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Old 11-25-2010
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Join Date: Jan 2005
Location: Chicago
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Switching Gears...Baseball, Football & Wrestling

In part six of The Journey, Coe College's Clayton Rush step's onto the toughest venue in wrestling, the Iowa Hawkeye's Carver Arena to take on the DI national champ...menawhile Nebraska Omaha's Mario Morgan juggles baseball, football and wrestling all while making a major motin picture and preparing for his final season in the IKWF.

Illinois matmen chronicles the path to success of two of Illinois non DI stars, National Champions Clayton Rush (DIII) and Mario Morgan (DII) as the journey to their final season and relive how it all began.

Changing Gears by Gail Rush

Well, it seems the topic is the re-uniting if the IKWF and the IWF. I’m of the opinion that it is history. There was nothing good about it except for it’s end. Not knowing all the facts from either side, I prefer not to talk about it. I will say, as a parent I was glad to see it end. It meant full brackets at State in the lower weights and once again unification of Illinois. So…I am switching gears for this chapter of the journey.

Let me start by just saying this is very current, therefore it’s very fresh in my not-so-fresh brain. I may “switch gears” from time to time during this Journey. There is a season in progress and I think I’ll try to sneak a few bits and pieces of it into the chapters along the way.

Carver Hawkeye Arena. In the big scope of things, not many kids have the opportunity to wrestle there. My son has done it twice. He has also wrestled at the Fieldhouse at the University of Iowa once. Coe College is fortunate enough to have ties to the Hawkeye wrestling program. Coach Oostendorp was an All American for them “back in the day”. So…Coe is invited to the Iowa Duals and it’s our boys opportunity to wrestle on the big stage.

Last year's Iowa Duals were not a good one for Clayton. It was his first time wrestling in Carver (his sophomore they wrestled at the Fieldhouse and his freshman year they didn't go) and he had Matt McDonough. We’ve known Matt for a few years and he is a tough wrestler. Last year he was a red shirt freshman for them. In a nutshell, it was a good match for the first period. Clayton got taken down near the end and was losing 2-0. The second and third periods are different stories. Matt is a tall, lanky wrestler with an amazing arm-reach. He cradled Clayton, I believe 3 times. He cradled him from his feet. He cradled him from the mat. He cradled him from about everywhere. The end result…teched. Not good. Matt ended up being the NCAA Dl 125 pound National Champ.

Rush takes on the DI National Champion

We again traveled to Carver Hawkeye arena this year. We wrestled SIUE first, which was good. SIU has made a lot of progress since last year and it’s definitely good to see them grow as they enter Division I. But I knew the real deal was coming up when we wrestled the defending Dl National Champions…the Iowa Hawkeyes…and we were, of course, on their home turf. There was only around 4,000 in attendance. I say "only" very loosely. With the exception of National Duals, the Coe wrestlers don’t have an attendance of 4,000 with all their other duals combined.

Coe as a whole didn’t fare too well against the Iowa Hawkeyes. We didn’t actually win a single match. But our boys competed and they competed in one of the most unique venues with the most dedicated fans in all of wrestling.

Clayton had his hands full, and I’m going to be honest, I wasn’t looking forward to it. Last year it was painful. I’m not saying Clayton should have beaten Matt. He’s a very talented wrestler. He did win NCAAs. But I think he could wrestle him better…much better. At 6:00 on Friday, November 19, I found out.

First period Clayton got in deep on a shot and there was a mad scramble. If anybody has followed or watched Matt McDonough wrestle, you know he is the king of scramble. Wait…how did that happen? Clayton gets 2. Seriously? Okay…Matt escapes. At the end of the first period Clayton is winning 2-1. Second period Bub defers and Matt goes down.. With not much resistance, Matt gets the escape. 2-2. Clayton is deep in on another shot and another scramble ensues. Just for the record, I hate scrambles. They make me nervous. Matt comes out on top and gets the 2.

Rush in on a single leg for two

Score at the end of 2...Clayton is down 2-4. Clayton chooses neutral. There is some tough hand fighting…Clayton said he has never wrestled anybody who was touching him or on him for the entire 7 minutes. 30 seconds left In the match and Clayton is in deep on a shot.

Rush in a scramble at Carver Hawkeye Arena

Is this for real? Is Clayton going to tie it up and go into overtime with the defending Dl National Champ? Yes..No… wait…another dang scramble. Who has 2? Wait…No…Somehow Matt gets a cradle in at 15 seconds, gets 2 TD, 3 near fall, and 1:03 in ride time for a 2-10 major!!

Unbelievable. One of the best matches I have ever seen.. Jeesh…I get nervous just talking about it. I stood and clapped. I may even have gotten a little teary eyed. It was the end of an incredible match and the last time I will get to watch my son wrestle in Carver Hawkeye Arena.

