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Old 11-18-2010
Wrestling Media
Join Date: Jan 2005
Location: Chicago
Posts: 18,965
Driving Everywhere and Finally a Title

The Journey continues with both Coe College's Clayton Rush and Nebraska- Omaha's Mario Morgan growing up on the road in search of wrestling competition in their early years of wrestling.

Beginning 16-20 years ago, these two All Americans have wrestled close to 1,200 matches combined on all levels and received numerous honors.

Follow along in the fourth part of the saga of both wrestlers story that will eventually end in March of 2011 as they conclude their final year of wrestling eligibility.

click the link to see what Clayton Rush is doing today

click the link to read Mario Morgan's latest profile


Forest Gump, he was just running. I think we were just driving.

We were always a little envious of the “Chicago Boys”, as we lovingly called them. Every weekend in the Chicagoland area was a tournament. Every weekend in the Chicagoland area was a tournament with awesome competition. Every weekend in the Chicagoland area was something. And we were a world away. We were a good 3 - 3 ½ hours away.

Rush lifts one of the "Chicago Boys", Kyle Hutter

Let me explain where we live. Those of you from rural areas will understand and be able to picture it. Those of you who aren’t probably won’t. Our town, Aledo, is about 30 miles south of the Quad Cities and about 15 miles inland from the Muddy Mississippi. Aledo has a whopping population of 3500 and I think that’s on a holiday when all out-of-town relatives are here. Our high school has an enrollment of about 350...don’t quote me on that…I’m guessing. That’s 350 total. Not 350 in the junior class. 350 total. We don’t have enough kids to specialize in sports so the majority of kids are multiple sport athletes. If they weren’t, we wouldn’t have many sport teams.

Anyway, we live “in the country”. I don’t mean Aledo is in the country. We refer to Aledo as “town”. “ We’re going to town”. We live towards Viola, at the 4 mile corner turn left, and we are the first house on the left…the green acres looking farm. Most of the time our road is gravel. When it’s not gravel, it’s mud. Our house is a 150 year old farm house and our barn is just as old. There was actually an old wash house out back when we moved here. We called it the tilting shed because it was leaning to the east so bad I’m not sure how it stayed up. We have no freeways anywhere near us and the nearest interstate is about 20 miles away.

We started driving a little when Jayson was in about 5th grade. We drove to some local tournaments. There was always our hometown tournament. Some of the neighboring schools also had tournaments. Rockridge, Sherrard, Orion, and Monmouth. Rockridge is probably the closest. It took us about 20 minutes to get there with Orion being the farthest at about 35 minutes. (Us country folk go by minutes…not miles!) All of those tournaments were in March. We wrestled those tournaments and that was about it.

Thinking back to the IKWF days, I don’t think we went to ANY tournaments in the Chicagoland area. They were too far and we had NO money. Clayton was probably in about 2nd or 3rd grade when we really started driving. He was such a trooper. We couldn’t afford to stay overnight at most of these places so we tried to pick tournaments that were relatively close so we could sleep in until at least 4:30 AM. He would get up, pack his little bag, and not eat breakfast because wrestlers don’t eat until after weigh-ins…he didn’t weigh as much as spit.

We would grab a blanket and a pillow and off we would go. We developed a circuit, so to speak. November through January we drove to Iowa. Columbus Junction, Wilton, Durant, Muscatine, West Liberty, Eldridge, Davenport x 2, Bettendorf, and Iowa City. The closest of these was Muscatine. It’s about 45 minutes from home with Iowa City being the farthest at an hour and a half. In January we started driving to the IKWF tournaments. Princeton, LaSalle/Peru (their tournament was always Super Bowl Sunday and they guaranteed we would be home in time, and we always were.), Chillicothe (one of our favorites, David Lauber), Peoria, Washintgon, Metamora, Dixon, Sterling, Danville (Jim Didi should have his own chapter . There will never be another one like him), East Peoria…do you guys remember Crossface? It was an insane tournament.. Macomb. Stef and Curt Myers are still my Macomb kids!! Moline and Rock Island had IKWF tournaments, thank goodness. Only a 45 minute drive to these! The closest of the others was probably Sterling at an hour and 15 minutes and the farthest was Danville at 3 1/2 hours. And we did stay overnight there. The rest were all about an hour and a half give or take a little.

