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Wrestling: O’Reilly can’t say no to Division I

From left, Goodhue's Bailee O'Reilly (third from left), with activities director Josh Wieme, head wrestling coach Josh Grant and Goodhue High School Principal Mike Harvey, signed his National Letter of Intent to wrestle at the University of Minnesota on Wednesday. (Submitted photo)

Goodhue state champion signs LOI to Minnesota

Bailee O'Reilly had heard from some good wrestling schools. St. Cloud State University was in the mix, and there was interest from O'Reilly in the Huskies, who finished second in the NCAA Division II tournament this year after consecutive national championships in 2015 and 2016. SCSU has also had five individual champions since 2011, and had four All-Americans this season.

That is to say that the Huskies know success, and Goodhue's first two-time state champion would fit right in.

But then the University of Wisconsin approached. That changed the game for O'Reilly. A little while later, it was the University of Minnesota making contact. And that was game over.

“Late summer I was contacted by Wisconsin, and then the U shortly after,” O'Reilly said. “The Division I opportunity arose, and that was definitely cool. I never thought that would happen. But they see potential in me. It's great. It's exciting.”

As decision-time loomed, O'Reilly leaned on those closest to him. And when he finally made up his mind, the joy spread.

“(My family was) excited. My brothers thought it was really cool,” O'Reilly said. “My dad and my brothers, in the end, just wanted what was best for me. Going Division I isn't necessarily what's best for some people. Sometimes it's better to wrestle Division II. But it really came down to if I went Division II, I'd have that regret of not trying Division I and being a part of a Big Ten program.”

The Golden Gophers will be under new leadership with Brandon Eggum taking over officially on Jan. 26 after assuming interim duties last fall. And as much as recruits need a relationship with the head coach, O'Reilly really needed to trust Eggum as the two will be around each other a lot.

“The coaching staff, Eggum is a great guy, and so are (head assistant Luke) Becker and (assistant coach Dustin) Schlater. They're an awesome staff and they're a close-knit family,” O'Reilly said. “And their ability to develop upper weights, that's another thing that drew me to the U. I think I'll be at 165 or 174 pounds, so I'll be working with Eggum and Becker both. They really know how to develop guys. Getting ready for college wrestling is a big jump.”

O'Reilly said he kept most of his recruitment quiet outside of family, coaches and a few close friends. But his announcement will have a massive impact on the school he's leaving. Josh Grant has made great strides in developing Goodhue wrestling, and having a two-time state champ, a senior who placed third at the NHSCA Senior National Championships and at the USA Wrestling Junior Folkstyle National Championships and a Division I wrestler is a lot to show prospective athletes.

“We've made a ton of improvement over the last few years. Guys just want to wrestle harder, they have more pride in the history of the program,” O'Reilly said. “We've had great leaders over the years, captains pushing guys hard and getting the younger kids out.”

O'Reilly said he plans to major in agriculture business, but also said he's keeping his options open. Who knows, he said, he might walk into a class and change his mind. But there is one thing for certain, Minnesota picked up a wrestler ready to give it a go.

“They have a reputation for making your average recruit out of high school dang good college wrestlers,” O'Reilly said. “I'm really excited.”

Kyle Stevens
Kyle Stevens is a sports reporter for the Red Wing Republican Eagle. Previously, Kyle worked at the Owatonna People’s Press, as well as KWLM and KLFN in Willmar. You can contact Kyle by phone at (651) 301-7879, via e-mail at kstevens@republican-eagle.com, and follow him on Twitter @RE_KStevens.
(651) 301-7879
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