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Old 12-01-2010
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MR TWISTER MR TWISTER is offline
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Well Rounded & We're Back...Coe's Rush and UNO's Morgan star in Pt. 7-THE JOURNEY

For Gail Rush and myself it is the last wrestling season. Our sons have wrestled since they were little boys and as parents, we have followed the journey from the very first takedown, from kids through the high school level to the collegiate wars.

Clayton Rush and Mario Morgan are arguably the two best non DI wrestlers from Illinois in America entering this college season . It has been a long road to this point for them. This is their story.

There is so much that has gone on over the years that I thought it would be kind of cool if both Gail and myself reflected back, journaling in stages and posting them here for those that are still on the wrestling path to peruse. So periodically, we will add chapters until we get to that final match in March.

Just in case you have been hidden under a rock the last 15 or 20 years Clayton Rush, a former high school state (Aledo) champion and 2010 college national champion is the dynamic 125-pound superstar for NCAA DIII Coe College (Iowa).

His mother Gail, a frequent poster at illinoismatmen.com can best be described as the ultimate wrestling Mom. So much so, that she was voted W.I.N. Magazine Fan of the Year by national wrestling writer Jason Bryant. Imagine for a moment how good of a fan you have to be to beat out all of the crazy wrestling fanatics in America. She has ridden the back roads of America taking her son to practice, clinics, meets and tournaments. And now the road is about to end.

Mario Morgan is the 141-pound National Finalist and 2x All American from Mt. Carmel high school and the NCAA DII back-to-back National Champions, Nebraska-Omaha. In addition, unless you are also under that same rock you know that he is my son and a former multiple time kids state champ from the Harvey Twisters.

When I started this column many years ago, I wanted to share our experiences in the wrestling world. I was not a wrestler and had no one to tell me how this all was suppose to go. Eventually I figured most of it out, through trail and error and even became nominated last year for Illinois Wrestling Reporter of the Year by Illinois Wrestling Officials and Coaches Association. While my sons, competitive college career winds down, I much like Gail will be torn with many, many emotions and flooded with even more memories. In a strange way we will gain closure through our journal of our experiences of the wrestling lifestyle.

Stay close to this column, Gail and I will update our experiences. Here in chapter 7 Clayton plays baseball with his friends and falls in love with football. Mario comes back to the IKWF 8th grade year, earning a state title by losing his motivational mentor and coach to death.

WELL ROUNDED by Gail Rush

Baseball, football, and wrestling. In that order, I think. It would seem that Clayton’s life has revolved around wrestling. Not true. Clayton was a multi-sport athlete. A lot of kids in smaller, rural areas are multi-sport athletes. If our football players didn’t play basketball, or if our wrestlers didn’t play football, or our track athletes didn’t…well, you get my drift…we wouldn’t have any teams at all.


Little Body, Big Bat...

Clayton started playing baseball when he was really little. He didn’t want to play t-ball, so we got “permission” from the park board and he skipped that and went straight to “coaches pitch”. The park board had one stipulation…we had to coach. So we did. It was a blast. Clayton was so little compared to everyone else. He was small anyway, then add a year on to them and he was tiny. He used to pitch to our front steps UNTIL he broke out the window beside the front door. To this day our garage windows have no glass. They consist of plywood. Anyway, he played in our local league through 7th grade. He was usually the catcher. I’ve found a lot of wrestlers are catchers. Personally, I think it’s because they are just tougher, but then again, I am probably biased. Bub also was known to pitch, play short stop, or even center field.


We had a house rule. Only one sport at a time. That meant when baseball started, wrestling ended. No questions asked. There are two reasons for our rule. The first and most important was our sanity. Rick and I already felt like we didn't know if we were coming or going. The second reason was commitment. We very strongly felt that if you committed yourself to a team, say baseball, you were committing to be at every game and tournament. That didn’t mean every game and tournament if your weren't wrestling. I think there were times Clayton didn't like the rule, but it WAS a rule and we were serious. The spring after his 8th grade year is when he decided to give up baseball and do some summer wrestling. I think it was a hard decision for him to make. All his friends played baseball. None of them were wrestlers, but he made the decision, and I don't think he has ever regretted it.