Baseball, Football and Wrestling…what to do? By Andre’ Morgan

Everything was starting to move really fast. In addition to Mario winning the 2nd title 7th grade year and wrestling with Team Elite there was the filming of the movie Hardball in the Summer and Fall. There was 60 travel baseball games that 2001 summer and another 80 the following summer with the Upper Deck Cougars, and they finished second in the country. He also played on a championship football team in Glenwood. Our family position was to keep the boys busy so that they would not have time to get into trouble elsewhere. It really wore on the parents but it worked. We have never been to the police station or dealt with school suspensions or bad grades.

With each sport, Mario was doing well. At this time he was not a full time wrestler. I wanted to wait and see what would suit him best. Coach Quint didn’t agree and told me before it was all over that Mario would be a full time wrestler. He advised us not to wait to late because others would pass him by.

In football, which Mario loved the most he was a great defensive player and a real hitter for his size, which was small to say the least. Most 7th grade teams topped out at 125 pounds and Mario was 75 pounds soaking wet. Now mind you he played and hit like he was 125 pounds and his passion for the game was much larger than in any of the other sports. The problem was he was not fast. He had average speed and in trying to project the future with out speed or big size, he could possibly be a tweener as a junior in high school.

Soph 2003- Morgan always wore the #1

Looking back he now, he was 130 pounds (cut to 125lbs) as a junior and 140 pounds (cut to 125 again) as a senior. Not the path to a football scholarship. Still he played at Mt. Carmel until his junior year and started his first two years. I remember one sophomore game where Bishop Mac’s class A state champ Mike Ryan was at receiver and Mario had to cover him all day at defensive back. Basically, the whole day was a wrestling match for those two. It was fun to watch. No passes were caught but a lot of blood, shoving, take downs and tackling went on. These two tangled in Mario's first career high school match. More on that in later chapters.

Coach Lenti had told Mario he would get an opportunity to start as a senior however he tore his meniscus at freestyle state his junior summer. There were scheduling issues between mandatory freestyle state camp and the mandatory Mt Carmel football camp. Mario choose to go to the University of Illinois to the wrestling camp and that ended football for that year. I remember Mario told me the first week of school he was on crutches and Coach Lenti walked by him and said, “You could of stayed on football and got hurt.” Still football has stayed in his heart. Mario to this day never misses a chance to play. He has already informed me he is playing semi pro football next year after graduation. I don’t care. He'll be a college graduate and a grown man. I'll even come watch.

or #11 - Hazel Crest Mustangs Super Bowl Champs

In baseball, he was very solid defensively. He could hit for average but not for power. He also was an excellent bunter and pretty proficient at the hit and run. Once again, the average speed kicked in but I had taught him how to steal bases by reading pitchers and getting good jumps. I always liked him at catcher and a lot of teams used him as a middle infielder. Because he played this sport the longest he was the most polished at it. I had put a baseball in his crib from day one. In addition, a glove was in the crib too. He was on his first team at four and every year he played a lot of baseball. Once wrestling came into the picture and the need to train in the off season, we would leave baseball games changing in the van for wrestling or visa versa in the winter. By age 14, the White Sox rated Mario one of 200 top prospects in the US. His skill level was pretty high. Just this past summer he tried out for UNO’s baseball team and his been invited to join the team following the final wrestling season. That I think is pretty cool and both myself and the wrestling coaches have encouraged him to do it.

Morgan puts the ball in play in 2000

One of the reasons Mario became very interested in Mt. Carmel was because of their history in his three sports. The baseball Head Coach Brian Hurry had played for me back in his day. He was out scouting new talent at a tournament that we had and saw Mario have a very good game. Sure, the Caravan’s wrestling coach Bill Weick had approached Mario at Middle School Duals and is a familiar name with many Twisters wrestling in the past for him. Why Mario even did a visit or shadow day to Mt. Carmel during the sixth grade. It is my belief that kids usually choose the school that express interest in them first more often than not. In addition, Coach Lenti had seen Mario play football for years since his son also played in the same league as our Glenwood and Hazel Crest teams.

Once Coach Hurry started going after his entire Upper Deck Cougars team (they were really good, most played in college) it really became a done deal. No other school could offer him all three sports at the level of play he was use to. We live in the Thornwood school district and the coaches of baseball and wrestling were aware of Mario, both called (yes public schools recruit) but his heart was set on Mt. Carmel from the beginning. In addition, he had a lot of his friends from each sport going there. I always chuckle when it is suggested that he went to Mt. Carmel because all of the Twisters go there. Nothing was farther from the truth. We considered Marist, Providence and Mt. Carmel as well but at the end of the day the Caravan won his heart. More on this in later chapters as well.

Stealing bases for the Upper Deck Cougars- National Runner Ups

One day in 2000, I was listening to the radio and heard a casting call for African American baseball players. I decided to take Mario. If nothing, else he was African American and could play baseball at a high level. So we go to the tryout but found out they were looking for the lead child actor. It would be for a little boy called G Baby. Ironically, the reading was at the Jackson Park Field house, one block from the Mt. Carmel campus. It’s funny how life is intertwined like that. Two years later Mario would go past that same field house everyday on the way to school and practice.

