Middle School Duals and IWF-IKWF Tangle
In installment five of The Journey...All American's Clayton Rush (Coe) and Mario Morgan (UNO) represent respective organizations in the Middle School Duals.
Both Rush and Morgan are competitng in their final season of college eligibility. Both are argubably the most decorated non NCAA DI wrestlers competiting from Illinois. Read how each progressed through the years to this point as they take the Journey of a wrestler's lifestyle along with their families to the end of their careers.
Middle School Duals by Gail Rush
Duals! The dual format was and still is my favorite type of tournament. The “duals” in middle school were no exception. It’s actually hard for me to remember when Clayton was on his first middle school dual team. I’m trying to do all of this from memory, and this one, for some reason, is escaping me. Anyway, I’ll just talk about the “duals”.
Clayton was “selected” to be on two IKWF middle school dual teams. I honestly don’t remember which one was first, so I’ll talk about the one held in Danville first. And honestly, I can only remember one specific story. I don’t remember where they placed, although I do remember he was on IKWF Silver and they placed top 5, I believe.
The Manchild. You’re probably thinking, “what??” Clayton’s first encounter with the Manchild was at Winter Nationals one year. He was called to a mat and his opponent took off his sweats. We were shocked. Here was this little boy, probably 2nd or 3rd grade as he was a year or 2 or maybe even 3 years younger than Clayton. He had muscles everywhere. I think he even had them in his forehead. Clayton got in on ONE shot and the Manchild decided that was enough. He put it to my son, pinned him if I remember correctly, and knowing Clayton, it was probably in a cradle!!
Anyway, back to the duals. Michigan Elite was there and that meant Riley Ewalt, aka the Manchild, was there, too. As the tournament progressed and one day turned into 2, we had heard Austin Beuhler, who wrestled with Martinez Elite and was on IKWF Gold, had dislocated his shoulder. When he finally returned to the tournament, sling on his arm, he told us the Manchild had done it…in a whizzer. Yep…dislocated Austin’s shoulder in a whizzer. And this was a kid that was YOUNGER than these boys!! IKWF Silver didn’t have to wrestle Michigan Elite…and I was glad, very glad.
NHSCA MSD Team
The other IKWF Middle School Duals Clayton was "selected" to be in were held in a filed house in Berwyn. I had never even heard of Berwyn…must be in Chicago somewhere. Isn’t Chicago a state all it’s own? As far as we were concerned, everything “up there” was somewhere in Chicago. There are two things that come to mind when I think of the Duals in Berwyn. Jim Didi is one. I won’t say too much about that. It’s the way Jim liked it, but without him we wouldn’t have been there. Clayton would have never experience "somewhere in Chicago" and we would have missed out on meeting yet more incredible people.
Didi, as we very sincerely and lovingly called him, honestly did more behind the scenes than most people will ever know. His passing was a huge loss to not only IKWF but to wrestling as a whole, and to Clayton, and to me. Once, at State, there was a young man who qualified but was late getting there and all the jackets were sold out. I talked to Jim who magically produced one…said it was a gift. It was the only time that young man qualified for any state series and he proudly wore that jacket for years and years. God Bless, you, Didi.
Anyway, the other thing about the duals in Berwyn is… Jon Morrison. He was on a different team than Clayton was and they were the same weight. They sure didn’t look the same weight! Who was this little kid…and I mean little? We knew he wrestled for Tinley Park and we knew they were good. Well, Clayton found out in a hurry when they had to wrestle. He was a little buzz saw, that’s what!! We met his parents at that tournament as well. Really great people. Little Jon Morrison. The only thing little about him was his stature!
My favorite middle school dual tournament wasn’t even an IKWF tournament. Jim Baker, from Stillman Valley, put together a team to go to Salisbury, Maryland to compete in the NHSCA Duals. As fate would have it, Jim’s son, Tyler would win his first state title as a senior when Clayton won his as a junior. They would end up being team mates at Coe College.
