Wrestling: O'Reilly wins it for mom
ST. PAUL – Bailee O'Reilly soaked in the moment.
His final high-school match ended in victory with a 13-11 decision over Jackson County Central's Dalton Wagner for the Class 1A 160-pound championship Saturday.
O'Reilly won his second state title, becoming the first Goodhue wrestler to win a pair of state titles. With a heavy heart, O'Reilly went to his knees and pointed to the heavens, honoring the person he wanted to win a state title for.
“Last year, I wanted to do it more than anything for myself, my coaches and stuff,” O'Reilly said. “This year, I want to dedicate it to my mom.”
On Sept. 29, 2008, Bailee's mother, Jamie, passed away at 32 years old after battling cancer. Bailee is the oldest of her five sons.
“That was special to have my last high-school match out there and do it for her,” O'Reilly said. “That meant a lot.”
“It's special. A mother is special to all her children, but there's always something special about a mom and her boys,” said Wildcats head wrestling coach Josh Grant. “I'm happy for him because he's worked for it. He has a 3.5 GPA, he's a great leader, he's a great person. Bailee's a true champion in every aspect and you can't ask for more than that.”
Reaching the finals after a 14-3 major decision over Westfield's Colton Krell, that set up a showdown between top-ranked wrestlers in O'Reilly (170) and Wagner (160).
After an early take-down and a near-fall, O'Reilly looked dominant early with a 7-2 first-period lead. But that lead evaporated in the second period and victory looked like it could slip out of O'Reilly's hands after Wagner got a near-fall as time expired in the second. Then in the third, Wagner took an 11-10 lead after escaping O'Reilly's clutches.
A younger O'Reilly would have been kicking himself over that points swing. But over time, O'Reilly has managed to be a more aggressive wrestler with a short memory on the mat.
“It disappeared in his head. It was like, 'OK, now I got to go and keep scoring,'” Grant said. “He didn't panic at all and I didn't panic, either.”
Instead, O'Reilly got a hold of Wagner's ankles for a take-down and an 11-10 lead. After Wagner tied the match with an escape, O'Reilly again got a hold of Wagner's ankles for the match-deciding take-down.
“I wanted to keep attacking,” O'Reilly said. “It was a fun match. That's what people want to come here and watch. I just got out of position that one time and paid for it. But I kept attacking, kept going for it and paid off.”
Grant added, “What's great about Bailee is he's always aggressive. He doesn't have a slow mode. He figured out a couple years ago you have to wrestle at a really high pace and score a lot of points to win these type of matches. He's got great defense and you put in that hustle factor and that's the makings of a champion.”
And being the first two-time champion for a program that has been as traditionally solid as Goodhue, that's a feat a mother could love.
“It's pretty awesome. It's something I never really thought could happen,” O'Reilly said. “But it's here and it's super exciting to make history like that. It means a lot for the school and a lot for my family.”