Most people think of wrestling when they hear Clayton’s name. A lot of people in Aledo think of football. I'll be honest, if Clayton were bigger, he may have chosen football. He loved that game. He was the only little 4 year old I know of that could play an entire game in full pads, including helmet, in our yard by himself. You have to keep in mind his older brother, Jayson, was 8 years older, so it was either keep up with him and his friends or not play. So he played. When he was in 6th grade, Aledo finally joined a youth football league. Clayton and his friends were elated. Kane, Darin, Justin, Adam…there were several of the boys who couldn't wait to play. BUT it was flag football. Did I tell you, the boys got in trouble at noon recess probably at least 3 days out of the week in elementary school for playing tackle football? But they made due. They were just happy wearing full pads and playing the game. He was a running back in youth football. In junior high, he was an outside linebacker, and wide receiver . In high school he played corner, long snapper, and he played special teams. He played deep on punt returns and he played really wide on kickoff. You’ll have to bare with me here. I don’t know all the names of positions. He was one of the team leaders in tackles and called the defensive plays. He had the wrist band and everything! Clayton actually played in two state championship games. Unfortunately, we lost both of them. AND it was in one of those games his junior year, against Dakota, that he tore the meniscus in his knee. Tough little guy. He was determined to finish the game, and he did. But he missed the entire regular season of wrestling with the exception of the first dual and the last tournament before regionals. He had his meniscus repaired on his birthday, December 8th, just one week after the championship football game. He was voted all conference corner his senior year.



Clayton did play wide receiver his senior year a little when his friend Darin, was out with an injury. Quick story. We were playing a team down south. It was a pass play and Clayton caught the ball. He had this kid all over him. The kid happened to reach with his arm just right and Bub clamped down on it with his arm, and did like an arm throw. It was awesome. When the play ended and Clayton was on the side line, he looked at me and did the “5” wave with his hand. Anybody familiar with Greco knows it. It was pretty cool! I’ll admit, I wasn’t too cracked up about football. I love the game, don’t get me wrong, but he had already torn up a knee and to risk that didn’t make a whole lot of sense to me. But it was his decision, and again, one I don’t think he has ever regretted. He told me the other day that he could maybe get one more year of eligibility and play football for a year at Coe. Really?

I have to mention band. I was very determined my kids would be well rounded. In 6th grade, Clayton joined the band. It was odd, kind of…all his friends were in band too, and they all were good. Clayton played the trumpet. He was even asked to play taps a couple of times at the funerals of Veterans. He was not only in the band but he marched his freshman and sophomore year and was in Jazz Band his junior and senior year. Like I said, it was odd…all the athletes were in band for those few years. Our band director is amazing, and Bubba enjoyed it for the most part.

He also managed to be on the honor roll most semesters. I was all about grades and still am. Sports, etc…are a privilege. I really believe that. I’ve told Clayton just a couple of times, “if it weren’t for your good grades, you wouldn’t be at Coe College.”


I’ve mentioned before that we have horses. One time, Clayton decided he wanted to ride bulls. Yep, that’s right. My son who wasn’t as big as a calf, wanted to ride a bull. We were planning to go to a rodeo, so we signed him up for mutton busting. For those of you who don’t know…mutton busting is when little kids try to ride sheep. He looked like a little mini blonde Garth Brooks. Thank goodness that only happened once. He stayed on for about, oh, 3 seconds. He had his arms around that sheep’s neck and when it took off running he just slid down it’s side and into the mud. He was off and that was the end.


So, there you have it. My son, the multi-sport, band playing, honor roll athlete. He still would be if it were at all possible, although I think he would only be playing football and wrestling…

WE’RE BACK, but lose a friend….By Andre’ Morgan

BAM!…. I can still hear the red door on the Harvey Twisters field house hitting the wall as this whirlwind of a man flies through announcing at the same time….”Let’s go Twister’s, time to train to be champions”…said Stevie Williams. I can see him coming threw that door back in 2001-02 at one hundred miles an hour…ready to practice. With wrestling shoes tucked under his arm you could set your watch to 4:45p.m., every Monday through Friday that door was coming open and here comes Stevie. And all of the litlle Twisters would get up and follow him to the wrestling room like he was the Pipe Piper. For those that don’t know the late Steve Williams is the older brother of Joe and T. J. Williams, arguably the greatest wrestlers (and family) in Illinois kids and high school wrestling history. Steve captured two IHSA titles and two JUCO titles and had returned to coach with the Twisters in 2001.


