Jared Reis is making the most of his final season on the mat.

The former Napoleon High School standout, and D-I wrestler at Oregon State, will represent the University of Mary at the NCAA Division II national championships this weekend in Cedar Rapids, Iowa.

It's been a winding road for Reis to end his career in Bismarck. In fact, it involved some time away from the mat.

"I took two years off. I've been pouring concrete for my brother's business in Lincoln," said Jared, who also bought a house in the town located about seven miles south of Bismarck. "It slows down in the winter. I had been thinking about going back. All signs kinda pointed to wrestling."

Out of high school, Reis whittled down his top two college choices to Oregon State and Oklahoma.

"The biggest factor in going to Oregon State was at the time Troy Steiner, a national champion who went to Century (High School), was an assistant coach there," Reis said. "Troy being there was why I went there."

On the mat, things did not go as planned.

"It's kinda hard to explain. I went out there to be an All-American, but I didn't make the team," Reis said. "It was quite the disappointment, but I got a degree out of it.

"Oregon's a lot different than North Dakota -- lots of beautiful waterfalls and great places to hike."

Reis, 23, graduated with a degree in managerial economics, but still had one year of wrestling eligibility remaining. While unable to crack the dual lineup at Oregon State, Reis still had success. He won 28 matches as a freshman, 14 as a sophomore and 12 his junior season, posting winning records every year.

He's done the same for the Marauders. Two weeks ago Reis became the first U-Mary wrestler to qualify for nationals since 2013 when Trevor Johnson accomplished the feat.

University of Mary wrestling coach Adam Aho was well aware of Reis going back to his high school days for the Imperials. At the time, Aho was an assistant coach at Minnesota State Mankato and had attempted to recruit Reis, although he knew it was a long shot.

"It was pretty apparent he was going D-I," Aho said.

Adding a wrestler with experience at the highest level proved very beneficial.

"His leadership on the mat and how he prepared was a great example for our younger guys to see," Aho said. "They saw what it takes to attain that high-level of success, how you need to be able to push yourself past your breaking point."

Reis has won eight of his 11 matches since taking over the 157-pound spot for the Marauders in the second semester. Things really started to click at the Super Regional 3 championships when he went 5-1 and placed third Feb. 24-25 in St. Cloud, Minn.

"I knew it'd be a process just getting into wrestling shape more than anything," he said. "Pouring concrete in the summer, it's hot and we work hard, but it's different.

"I also had to change my whole diet," he joked.

Aho said Reis brings true "man strength" to the table.

"He makes the joke all the time about how strong he is," Aho said. "It's not weight-lifting strong, it's concrete-strong."

Reis earned wins over the No. 3- and 9-ranked 157-pounders at regionals and is not shying away from setting the bar high at nationals. He opens against Shawn Beiriger of Western State Colorado University on Friday.

"My goal is to be on the top of the podium," he said. "It's a tough tournament. It's the 16 best guys in the country in D-II.

"For me, the biggest thing is just to stay relaxed. I'm older now, so I don't need to be getting all jacked up. Hopefully, I'll stick to the game plan and be consistent and wrestle as well as I can."

Reis is working on his master's degree in business administration at U-Mary. He said finishing his career close to home has been special.

"Adam (Aho) has brought in a lot of good guys and the program is only going to get better," he said. "It was cool looking up in the stands for my first match and seeing a lot of people I hadn't seen since high school.

"I've enjoyed it. It's been a good experience to be back in North Dakota. I feel good about how things worked out."

Aho is hoping for a fantastic finish.

"Honestly, I could absolutely see him winning a national title, there's no question about it," he said. "It's been a lot of fun to have him here. It would be great to see him go out on top." 

Reach Tribune sports editor Dave Selvig at (701) 250-8246 or david.selvig@bismarcktribune.com