Mac Bailey has never been the kind of person to sit still for long periods.
So when Bailey, a three-time Missouri wrestling state champion, was injured recently at the beginning of his senior season, he had a hard time just killing time at Oak Park High School wrestling practices.
Surely, he thought, there had to be something for one of the top wrestlers in the state to do while his teammates worked on their takedowns and escapes.
“I said ‘heck, help us coach,’ ” Oak Park wrestling coach Tim Rupp said. “He started helping coach when he was injured and it has just gone from there.”
Now, Bailey is healthy, back on the mat and dominating opponents again. But he’s still keeping up with his duties as an unofficial coach for the Northmen.
During a recent Saturday at the Midwest Wrestling Classic at the KCI Expo Center, Bailey was stationed next to Oak Park assistant coaches, shouting instructions at some of the younger Northmen wrestlers. He did this prior to his championship match.
“It almost motivates me more,” Bailey said of his leadership role. “I have more to do. Not only do I have to worry about myself, but I have to make sure all the other guys are working hard, too.”
Bailey says he has always had the type of personality to offer advice to other wrestlers — when they asked for it.
This season though, with Bailey being a team captain and the Oak Park wrestling team being as young as it is, the timing of his increased leadership role seems to be perfect.
Oak Park has been one of the elite wrestling programs in the nation the last few years. But with the departure of coach Gary Mayabb to take the job at Staley High School and graduation of a laundry list of state champions, Rupp knew it would be vital to have people around who knew exactly the meaning of the Northmen’s tradition.
Two former state champions are part of Rupp’s coaching staff, and Bailey is the core link among the wrestlers.
“As far as coaches, I wanted people around me that the Oak Park tradition was important to as well,” Rupp said.
As for how the other wrestlers handle taking coaching from Bailey, who is just a year or two older than them, it seems to be all positive.
“In a lot of ways, they will listen more to him than they will to any of the coaches. He’s out on the mat just like they are,” Rupp said. “That’s just the nature of team sports. There are a lot of instances where the younger guys will listen more to them than they will Coach.
“For the younger guys, when someone like Mac takes an interest in them, that’s a huge motivator for them.”
Bailey, to some extent, had some of the same mentors when he was starting out in the high school ranks. Wrestlers such as Scott O’Donnell and older brother Zack Bailey — both Missouri four-time state champions — provided tips to Mac when he was wrestling and in practice.
But they never were seated at the corner of the mat in a coaching role, as Mac often is.
“My brother, all of those guys, they were at every match,” Bailey said. “They were always telling me what I needed to do to get better.”
So now, in a way, it’s Bailey’s turn to pay it forward.
“I like to see my team win and also a lot of the guys look up to me,” he said. “The guys seem to wrestle better when I’m there.”
To reach Cole Young, sports reporter for The Star, call 816-234-5912 or send e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org