Steve Williams 1973-2002
Eight grade year! Back in the IKWF! You got to win a title for the team and yourself. Get yourself ready for high school. That is what Mario had drilled in his head the entire year by Stevie. In addition, when Stevie spoke young Twisters like Mario listened and responded accordingly.



While Coach Quint had put the technique into Mario when he restarted his career 6th grade year, it was Stevie that had him believing he could whip the world. He would always get into these debates with Mario about who was the greatest. The Twister for Life (T4L) slogan was all Stevie. He said it every day and he meant it. His confident style and personality rubbed off on Mario and really made 2001 and '02 a magical time.


Freestyle 2001, Morgan and Hannon with Stevie as the ref
After 4 years in the IWF, the Civil War had ended officially. Now the state was united. However, many feelings had been hurt during the meantime. Some teams started in the IWF and jumped to the IKWF. Other teams stayed in the IKWF the entire time. Then there were the Twisters. We stayed the course the entire time in the IWF. Many labels were thrown our way. Not good anymore or big fish in a little pond or all washed up. The wrestlers did not pay much attention to the adult’s stuff but make no doubt about it, the team wanted to win the state title. I think they had a point to prove and it was to the other wrestlers. They only way to show they were the best was by winning. Capture the senior state title first year back in the IKWF and they would be the best. The kids were seeking respect.

We had some good kids that year that would go on to be stars. Thomas and Terrell Webster, Christian Brantley, Albert White, Cartice and Cameron Lloyd and BJ Futrell among others. This is the group I call the second generation Twisters. In addition, there was a group that had graduated a few years before that they were wrestling for too. Travis Hammons, Charles Lloyd, Antoine Lowe and Casio Pero had moved on to high school. They were second generation Twisters too, just a bit too old to get a part of the return to the IKWF. However, when we got to state in 2002 they were there cheering too.

One thing for sure there was some solid teams in the IKWF. The Wrestling Factory, Orland Pioneers, Dakota, Vittum Cats, Wolfpack, Villa-Lombard, Burbank, Bethalto, Arlington Cardinals, Tinley Park Bulldogs, Crystal Lake Wizards, Fox Valley Elite, Martinez Elite and the Little Celtics among others were gunning to win the state title too.

The Twisters had taken their best wrestlers out to the Tulsa Nationals (billed as the World's Toughest tournament) in January to see where they stood in preparation for the Illinois state tournament. We had a good showing too. As I remember it Cartice, BJ and Christian won the tournament. As a matter of fact Christian Brantley was voted Outstanding Wrestler of Tulsa that year. Mario was rolling through his 64-man bracket until the semis. On the other side of the bracket was the Little Celtic’s Ron Uccardi. However, I knew Mario had cut weight wrong and the fifth match, the semi match it caught up with him. Late in the third of a close match with Missouri’s all American Scotty O’Donnell, he began cramping up. Mario had beat O'Donnell the previous year at the Tournament of Champions in Ohio so this was a great match. O’Donnell swung around for two as time expired for the win. Mario was still cramping when the wrestle backs started 10 minutes later but he had to wrestle to place. Uccardi went on to win Tulsa beating O’Donnell and Mario gutted it out and came back to take third. Now with his first loss on his record, it was all the motivation I needed to get him ready for state.


BJ and Mario warm up at Tulsa Nationals 2002

Mario was at 79 pounds for state and finally had his weight under control. Several key wrestlers were in the loaded bracket like Vittum's Adam Canty, Martinez's Ron Uccardi, Granite City's Donte Butler, Wrestling Factory's Ryan Lund and Martinez's Vince Hannon. In our camp Hannon was the first one to worry about. If top ranked Mario could get past him in the semis, Uccardi would wait in the finals and a chance to prove the Tulsa mishap was just that. So to win the state title Mario would have to beat not one but two of Jose Martinez's best wrestlers.

