EDWARDSVILLE - Luke Odom, rated as one of the nation's top wrestlers at 138 and 145 pounds, signed his letter of intent to attend the University of Illinois in a ceremony later Friday afternoon at the high school.

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Odom, a senior, has an overall high school record going into the season of 54-3, with 21 pins and 24 technical falls over his three years with the Tigers, and his signing with the Fighting Illini is a dream come true for him.

"It's a dream come true," Odom said in an interview that followed the ceremony. "I've been looking for this moment since I was a little kid."

Odom brings a very strong work ethic to Illinois and knows about what lies ahead at the next level.

"I don't know what the future holds for me," Odom said, "but I have a lot of improvement to do to be at that level, and hopefully, I can do big things, be an All-American, win national titles. Those are my goals."

And the Big Ten has a very strong wrestling tradition, with powers such as Penn State, Michigan, Ohio State, and Iowa, the school that produced perhaps the greatest amateur wrestler ever in the legendary Dan Gable. It may well be the strongest wrestling conference in the nation.

"I agree," Odom said with a big smile. "It's tough. But that's why I've always wanted to be in the Big Ten, regardless of where I went."

When asked about his major, Odom had a simple answer.

"To be decided," Odom said with a smile. "I have no idea."

Odom only made one official campus visit, to Illinois, and immediately fell in love with the school and the program, making his choice easy.

"I mean, I was keeping my options open," Odom said. "But I only took one official visit, and that was to Illinois, and after that, I just committed right there. I knew that was it."

Odom was attracted to the Illini program for very simple reasons.

"Just a lot of guys that I grew up wrestling with," Odom said, "and the atmosphere, attitude they bring. I love it there. It's nice."

Tigers coach Jon Wagner is very proud of Odom's decision and sees big things ahead for him in the future.

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"I'm feeling super proud of Luke," Wagner said, "and he's going to a great program. Not just a Big Ten school, but a great wrestling program. He's real excited about it, but he's also real focused on this season, and leaving his legacy here at Edwardsville. He's already written a lot of new records and stuff, but he's working extremely hard. I think he's enjoying the leadership role that he's taken on this year, also."

Wagner feels that Odom will bring plenty to the table for the Illini in the upcoming years, all summed up by one word.

"Win," Wagner said with a smile and laugh. "He likes to win, he's got a real heart and desire to win, and he's got a great work ethic that he accomplishes those tasks. I just think he'll fit in real good with them. That's one of the reasons he's going there; he really likes that program, and I think he'll fit it real good there. He strives for excellence on the wrestling mat, and he's going to be really good at the Big Ten level."

And the excellence of wrestling in the Big Ten is second to none in the nation, and Odom is joining a conference that annually produces its share of excellence in the sport.

"Yes, the best wrestling conference in the nation," Wagner said, "there's no doubt about that. And so he'll get all the competition he needs, he'll get it right there in the room at U of I, and then, when he gets on the mat against the other schools, he'll be right with them too, So if he wants to be the best, which he does, he's going to wrestle the best. He's going to have that."

Wagner is looking forward to seeing what Odom does at Illinois in the next four years, along with his senior season for the Tigers.

"Well, his goal is undoubtedly be a state champion this year," Wagner said. "I know that he can do that, and he's got the ability to do that, and we're going to work hard to achieve that goal, we're going to have fun along the way, and enjoy the journey of doing that, and let the chips fall as they may. But we're definitely going to work our hardest to achieve that goal. So when we get out there, we know we put everything out there on the table to get that done."

Wagner is primed for Odom to have a big season to close out his career at Edwardsville.

"I do," Wagner said. "I think he's right on target. He's already in shape, he's ready to go right now. So he's really, really looking good, so we're excited to watch him. I just think Luke's right on track, and I'm super excited to watch him next year, and got that last night was the Illinois-Missouri meet, so we've got Noah (Surtin) over at Missouri, and Luke at Illinois, and it'll be fun to watch those guys the next few years."

Odom is looking forward as well to the upcoming season for Edwardsville, and his goals for the upcoming season are very straightforward.

"Same as last three years, I want to win the state title, and be the best I can be," Odom said.

And Odom also feels that the Tigers are primed as a team for a big 2019-20 campaign, with plenty of senior leadership and experience to guide the way.

"I'm feeling good, everybody's working hard," Odom said. "I feel like we're right where we need to be. We have a lot of seniors, Caleb (Harrold), Will (Zupanci), they're captains with me. We also have Blake Moss, Lloyd (Reynolds), a couple of others. The freshmen that are coming up, too. I think it's going to be a good year. We'll see how things go."

And Odom is looking forward to the new season, and feels optimistic about how things will turn out.

"Yeah, really looking forward to it," Odom said. "One last go."

More like this:

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Jan 22, 2020 | Harrold Gets Key Pin, Odom Win Main Event As Tigers Defeat Cadets 45-23 In Border War Dual Meet

Jul 10, 2022 | Dylan Gvillo Signs With Northern Illinois University For Wrestling, Is An iCAN Clinic Male Athlete of Month For Tigers

Jan 22, 2020 | Senior Wrestler Luke Odom Is First Community Credit Union Male Athlete Of The Month For Edwardsville High School

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