Oak Park and River Forest High School announced Jan. 28 the hiring of two varsity head coaches for the school’s athletic program.
Bailey Wendt, an Oak Park native, takes the reins as varsity boys water polo coach, taking over for John Rapp, who retired after the spring 2021 season. Wendt served as Rapp’s assistant for the last two seasons, a fact which OPRF Athletic Director Nicole Ebsen said played a role in his hiring.
“Coach Wendt comes highly recommended and is well-respected in the world of aquatics,” she stated in a press release issued by the school. “His prior experience with the team for the past few seasons will ensure a seamless transition.”
Wendt had a distinguished playing career in both high school and college. He merited All-American status while at OPRF’s crosstown rival, Fenwick High School, and was a captain at Indiana University, making the All-Big Ten team twice.
“I’m grateful to have had the privilege of growing up in Oak Park,” said Wendt in the press release. “I’m looking forward to sharing my passion for water polo and the valuable life lessons the sport has taught me with the student-athletes.”
During Rapp’s final season as head coach last spring, the OPRF boys finished with a 10-9 record, a campaign highlighted by defeating Fenwick in the IHSA sectional semifinal round after losing to the Friars twice during the regular season. The Huskies 2021 season ended in the sectional finals against York High School.
Coughlin named softball coach
Long a presence in the OPRF athletic program, J.P. Coughlin — who stepped down as varsity girls basketball coach last spring — is back leading another Huskies team.
Coughlin, a varsity softball assistant for several years will succeed Mel Kolbusz, who retired last summer after a 35-year career at OPRF, including the last 29 seasons as head coach.
“Replacing Coach Kolbusz, the best softball coach in the history of the IHSA, is an honor and privilege I cherish,” said Coughlin in a press release.
With three IHSA state championships, the Huskies have had a long history of winning on the diamond, and Ebsen was looking an individual who would maintain the tradition.
“We were conscious of looking for someone who would be able to carry the team forward without any disruptions,” she said in the release. “J.P. is rooted in OPRFHS and will do an outstanding job of continuing the program’s tradition of success.”
A 1997 OPRF graduate who played baseball under the late, legendary Jack Kaiser, Coughlin’s coaching career started in 2006 as a varsity assistant for girls basketball. He took over as girls basketball head coach in 2012, a spot he held for eight seasons.
Coughlin began working in the Huskies’ softball program in 2013, serving as a coach of the freshman team. Three years later, he became an assistant on Kolbusz’s varsity staff, helping guide OPRF to consecutive IHSA championships in 2016 and 2017.
“This is an incredible softball community and at the center of it all are our incredible student-athletes,” Coughlin said. “I cannot wait to get to work.”