The entire IKWF 2002 state tournament was chock full of future high school and college stars top to bottom. Just look at this who’s who of Illinois wrestling when they were kids. Andrew Spangler and BJ Futrell at 62 pounds. Joey Uccardi and Jon Morrison at 66lbs., Clayton Rush, Cory Nance, John Majka at 70 lbs., Adam Mestemacher, Mike McCaulife, John Starzyk and Cartice Lloyd at 74 lbs., Jimmy Kennedy, Brian Spangler, Wade Lowe, Kyle Hutter, Ryan Prater, John Deneen and Thomas Webster at 84 pounds (just crazy loaded), Mikey Benefiel, Brandon Precin at 89 lbs., Matt Cusik, AJ Ciccarelli and Brian Martin at 95 lbs, Caitlyn Chase, Frank Battaglia, Brenton Valenine and Stephen Dwyer at 101 lbs., Jerry Starzyk, Charlie Piertz and Eric Hanson at 108 pounds, Jake Kimbeline, Ben Friedl and Mike Sands at 115 pounds, Vince Castillo, Aaron Nagle and Albert White at 122 lbs, John Dergo at 130 lbs., Mike Smith at 138 lbs., Jim Kernants, Nate Everhart and Jovan Dixon at 156 lbs., Joe Trinka at 160 lbs., Ian Darr at 215 lbs., and Joe Bentancourt at Heavyweight. In addition, this was just the studs in the Elite division that year. Novice was just as sick.



Being in the IWF for so many years, we were kind of new to a lot of IKWF traditions. Just before the semi’s the bracket boards, spectacularly hand lettered in Old English in those beautiful hand made frames were displayed. The only thing missing was the semi-final and champion names. As all of the second generation Twisters gathered around I watched Mario. I could see in his eyes he wanted this board in the worst way. I asked him, “Is this not the best bracket you have ever seen?” He replied, “Dad, I have got to win this now. There is no way I am leaving this building without that bracket coming home with us.” I turned and walked away, and then I smiled. The dye was cast.


Every kid in Illinois Wrestling wants one but only a few have 'em

Mario beat down state’s Austin Phemister 7-1 and pinned the dangerous Dusty Roy to setup the semi-final showdown with Hannon. This in a lot of ways was the state title. Hannon was very well coached and his fluid style matched Mario's easily. In previous matches they were always close and definitely were exciting to watch. The winner of this match should beat the winner of the Canty vs Uccardi, at least on paper. For some reason Mario can never do it the easy way and we had nicked named him the Cardiac Kid. One thing about him though, he subscribes to the theory that if there is time on the clock then there is still time to win. Having the lead on him was usually not a good idea as he was always dangerous to the end. Falling behind 4-1 in the third Mario hit a five point chancery to a cradle to secure the 6-4 win and punch his ticket to the finals. That was Stevie Williams money move and Mario hit it to perfection. Hannon as always was very gracious in defeat. A real classy kid. Meanwhile, Uccardi had beat Canty 7-3 on the other side of the Southern Illinois Carbondale Arena to set up the final.

Meanwhile the team race appeared to be close between Martinez Elite and the Twisters for first in the senior division. At the break before the finals Harvey had 6 in the finals and Martinez with 2, both head up on the Twisters with Martinez holding a slim lead. A recount of the points showed a miscalculation, and the Twisters took the lead without wrestling a match.

The Grand March was awesome. Lights off! The Twisters had some new red warm-ups that we had saved for the finals. All of the boys had their hoods up and looked ready for business. On the Twisters, traditionally Coach Quint will let the Dad (or Mom) walk in the finals with their 8th grade son in place of his coach. At first, I refused but he insisted so I did. I didn’t want to do anything to jinx the situation. Coach reminded me that if a kid were ready to win a title nothing you can do would stop that champion from winning his title. Certain moments as your son is growing up are classic moments that you will never forget. That was one.


Hooded Up...Lights Out...and where he expected to be!

When the finals began, the Twisters needed two wins to secure their 15th state championship. With Mario and Uccardi on one mat and Cartice Lloyd and John Starzyk on the other mat it was on. Mario actually controlled the entire match scoring on a basic single to a double in the first, an escape from bottom and another takedown in the second. He then rode out Uccardi in the third while at the same time Lloyd picked up his win. The Twister crowd counted down the clock to zero as both were running simultaneously…three…two…one….Buuuuzzzzzzzz….5-0 shutout and up go the three fingers.


Three Peat...

The Twisters were back on top as senior division state champs and Mario and his good friend (Cartice) both got their hands raised together. That beautiful bracket board was coming home just as he predicted. Mario ran to coach Stevie and Quint. Stevie picked him up and then it was time to find his mom, brother, me and the rest of the Twister family in the stands. He then ran off to cheer for Albert White's first state title and the rest of his friends. The Twisters had six in the finals that night and it was like a big party for Mario. I don't know of a happier day in my son's life.


