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Old 04-02-2011
Wrestling Media
Join Date: Jan 2005
Location: Chicago
Posts: 18,963
The Journey - Please Stay Healthy-Senior Year in the Dvorak


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 were arguably the two best non DI wrestlers from Illinois in America entering the 2010-11 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 and 2011 3x college national champion is the dynamic 125-pound superstar for NCAA DIII Coe College (Iowa).

His mother Gail, a frequent poster at 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 super quick 141-pound National Champion and 3x All American from Mt. Carmel high school and the NCAA DII 7x 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.

Both entered their final national NCAA tournament, ranked number one in their respective weight classes as the favorite to win the title. Clayton and Mario wrestled to their seeds with Rush winning his second individual title and Morgan his first individual title but also his third team title.

Mario Morgan NCAA Finals match

Clayton Rush NCAA Finals match

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 is chapter 15 Clayton dodges the injury bug as Mario wrestles for more than himself, his mother is ill for the first time in his career.

Please Stay Healthy by Gail Rush

Football. I should have known he would play football. He loved it. It made me nervous. Every day while he was at practice and during every game I just prayed, “please stay healthy.” Football games came and went. The playoffs came and went. Another trip to Champaign and the championship game came and went…which we got 2nd…again. HOWEVER, so far Bubba had remained healthy. He and a few of our other wrestlers had gotten started late with wrestling practice. Just like the year before there were only a few days of practice before the first competition, which, I might add, our coaches did NOT require the football players to compete in. But oh no…not Clayton. He HAD to compete. At least he was healthy. So far. I was holding my breath. It just seemed everyone we knew that had one knee injury usually 2 or 3... I hate knees…and now shoulders have also been added to that, but that’s a later story.

The season started out great. I don’t think I mentioned Clayton was undefeated his junior year. So Clayton being Clayton that was again one of his goals. He managed to win the Riverdale Tournament, Stillman Valley and QND. He had managed to go without injury…so far. He had gotten rid of the knee brace even though his mother would have preferred he kept it. So far so good.

There are a few things I remember about his senior year. The main one was the passing of his great grandmother. This happened in January. We all were very close to Grandma Ag. Her house was the gathering place for all of us and most of us stopped by there daily. To make matters worse, he had senior night the same day as the funeral. We wrestled Orion an even though they had a 119 pounder…who weighed in…their coach forfeited to Clayton in the last match he would ever wrestle at Aledo High School. Emotions were running high anyway so this didn’t go over well. I was mad. I have known their coach, Danny diamond, since high school. Emotions got the best of me and I “kind of sort of” let Danny have it. We talked some weeks later, though, and are still good friends. Clayton was just…emotional.

Clayton went on to win regional. Another thing I remember about his senior year was his finals match at sectionals. He wrestled Tony Whaley from Stillman Valley. I remember watching and thinking “what the heck is he doing?” He wasn’t wrestling his usual style of takedown and cut. He was riding. I was thinking, “WHY??? Get a lead. I’m not comfortable unless there is a HUGE lead. You can get beat by a 5 point move in the end if you don’t have a HUGE lead.” Tony had ridden Clayton out at the Stillman Valley Tournament…something else I remember. He had bitten through his lip. He was bleeding terribly and had gotten ridden out, so he was doubly mad. Our coaches had told me to go look at his lip. Well, Clayton was in this little area off the gym and yelling at me to leave him alone. Pete Alber came walking through in his fast little “Pete Alber” pace at this point. Pete didn’t miss a step. I’m not sure if he even looked up. He just said in that unique “Pete Alber” voice, “Well…if you hadn’t gotten ridden you wouldn’t be so mad.” I love Pete Alber. Anyway, back to sectionals. After Clayton won the match against Tony Whaley by a score of 6-3, which, by the way is way too close for comfort for me, I asked him why he wrestled like that. He told me he had to prove he could get away and ride… not just take kids down. REALLY? Why here? Why at sectionals? These are important matches. I still don’t get it, but I guess it wasn’t for me to get. I hope that at state he would stick with what has gotten him this far…

It was now on to Champaign. Bubba was still undefeated and all his goals were still within reach. I’m not going to lie…I had never seen Clayton so focused. He was truly a kid on a mission. In his first match he teched Cody Lemon in just under 4 minutes. In his second match, which was the semis, he beat Jake Holiday 16-5 to again make the finals.

It was actually hard to believe. My son had made the finals at the IHSA State Tournament 3 years in a row. I honestly never would have predicted that…not that I didn’t have faith in my son or his ability, but seriously…who does that? Not many…and my son was now the member of a somewhat small club.

Clayton had Tony Whaley…again…in the finals. I sure hoped he would wrestle his match. He did…and more.

Tony is an awesome kid and an even more awesome wrestler from an awesome family. Clayton was even more focused and more determined than he’s been in his previous matches. He teched Tony is less than 5 minutes. TWO state titles.

Unbelievable…seriously unbelievable. Over the past two years he had managed to work through injury and grief and had ended up on top. And he was injury free. (maybe my “please stay healthy” prayer had helped even a little) He had managed to stay focused through all this, and throw the recruiting process in there somewhere as well.

