high, Broderson was around the Assumption room frequently preparing for the next phase of his career.
He made an immediate impact.
Broderson was 34-14 and first team all-Metro as a freshman.
Even at that time, Bush said Broderson was on track to be among the best wrestlers he ever coached with his athleticism, technique and work ethic.
"He was always all ears and looking to improve," Bush said. "He never had the attitude that he had arrived."
During the semifinals of the state dual tournament that season, Broderson wrestled at 182 against Creston/Orient-Macksburg. For that to happen, Broderson had to weigh in at least 160.
Still eight pounds under the required weight the night before, Broderson ate and drank as much as he could to reach 160. He downed water by the gallons. He consumed an abundance of meat.
"My (individual) season was over, so I was there to help our team," he said. "The best chance for us to win that dual was for me to bump up to (182)."
Broderson lost his match, but kept the score to a decision against a state-ranked competitor. It proved pivotal in what was a tight dual.
"Julien made a lot of sacrifices his freshman season for our team," Bush said. "There was never one time where I heard him complain or grumble about it."
Road to dominance
One double dual into his sophomore season, Broderson knew he was on the path to greatness. He downed fourth-ranked Trey Van Weelden of Washington 7-0 in the season-opening triangular.
Broderson suffered a couple of setbacks that season, but he never lost again in his high school career following a 5-4 defeat to New Hampton's Ryan Gorman at the Battle of Waterloo in December 2016.
He avenged the loss to Dyersville Beckman's Luke Hageman at districts, 10-5, and knocked off Gorman 4-2 in the state championship at 160 pounds.
Broderson was 39-0 as a junior with only two matches going six minutes.
Then this past season, the 195-pounder compiled a 53-0 mark. The lone six-minute match came in a dual against Bettendorf when he went up and wrestled eventual state runner-up Griffin Liddle at heavyweight.
"I told Julien after he won his sophomore year, your season starts now for next year," Bush said. "You're not going to be challenged in high school wrestling the next two years. You need to go to as many national events as you can so you can get tested.
"He went to about every tournament he possibly could."
Broderson finished his career with 174 wins, more than 110 of those by pin. He was named the Dan Gable Iowa Class 2A wrestler of the year. He'll receive the Bob Steenlage Award next month given to the top high school senior wrestler in the state.
FloWrestling had him seventh in the country at his weight class in its final rankings.
"I'm really content with how my career went at Assumption," he said.
The Assumption wrestling room has been a second home for Broderson the past five years.
"Honestly, every time I walk into the room, even though it looks clean and dry, I think of sweat everywhere," Broderson said. "When you come in at the end of a practice, you can't see out the windows because they're all fogged up, and the mats are completely soaked.
"The music is blaring and everyone is wrestling live and getting better. It has been special to wrestle for a program with so much tradition. There are a lot of memories in this room."
Just four days before Broderson pitched a two-hit shutout against Bondurant-Farrar in the state quarterfinals at Principal Park last July, he was in Fargo, North Dakota, concluding a week of 13 wrestling matches at the Junior freestyle and Greco-Roman national championships.
After getting back from Fargo at 4 a.m., he was at the team's baseball workout six hours later.
Broderson juggled baseball and prestigious wrestling events throughout the summer. He took ice baths to recover.
"I'd do a lot of my wrestling practices in the morning or after baseball," he said. "I really made it a priority to get a lot of rest."
Broderson finished the baseball season 8-0 with a 1.03 ERA and 61 strikeouts in 54 1/3 innings. He was Class 3A first team all-state by the Iowa Print Sports Writers Association and first team all-Metro.
"He's a strike-thrower, competes his tail off and fields his position extremely well," former Assumption baseball coach Billy Argo said. "He helped our team a great deal."
After Broderson's gem in the quarterfinals, the right-hander returned several days later and tossed a two-hitter with eight strikeouts in the championship game rout over Harlan.
"Having those short breaks between wrestling and baseball, regrouping myself and refocusing, I was fresh," Broderson said. "That made a huge difference."
Broderson returned to the football field last fall after not playing as a junior. The linebacker was in on almost 25 tackles before his season ended prematurely with a knee injury.
Bush and Iowa State wrestling coach Kevin Dresser were college teammates. Bush's son, Danny, wrestled for Dresser at Iowa State.
So when Dresser took over the Cyclone program, Bush made him aware of Broderson.
Dresser was intrigued what he saw of Broderson on and off the mat.
"When the whistle blows, he's going to tear your head off, but when he steps away from the mat, he's a good, young man," Dresser said. "I like his personality.
"He's personable, he can communicate well and that's a good way to go into college."
With Broderson's frame, Dresser points to him as a 184-pounder in college. If Broderson grows another inch or two, Dresser said 197 is a possibility.
"He's a very athletic kid, and you like that as a coach," Dresser said. "He seems to be serious about winning. Julien has spent so much time doing a lot of things and never really focused just on wrestling.
"I'm curious to see how much he can grow when that's just the focus. He has tremendous upside."
Dresser said there is about a 95 percent chance Broderson will redshirt this upcoming season. The Cyclones return 184-pounder Sam Colbray, who reached the Round of 12 at the NCAA Championships in March, for two more seasons.
Broderson will have to get acclimated to a new style, one which includes riding time and wrestling seven-minute matches.
"When I get there, I'm going to have to build my gas tank up a little bit," Broderson said. "Everybody in college will be just as good, if not better, than you are."
Still, Broderson has aspirations of competing for national championships. He believes he has the mentality to succeed on wrestling's biggest stage.
"You've got to be a little bit crazy to wrestle in college," Broderson said. "Just being in the wrestling room and around coach Bush, he's one of my bigger mentors and I want to follow in his footsteps of winning a national championship.
"You have to have a different mentality to wrestle in college, let alone be successful. Being around coach Bush, I have what it takes."