Anyway, Clayton was one of Jim’s choices. Salisbury, Maryland. We had never been out east and we were off to Salisbury, Maryland. They took a charter bus for all the boys, elementary through high school. Any parents and/or family could ride along for a small fee. I was one. Our daughter, Courtney came, too... on a charter bus... to Salisbury, Maryland. (Rick had to work. Wish he could have come!) It was probably one of the best times I’ve ever had. The Charter bus ride out there was very enjoyable, at least for me. I read, slept, read, slept, ate, slept, went to the bathroom at the occasional rest area stop, and slept.
Speaking of rest areas, Pennsylvania has the coolest ones. They all had little shops with Starbucks!! What more could a mom ask for…eating, sleeping, reading, and Starbucks. I honestly didn’t even miss my usual trips “outside”. Riding through the mountains of Pennsylvania, over the Chesapeake Bay Bridge and through the tunnel were nothing short of amazing. I had my first encounter with a “New Jersey” accent. To this day I’m not sure what that dad said to me. I do remember that Clayton beat his son later that day. (I couldn’t tell you how or what the score was) Funny…he didn’t talk to me again! We got to see the Atlantic Ocean. The charter bus driver agreed to take anybody who wanted to go to Ocean City, Maryland. Several of the wrestlers went, including Clayton. Courtney went too. None of us had ever seen the ocean. And the only board walk we had ever seen was on a card in a Monopoly game.
Courtney, Gail and Clayton at NHSCA Duals in Maryland
It was cool. Some of the boys just had to run into the water, even though most of us had on sweatshirts and it was cold. Needless to say, they didn’t stay in but for a few seconds. I loved the boardwalk. And my daughter…well she was in “boy heaven”! There aren’t really many badly built wresters, and it didn’t take my high school daughter long to notice that!!
We also took a cab to a nice seafood place for dinner one night. Cabs are another thing we rarely experience. I had the best crab cakes I’ve ever had. You know, it’s funny. I don’t remember the matches at all, really. I just remember the times. I still have a small glass container on the buffet in the dining room with sand, dried salt and shells in it from that trip. The ocean water I managed to get home in a jar, has evaporated from it long ago, much like my memories of the matches have evaporated from my brain, but the important stuff seems to be what is left. Funny how that works… Thank you, Jim Baker!
Clayton went to some dual tournaments in high school, too. Those were probably the most fun and amazing times…but those…they are yet another chapter….
Team Elite, Jeff Jordan and IKWF Gold by Andre’ Morgan
Much like Gail I too enjoy the dual format. Tournaments to be honest were a pain. Too long of a day, too many matches and too much bad concession food. You don’t really get to experience many duals on the kid level, especially with the Harvey Twisters. Teams just would not dual us, or if they did we had too many kids to get a good experince.
One time I remember we got to travel cross suburbs to Orland to dual the Pioneers. I don’t remember the final team score but I know at the time Mario was undefeated and whoever he wrestled he suffered his first loss. Now usually big brother Sergio could control Mario being 5 years older. We like to say he raised Mario and still to this day and he can get Mario to do things (or behave a certain way) that no one else can. Well as we were leaving the Orland facility that night, Mario was steaming about the loss. He wasn’t saying much but Sergio sure was. “Ah ha, you loss, you a state champ and got beat, etc. etc.” Next thing I know Mario turns around and leterally jumps up to cold cock Sergio in the jaw knocking him to the ground with one punch. He then turned and stormed off to the car. Now Sergio who was five years older looked at me to do something. I replied, “You should of not been messing with him, that’s what you get.” Sergio never teased Mario again about anything wrestling related.
Later that year (2000) we were in an IWF tournament at Thornridge when I was approached about Mario joining a Middle School Duals team being put together by Dan Jordan (Kenny’s father) and Jack English, both coaches with the Dolton Falcons. At the time the Twisters were still in the IWF and the Civil War was in full swing. I agreed to let Mario join the team at 70 pounds.
The duals were being held in Illinois that year at Leyden High School in the fieldhouse that Gail refered to. This was too good of a team to pass up with competiton coming from the IKWF Gold, Silver and Bronze teams plus the famous Jeff Jordan All Star team out of Ohio. IKWF had all of their state champs on it so this was a chance to go head up state champ vs state champ. Jeff Jordan had some of the most famous names in kids wrestling (and later college wrestling) with headliners Chase and Brent Metcalf, C. P. Schlatter, the Palmer brothers - Lance and Colin, Ryan Lang plus Illinois very own Jimmy Kennedy.