He again ran up the stairs and across the Assembly Hall to me, but not before he was on his knees in tears beside the mat, his face buried in his hands. I knew what he was thinking. I found out later that he had a piece of athletic tape stuck inside his head gear. It simply said, “ I {heart} Gma Ag”… He told me he was sad she would never get to see him wrestle at state. I told him it was actually the first time she ever had…..


I do want to hit on recruiting for just a little bit. Some advise to all you parents and wrestlers out there…you can take it or leave it. DO NOT think your name is automatically out there is cyberspace somewhere. DO NOT think your phone will automatically start ringing off the wall. Chances are it won‘t, unfortunately…especially for kids in Class A. Clayton’s name was not out there. Our phone did not automatically start ringing. His junior year we started… and got online and filled out those “Recruit Me’ forms most colleges have on their web sites. He narrowed his list down to a semi short list and we sent out a cover letter along with a separate page listing all the accomplishments he had over his career. We also had a highlight tape make…less than 5 minutes, as you don’t want college coaches to get bored. We sent them out. WE got his name out there. And we got responses ranging all the way from JUCO to DI. There were DI scolly offers, JUCO, DII, Naia, etc…that I KNOW would not have come had we not done the leg work. And my biggest advise is the same as it was when Clayton was little. Listen to your kid. They have to be happy with the school, the size, the coaches and everything as a whole…the total fit. IF that doesn’t happen, chances nothing will work out. There are so many different levels of collegiate wrestling, all of them have their downfalls, and all of them have their plusses. Take your time. Go visit. Have your kids do overnights. Time consuming? Yep. Worth it? In the next chapters you’ll find out just how worth it it was for Clayton…

Senior Year by Andre’ Morgan

The last year of high school was the most interesting. With Mario’s college, choice already made by Sept. 15th the shopping for a school drama was over. He was the first wrestler in the state to declare his choice. He had told me he wanted to get it over with so he could focus on wrestling.

This would be the first time Mario would actually repeat a weight class. 125 for the second time was so much easier. Although bigger this time and with more weight to cut he seemed much more comfortable. I learned that when you repeat a weight class you learn what to expect, how far you can go, how much strength you need and the competition is easier to gauge in relation to what you need to do to beat them.

Success came early as Mario issued out an early pounding in the first dual at Conant and proceeded to win his third Midwest Classic (OH) a week later. Never the undefeated type of wrestler Mario picked up an unusual loss to Adam Canty of St. Rita. Canty who had never beat Mario surprised Mario by going on the attack late and confused Mario with the “pass the elbow” move. Lesson learned.

For years, I had been taking Mario to the Dvorak tournament. Mario always wanted to wrestle in it but the Caravan was in their four allotted tournaments. We would watch the finals and every year Mario would tell me, “I can win this tournament Dad. I wish we were in it so I can prove that I can beat all of these guys before state happens. It looks like so much fun.” The first thing you should know about Mario is that everything he does is based off of it either being fun or not doing it because it is boring.

Well in 2005 Coach Gerdes dropped the Wisconsin Badger tournament and the Geneseo tournament. I still remember the phone call in the summer when he told me we were in the Dvorak. Mario was sitting on the couch playing Playstation. When I told him he was going to the Dvorak, he dropped the controller on the floor and said a simply, “Yes, I been waiting on this.” Then he walked out he room with a rare broad smile on his face.

Fast forward to mid December and the 18th annual Dvorak is underway. 125 is loaded as it always is. James Simpson, Ryan Prater, Ted Stryschalski, Vince Hannon, Kevin White, Ryan Blake and as usual Kyle Hutter were all in the 29 man bracket. Hutter was ranked number one in the state and Mario second. Prater was third and Hannon was fourth. Strychalski and Blake were also ranked somewhere too. Mario opened up with a 1:15 fall of St. Pats Joe Romano and followed that up with a 17-2 tech fall of Waubonsee’s Sean Lyons to serve notice he was indeed in the tournament. The quarters lined up as expected with Hutter, White, Simpson, Prate, Jahn, Strychalski and Hannon all looking great. Except for Hutter’s tech fall everyone else had close matches in the semis. Jahn needed overtime to defeat future state champ Prater 3-2, Hannon squeezed by Strychalski 4-3 and Mario shut out the bigger Simpson 5-0.

Dvorak Semis Video-#1 vs #2 Hutter vs Morgan

In the semis, Jahn stepped into the finals with a close 1-0 win meanwhile Mario used a late misdirect takedown of Hutter to win 6-3. That much anticipated match seemed like a finals match, especially when Mario beat Jahn in the finals 10-4.

What many people that watched the match that day did not know was that Mario’s mom Nicole was in the hospital with emergency stomach surgery. Mario had me stop by the hospital before the first day weigh in and was not going to wrestle until Nicole convinced him to wrestle and just bring her the bracket board after the tournament. Nothing would of stopped Mario that day and afterwards we drove from Dundee-Crown to the downtown hospital board in the hands of a smiling champion, a present to his mother.

NEXT: Senior Year Pt. 2

Last edited by MR TWISTER; 04-04-2011 at 12:28 PM.
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