Some call it training, but Shamus O’Grady calls it “having fun.”
When the weather is nice, O’Grady — a St. Cloud State senior wrestler ranked No. 1 at 184 pounds in Division II — will head to a wooded area and chase deer.
That is not code for something else. O’Grady, a Coon Rapids native, literally chases deer — something he started in high school. Has he ever caught one? “No,” he said, “but I’ve gotten close to patting them on the butt.”
The same could be said, in a manner of speaking, for St. Cloud State athletics. According to the school, St. Cloud State has come close — including runner-up finishes for the wrestling team the past two years — but has never won a national championship in a team sport.
The wrestling team is ranked No. 1 heading into the Division II championships that begin Friday in Alabama. O’Grady may never catch a deer, but he could help erase that other zero from the ledger.
“My mentality is to go out there and do my stuff, not just win but dominate,” O’Grady said. “If we do bring home a championship, it would give wrestling a bigger name ... and give St. Cloud State a little more publicity.”
Said head coach Steve Costanzo: “It would be a big deal obviously if we could pull something like that. It would be exciting for the guys behind the scenes doing all the work.”
At the same time, there is still plenty of work to be done. The Huskies have achieved their No. 1 status in part because of a strong dual meet season. At the national meet, team scores are determined by the sum of points earned by individuals. St. Cloud State qualified wrestlers at nine weights (out of 10), tied for the most at this year’s tournament, but five of those wrestlers are competing at the NCAA meet for the first time.
“That will be interesting to see how they compete,” Costanzo said. “But they’ve wrestled in big events this year and handled it well.”
And they can always lean on O’Grady, a veteran presence with an unusual hobby.
“Shamus is a character,” Costanzo said. “He’s a fun kid. He’s one of those guys who is really free-spirited and living life to the fullest.”