Rader lands his dream gig as a writer for FloWrestling

Hawks’ all-time wins leader and recent college graduate travels the country covering the sport he loves

In this Feb. 21, 2015 file photo, South Hamilton senior JD Rader (back) smiles briefly after beating Southeast Warren’s Jake Hunerdosse, 3-1 in sudden victory-1, in the Class 1A 132-pound third-place match at the state wrestling tournament in Des Moines. It was the final match of Rader’s prep career. The sport continues to be a big part of Rader’s life, as the 22-year-old now works as a writer for FloWrestling. DFJ file photo/Troy Banning

WEBSTER CITY — JD Rader and wrestling. Wrestling and JD Rader. They’ve seemingly always gone together, and that hasn’t changed one bit since he graduated from South Hamilton High School in the spring of 2015.

We’re almost five years removed from him re-writing the Hawks’ wrestling record book — a book he still blankets, by the way — and the now 22-year-old Rader is still most frequently found inside a gymnasium or arena with a mat under the spotlight.

The only difference? Instead of competing, now he’s writing. He’s loving every minute of it, too.

Prior to graduating from the University of Nebraska-Kearney in December with a double major in journalism and sports management, Rader landed what he calls his dream job as a content provider for FloWrestling, one of the country’s preeminent sources of wrestling information. He accepted a position with the company in November.

Now a resident of Austin, Texas, Rader continues to be involved with the sport that made him a household name in Hamilton County, a fact he still can’t quite believe.

The Rader family — (left to right) Dan, JD, Michaela and Malisa — pose together at JD’s graduation ceremony at the University of Nebraska-Kearney in December. JD now works as a writer for FloWrestling in Austin, Texas. Submitted photo

“It honestly really is (a dream job),” Rader said. “I don’t have much to complain about and I never thought it would work out like this, but I guess I just got lucky.”

Rader spends the majority of his weekends touring the country for Flo, reporting on some of the most prestigious meets and tournaments on the high school and college scenes, as well as high-profile Olympic-level freestyle tournaments.

Later this week he’ll return to his native state to cover duals between UNI and Oklahoma State, as well as Iowa State and Oklahoma State, on Saturday and Sunday.

Eighteen months ago, Rader admits this wasn’t the career path he necessarily saw for himself, but a communications internship with USA Wrestling last spring set the wheels in motion.

“I honestly didn’t think I was going to get (the internship) because I felt like I was under-qualified for a position like that, but I thought the worst thing that could happen was nothing,” Rader said. “So I thought what the heck and went for it, and I ended up getting it.”

JD Rader (right) works for a takedown during the 2015 state wrestling tournament. He exited the South Hamilton program in 2015 as the all-time wins leader with 155, a three-time Heart of Iowa Conference champion and the school’s only four-time state medalist. DFJ file photo/Troy Banning

Rader spent last summer in Colorado Springs gaining valuable insight and experience in the journalism field with an added bonus — constant contact with his future employer.

“I met the guys that I now work with because we were going to a lot of the same events, and they got to know me through all the content that I was putting out there,” Rader said.

Wrestling has been in Rader’s blood his entire life, so it should come as no surprise that he continues to be involved in the sport.

A can’t-miss prospect in South Hamilton country years before he entered the high school’s halls, Rader is still the most decorated Hawk wrestler of all-time.

A four-time state medalist from 2012 to 2015 — the only South Hamilton grappler to accomplish that feat — Rader put together a 155-16 career record in high school. He moved to the top of the school’s all-time wins leaderboard midway through his senior season, and capped his prep career with a third-place finish at 132 pounds (Class 1A) at the 2015 state tournament.

JD Rader (left) poses with his mom, Malisa, at a University of Nebraska-Kearney wrestling tournament. Rader won 63 career matches for the Lopers prior to his graduation in December. Submitted photo

Rader won 36 or more matches in each of his four seasons at South Hamilton. He went 81-4 as a junior and senior, wrestled 22 career matches at state and captured three Heart of Iowa Conference titles. The only thing that stopped him from being a four-time league champ was a wrist injury that sidelined him for a short time during his senior season.

Rader wrestled for four seasons at the University of Nebraska-Kearney and won 63 matches for the Lopers.

Rader has given a large portion of his life to the sport, and he says it’s given him plenty in return.

“Wrestling has given me so much and it’s shaped my life so much,” he said. “Without wrestling, I don’t find my way out to Nebraska and I don’t find my way out to USA Wrestling and then I don’t find my way to Austin with Flo. I don’t have the friends I made in college, I don’t have all of the memories.

“Because of wrestling I’ve been able to go to a handful of countries and experience a bunch of different things. Now I find myself in a great city with basically my dream job right out of college because of wrestling. Now I’m able to give back to that sport and help other people try to get out of it at least a part of what I got out of it.”

DFJ file photo/Troy Banning

Rader’s parents, Dan and Malisa, continue to reside in Jewell. His younger sister, Michaela, is a standout in her own right. A two-time national high school all-around baton twirling champion, she is now a student at the University of South Alabama and the featured twirler for the Jaguars’ marching band.