Mario (white shirt) holding the 2002 IKWF State Title Trophy

Two months later Stevie passed away from an asthma attack while visiting his brothers at the University of Iowa. He had turned his life around. He had a brand new daughter and was planning on getting married that summer. He was supposed to interview at Mt. Carmel about the vacant assistant coach position in two weeks. It was not to be.

This was Mario's first experience with the death of a team member that he had worked so close with. He took the loss hard as did the rest of the Twisters. Stevie was the heartbeat of these young Twisters. So when you hear them say T4L know that they are dead serious about it. At last count six including Mario have T4L tatooed on their bodies. More are planning to follow suit.

By coincidence, I was at Coach Quint’s house when the call came from Stevie’s brother Joe at about 9 p.m. that faithful may night. We were watching film from freestyle state as we always did. Twister for Life had passed. Talk about shouck. This most healthy of a man was gone. I don’t think the Twisters or my son have been the same since. The original Mr. Twister, the first Twister state champion was wrestling on a different mat.

NEXT: Twenty-Nine hour drive to Reno Worlds and Welcome to High School…
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Last edited by MR TWISTER; 01-06-2011 at 06:19 AM.
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Old 12-01-2010
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Jaguar Jaguar is offline
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I love reading this stuff. What a great ride with so many memories.
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Old 12-01-2010
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I will speak for Gail here and say it has really been a pleasure doing them...not sure how this will all end ...but ...it will end the first and second week of March...hopefully on a happy note for the boys...ahem...the men...
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Old 12-01-2010
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I still have all the IKWF state books. It's fun to look at them and see all the names and know where the boys are now.. And those brackets were amazing...
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Old 12-01-2010
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Hey Twist, you mentioned Mario and Lloyd both had to win their matches that year for the Twisters to win their 15th title. Just curious if you remembered how close the match was between Starzyk and Lloyd that year and what team finished second after the Morgan and Lloyd victory?
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Old 12-01-2010
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Great chapters, Andre and Gail.
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Old 12-01-2010
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Formerwrestler View Post
Hey Twist, you mentioned Mario and Lloyd both had to win their matches that year for the Twisters to win their 15th title. Just curious if you remembered how close the match was between Starzyk and Lloyd that year and what team finished second after the Morgan and Lloyd victory?
It was close. I am not sure of the score but Toofer would know (he was in the corner) so let's see if he will post it. Or I will dig out the book for you. But I was trying to watch Mario's match and that one was going on too and it was a lot of back and forth stuff. There was an injury time out that allowed the match to catch up time wise with Mario's...which led to our countdown. I want to say 3 points but I am guessing.

Jose Martinez's Martinez Elite finished second. What a class act he was. he was just happy to have the Twister's back in the IKWF. He wanted the competition (not to say others didn't provide comp) from the Twisters win lose or draw. He knew any title without us in it was still a title but would be a much better title with us in the competition, if you know what I mean.
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Old 12-01-2010
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I know exactly what you mean, means more to win the title when you have all the elite teams involved. Takes the "what if" and "well but" out of all of it. I noticed you said the novice division had a lot of depth that year as well on top of all the great names you mentioned that were in senior division. I was curious and this goes for anyone , I was in the IKWF before the split came involved. I believe it happened a year or so after my eight grade year. Was novice based just off age and you had to remain novice or you could enter senior division regardless and it was basically just set to give more opportunities?
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Old 12-01-2010
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Originally Posted by Formerwrestler View Post
I know exactly what you mean, means more to win the title when you have all the elite teams involved. Takes the "what if" and "well but" out of all of it. I noticed you said the novice division had a lot of depth that year as well on top of all the great names you mentioned that were in senior division. I was curious and this goes for anyone , I was in the IKWF before the split came involved. I believe it happened a year or so after my eight grade year. Was novice based just off age and you had to remain novice or you could enter senior division regardless and it was basically just set to give more opportunities?
It was split by age. I beleve it was 11-12 Novice and 13-14-15 Senior but a Novice ged wrestler could be moved up to wrestle in senior..
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Old 12-01-2010
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Another fantastic job Gail!
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