Oct. 25, 2012
By Ryan Evans
MADISON, Wis. – After coming out of Apple Valley High School two years ago, Badger wrestling redshirt freshman Matthew Kelliher, like many other recruits around the nation, had a decision to make.
As a three-time Minnesota state wrestling champion for the Eagles – a perennial Minnesota wrestling power – he without a doubt had many colleges interested in his services, but being a member of the Kelliher family meant there were only two real contenders.
Matthew’s oldest brother, Tom Kelliher , is a redshirt senior on the Wisconsin wrestling squad, and his middle brother, Craig, is a junior on the wrestling team at Central Michigan, and the two older brothers each put on the full court press in order to convince Matthew to join them at their respective schools.
“I got it from both of them,” Matthew said. “Before I had even done any recruit visits they were both always trying to act like I was going there. They were always like, ‘well when you come to Wisconsin,’ and I got that from both sides.”
For Tom, he knew that the decision Matthew faced – to pick between his two brothers – was a tough one.
“He was really torn,” Tom said. “I talked to him a bunch of times while he was trying to make his decision, and it was definitely having a toll on him trying to pick between the two schools. So, I think we did a pretty good job of campaigning for our own school.”
“We were really adamant about clearing up that we weren’t going to feel like he was playing favorites,” Tom added. “Matt knew he wanted to be around family and we were appreciative of that.”
Matthew said that it was Wisconsin as an overall school – specifically the engineering program - that won him over and that Tom being here as well is an “added bonus.” But, that doesn’t mean that having his older brother around to show him the ropes both in and outside the wrestling room doesn’t have its perks.
As an older brother, Tom has taken on a natural role as Matthew’s mentor, something that is benefited by the fact that the two siblings wrestle at similar weight classes, both at 133 lbs. and Tom also wrestled parts of last season at 141 lbs.
“He’s the only person in the room that has watched me wrestle my entire life, so it’s kind of like having a coach that knows me better than any coach around all the time,” Matthew said. “I get to wrestle with him every single day and he’s constantly trying to help me.”
Wrestling on the same team is nothing new to the Kelliher brothers. Growing up in Minnesota they wrestled on the same team until Tom was in eighth grade, and again for a few years in high school, meaning that being re-united in Madison was just a return to the status quo.
“It actually felt really weird to not have a brother on the team for the first couple of years that I was here, because it was the first time in forever,” Tom said. “I love it. I love having him here.”