The IWF team which did not even have a team name had a nice national flavor to it as well. Jack English was a masterfull recruiter and he added many Illinois state champs including Jim Griffin, Eric Krueger, Jeremy Kelly, Kenny Jordan, Angel Escobedo, Andrae Hernandez, Anthony Espinoza, Alex Tsirtsi and his own son, Wesley English from the IWF ranks plus Twisters Cartice Lloyd and Travis Hammons. The following year Jonathon Morrison was added to kick start the lineup at 65 pounds. National names were 2x OK state champ Brice Wasserman, 7x Tulsa champ Jimmy Matlock, PA state champ Dan Kosharsky, 3x Tulsa champ Tommy McCarty and 4x Tulsa champ Dusty Richardson. This was definetley a star studded affair and one that bonded from the first practice.
Many names were banded about for the team and Mario came up with the name Team Elite and even designed the logo that went on the singlets. Once the matches started there were 30 plus teams fighting for the national dual title over a two day period. As teams got eliminated it became apparent that the IWF could wrestle with anyone but would be controversial. The IKWF was not happy about the attention the IWF team was drawing from fans and coaches. It was even suggested that this was not an IWF team because of the out of state names and that the registration paperwork was from Indiana (where Coach English lived). All of this added to the Civil War rivalry over the two years Team Elite competed.
The heavly favored Jordan team which had won the previous four national duals was blowing away the competition by 40 points or more. IWF and IKWF which I believe the first year only had Gold and Silver squared off in the much talked about “let’s get this settled” dual. IWF beat Silver fairly easy and then things got heated with the Gold dual. The IKWF squad was led by superman himself Mike Benefiel and the pinning machine John Starzyk.
Words were passed and tempers flared as the action got heated. Coach English got penalized and Heavyweight Espinoza got ejected from the bench. And of course this all happened during Mario’s match. Seems like controversial actions by coaches always seemed to happen that way throughout hs career. More on that in latter chapters. Once the Team Elite defeated the IKWF next in line in the finals was the mighty Jordan team.
Morgan in the 2000 MSD vs IKWF Silver
While I can’t remember the exact final score what I do remember was this was an excellent dual. I really need to look for that tape. Mario wrestled well in the dual matches. He attracted the attention of his future high school coach for the first time, Hall of Famer Bill Wieck of Mt. Carmel. But against Team Jordan he was no match for the swolen Lance Palmer. No shame losing to a 11 year old, ranked number one in the country that did 1,000 push ups and wrestled real bears for practice. But Team Elite finished as National Runner Ups
The next year (2001) the duals moved to Iowa. The IKWF squad increased to three teams but still fell to the still strong Team Elite, who took third place out of 32 teams.
While duals were more fun their was an individual title to win in 2000 and Mario clinched his second state title much in the same way as the first one. With a new assistant coach in his corner, the late Stevie Williams motivated Mario with his constant energy and belief that he could be the greatest.
In the 70 pound state final Mario squared off against Morton’s Chris McNally. Mario like the year before had not given up a point in regionals or sectionals up until the finals and had all falls. He desperatley wanted to keep this streak from last year going.
Morgan vs McNally
While controlling the match Mario slipped and in the middle of the match he rolled half way towards his back. Not only was he going to give up back points he was in danger of being pinned. With legendary ref Tom Henniff on the match there was little room for error. Mario got smart and managed to bridge without any near fall points being scored. He began scooting towards the edge of the mat and got out of bounds.
When the next period started McNally was down. Coach Quint signalled to Mario to cut him and Mario glared into the Twister corner. He did not want to cut him and give up his first point in the state series. But on the Twisters no matter how you feel you do as instructed. Luckily for Mario, McNally false started. Meanwhile over in the corner, Coach Stevie was telling Coach Quint why Mario was looking so unhappy. He knew of Mario’s goal. Coach changed the move to optional start to a cradle and Mario hit a perfect one, took it sucide and Heniff hit the mat. The Tinley Park convention center went wild and Mario had his second state titile.
NEXT: Reno and The Twisters Return to the IKWF
Last edited by MR TWISTER; 12-05-2010 at 03:33 PM.