St. Cloud State University senior wrestler Shamus O’Grady, a Coon Rapids High School graduate and state wrestling champion, can add the NCAA Division II National Championship to his resume.
O’Grady became the fourth Husky to capture a national title, which he did at 184 pounds after consecutive fourth-place finishes at 174 pounds.
He set a new national championship points record by a Husky and was also named the Most Outstanding Wrestler of the meet, which was held at the CrossPlex in Birmingham, Ala., March 7-9.
Before heading on to the mat for his first match at nationals, O’Grady received about 80 texts filled with encouragement with a Cardinal-red tint.
O’Grady’s high school coach at Coon Rapids and current coach Bob Adams encouraged wrestling booster club members to give him some friendly words before his biggest meet of his life so far. “It was pretty neat,” O’Grady, a 2008 Coon Rapids graduate said, recognizing many of the last names from his days on the Coon Rapids mats.
O’Grady tied another St. Cloud record for most wins in a season with a 40-1 mark (21-0 in duals) and finished his collegiate career as a four-time All-American with a 108-28 record.
To clinch the title, O’Grady scored a 12-2 major decision over Dallas Smith of Ouachita Baptist. He defeated Pitt-Johnstown’s Travis McKillop 6-4 in what was the marquee match-up of the tournament. McKillop entered nationals as the Division II leader in the Most Dominating Wrestler charts in 2012-13.
O’Grady said McKillop was the only wrestler he couldn’t turn over on to his back. “He scored the first take down. then I reversed him and after the first period I was in the lead the rest of the way,” O’Grady said.
St. Cloud finished runner-up for the third consecutive season in the team standings, this time three points behind Nebraska-Kearney.
O’Grady has meant a lot to the Huskies program over the last five seasons. According to Head Coach Steve Costanzo, he’s a real coach’s dream. “Shamus came in here five years ago after a successful red shirt season and a successful high school career and we knew he was going to be very special,” Costanzo said. “We were excited when he made that decision to be a Husky. We recruited him pretty hard.”
“He’s a pleasure to work with and a joy to be around. We’re so grateful he became a wrestler here.”
Returning to the national championship meet with a goal of winning a national title in his senior season was a dream which came true for O’Grady. “It’s something I’ve been working toward and to finish my collegiate career with a national title is something meaningful,” he said. “At the start of the season I made the goal of whatever I do through wrestling is for God and His glory and it happened.”
O’Grady hopes to continue freestyle wrestling and take it as far as possible, hopefully on a national team or even the Olympics. To get there he’s worked with Huskies assistant coach John Peterson, a 1972 US Olympic silver medalist and 1976 gold medalist.
According to Costanzo, O’Grady and Peterson share personalities and more. “We always talk quietly about pursuing wrestling after college and he reminds me a lot of John Peterson,” Costanzo said. “I know John’s been a big influence on him and will continue to be. They’ve worked together behind the scenes with the spiritual side and he has been an extremely positive mentor in Shamus’ life.”
On the mat, Costanzo said Peterson’s best wrestling came after college which is what he believes will happen for O’Grady. “I don’t think this is the last you’ve heard of him,” he said. “With the right coaching he could be one of the nation’s best.”
Costanzo hopes to keep O’Grady around the Huskies wrestling room as long as possible. O’Grady is working on his bachelor’s degree in special education. “He’ll be a coach for us next year and we’ve invited his presence into our room next season,” Costanzo said. “He’s a good teacher with his skills and we look forward to having him in the room as long as possible.”
With 108 career wins, O’Grady has plenty to offer the next generation of wrestlers. “You like the motivation and he’s one of those kids you have to pull the reigns back throughout his career,” Costanzo said.
O’Grady pulled double-duty running on the cross country team and wrestling for his first two seasons before giving up cross country to focus on wrestling.
“He’s going to give you seven minutes and every bit of his effort on the mat,” Costanzo said. “He really goes above and beyond and is a workhorse. You have to pull back and say that’s enough. He would run five miles before a dual match.”
Given that work ethic, Costanzo felt O’Grady was a national title contender as a junior and senior.
“He beat two national champions last year,” Costanzo said. “Coming into this year he was the DII guy to beat. For him to have the type of season he had is remarkable. Going 21-0 in duals and 40-1 overall and beat a DI top-eight ranked guy from Illinois at the Iowa State Invite was great.”
Don’t look for O’Grady in a mixed martial arts arena anytime soon though. When asked about the future prospects of stepping into the octagon he repeated a comment his mother made to him while he watched a UFC match on TV.
“She said, ‘I better never see you on this show one night’,” O’Grady said.