The reading was a few simple lines. He was photographed and filmed. They asked us to come back in a couple of hours. So we lunched at Mc Donald’s and talked about Hollywood stardom. Once back, they gave us more lines for him to study and read the next day. No wonder it was the next day. These lines had some profanity in them. Mario or the role of G Baby was an inner city 10-year-old tag along from the projects of the near west side. The character was ruff on the edges.

When we got home I sat down with my wife and we discussed the profanity. Mario was not a curser. It just was not his nature. In fact the only time I ever heard him curse was when he tore his ACL at the UNI dome wrestling Illinois’ Dan Manzella, the current St. Rita Head coach. When the trainer said, "It's your ACL and I think it's torn" Mario shouted the F bomb and I was not even mad because I said it too. Season over, maybe career. That is a whole different chapter.

We decided we would take a chance and teach him the lines. It was just a few words and to be honest there was a lot of money involved. It was hard and I think my son lost some innocence that night. I still have that script saved in his scrap book. The next day he did a good job and they told us he got the lead role. A few months passed, no word or contact and eventually I heard Paramount Pictures had scrapped the movie. No lead adult actor had been found. Oh well I felt, nothing lost and nothing gained.

By the spring of 2001, we had forgot the whole movie experience. Middle School duals and freestyle season was going on. Baseball had just started and the assignor that I get my games from for umpiring told me that there was a baseball movie being cast called Hardball and did I want to take my sons. Really! Why didn’t they call us I wondered?

Well Sergio was too old but Mario was the right age. The next day we headed down to University of Illinois-Circle Campus. To our surprise, this interview was much different than the last one. There must have been 700 kids of all sizes vying to get a chance to tryout for 40 parts as extras. I immediately found the director and told him our story. He said that he remembered Mario but all of the main parts had been cast. The studio tried to contact us but we had changed numbers. I had to agree because that was true. To be honest I really didn’t want Mario playing the cursing G Baby. The director signed us up for a three-day tryout for the 40 parts. The selected kids would make up the opposing teams.

After three days similar to a pro tryout, 300 kids were whittled down to 20 for the last five spots. They moved Mario from catcher to shortstop and began hitting shot after shot at him and the others. Moreover, as each kid missed balls or threw them away they were eliminated. I never have seen my son play with such skill before. He really wanted this spot. He did not mis one ball out of about 30 and did not throw any away either. At the end of the workout which had about 300 people watching we had to wait another half hour to be told he got the spot. The smile on mario's face was as wide as Lake Michigan. all of his friends had made the movie and he did not want to be the one left off. An unbelievable three days ended with an interview by channel 7 news. Our house phone was ringing off the hook with congratulations.

Morgan makes a diving catch in Hardaball

It was times like this that made focusing solely on wrestling hard for Mario to do. The next three summer months involved training for a movie, training for wrestling one on one with Coach Quint and football camp started in the middle of filming. Once school started, Mario only went to school once a week. The other four days he was on the set where they brought in a certified teacher for the 55 actors / baseball players. To be honest it was a great experience for Mario and his junior high principal was fantastic. They even had a special ceremony at school to honor him for being in the movie and being a wrestling state champ. To say the least Mario was a busy young man. And we were very tired parents. But, looking back it was all worth it.

(Late October 2001)…Ring….ring…ring…”Mario”…”Yes”…”This is Coach Quint” “Hey Coach, what’s up.” …”I just wanted to give you (and your Dad) a heads up, the split is over, we are going back to the IKWF starting next month. Gear up because you want to leave eighth grade a state champ. Everything else you won won’t matter if you don’t take care of business in the IKWF,”… “Uh…Ok coach, I’ll be ready.” Would he really be ready?

Freestyling 2001 summer inbetween movie takes

Playtime was over. Now the entire state was back together. The adults had solved their differences. Mario was captain of the best team in the IWF, and they would have to prove they were not just a big fish in a small pond. He would be expected to lead and win at the same time. Could he and the Twisters win state?
Time to go to work.

NEXT; Back in the IKWF, gaining weight and on to high school

Last edited by MR TWISTER; 11-26-2010 at 03:07 PM.
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Old 11-26-2010
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Ramsey_Lewis Ramsey_Lewis is offline
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If Mario was G baby it would have ruined the movie. I am glad you changed numbers.
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Old 11-26-2010
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Originally Posted by Ramsey_Lewis View Post
If Mario was G baby it would have ruined the movie. I am glad you changed numbers.
LOL....good one.
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Old 11-27-2010
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UsAndThem12 UsAndThem12 is offline
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Originally Posted by Ramsey_Lewis View Post
If Mario was G baby it would have ruined the movie. I am glad you changed numbers.
In the pages of history, every once in a while fate reaches out its hand. And fate smiled upon Hardball, nay, America, that day. For there can only be one G-Baby
Attention Campers, lunch has been cancelled due to lack of hustle. Deal with it.
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Old 11-29-2010
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Luvwrestling Luvwrestling is offline
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I am so enjoying these. Keep them coming.
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