We just drove. All of us. If one of us went we all usually went. My daughter, Courtney, didn’t wrestle. Okay, she did… once. She begged so we gave in. We had to make her finish the tournament. She never asked again. Anyway, she spent half her life riding…riding to Jayson’s meets during the week, Jayson’s tournaments on Saturday and riding to Clayton’s tournaments on Sunday. Bless her heart…

In between weekend tournaments we had practice. Clayton could usually only practice 2 times a week. The other 3 days we were going to Jayson’s junior high or high school meets. Every now and then he could sneak in a 3rd practice but not very often. He practiced in East Moline most of the time, (only a 50 minute drive one way) but at least once every 2 weeks we were driving. And usually Ethan Ball was with us. We drove to East Peoria to work out with Crossface. As controversial as he was, we will always be grateful to Chuck Patten. One of their coaches, Scott Fisher, was an old childhood friend of mine. Our parents were good friends and I hadn’t seen him in years. I had no idea he was there. That was a 3 hour round trip drive. We drove to Sterling. John Peterson and the Sterling Newman Comets were generous enough to let us practice with them. His son, Randall, always gave Bub a good workout.

And, of course, Ethan was with us. I still see John from time to time. I miss him and Randall. We drove to Rockridge. The Amys (Keithy used to come spend the night. Do you know… he wouldn’t talk. He would whisper to Clayton and Clayton had to tell me what he said!!). Rick Amy. Mike Kenney. What a tremendous help they were. Steve Amy should probably have his own chapter here, too. Maybe he will. We drove to Moline to workout with Josh Schell, drove to Rock Island to their club and later drove to Augustana in Rock Island to their open gyms and even later to Dubuque and Augie to work out with Eric Jeurgen’s Young Guns.

Of course, Ethan was with us!!

Did I mention Jayson’s junior high and high school meets….yep. When Jayson graduated from high school we felt like we were on vacation!! I don’t think I mentioned showing horses in the summer. Courtney did that. Yep we traveled the entire state showing horses, and to Texas once for the World Show…she was top 15!! Oh yes…we were driving. I think my youngest son has spent half his life on the wrestling mat and the other half driving….


By 1998, the Morgan’s were a full swing athletic family. Something that I had always dreamed when I planned my family years before was coming true. Both of my sons were solid athletes, Sergio, older than Mario by 5 years was football / baseball and Mario was football / baseball / wrestling. My wife Nicole was a great athletic Mom making the meals or as we called it the food cooler, driving and playing doctor/nurse. Every kid on the Twisters was under her watch. My job in relation to wrestling was to coach if needed, stats, singlets / equipment, scheduling and just keeping the whole thing organized.

It was also the first year that I also got involved with the illinoismatmen website. Jim Moriarty was the site owner who eventually sold it to Mike Bare. I started using the screen name Mr. Twister in honor of my son winning the twister's highest award named the same, the previous year at their banquet. I became a member of the Superhero’s, a group of Dad’s that took up the Civil War fight via the Internet. I started posting my viewpoints on the controversy. Since I was with the Twisters, that was a separate controversy. That is a subject for another day.

We started traveling all over for all the sports and in wrestling, we were anywhere in the country. We were on the road so much that I had to buy a full size van specifically for traveling to tournaments. We needed the let out bed in the back for before and after those early weigh ins. It also included the reclining plush cabin chairs so others could sleep, bathroom, fridge, VCR player for looking at tapes and a large .350 motor for highway travel.

The Wrestling Van

When we first joined the Twisters in 1995 there were 25 wrestlers on the team. The Twisters were ending what I like to call the first generation. The legendary Twisters, Joe, Steve and TJ Williams, Milton Blakley, Ralph and Ray Kizzee, David and Mike Douglass, Tuhan and Shawn Waller, Shawn White, Malik Elliott, Jason Pero and others were in or out of high school and college. There was a bit of a rebuilding process going on. By the 1998 season, there were 75 Twisters and by 2000, we were back up to 130 wrestlers. I refer to my son’s group as the second generation of Twisters.

The Twisters wrestled usually on Sunday’s at a lot of tournaments in Illinois. On Saturday mornings, about 3 or 4 a.m. depending on the distance a group of us were on the road looking for additional tournaments. Mario’s group included Thomas Webster, Christian Brantley, Travis Hammons, Albert White, Cartice and Cameron Lloyd and B. J. Futrell. We were a little mini team traveling to exotic Midwest places like Peoria, Danville, Rockford, Wisconsin, Indiana, St Louis, Michigan, all over Iowa, Columbus, Ohio or wherever they had the best competition and nice large or unique trophy’s.

Stevie Williams and the traveling Twisters circa 2000

By 2001, the IKWF had put in a rule that you could not wrestle in a sanctioned IKWF tournament if you were not registered with USA Wrestling and a member of the IKWF. I like to think my little crew had a lot to do with that as it was not unusual for us to go to IKWF tourneys like the Kid’s Open, The Crossface (swept through that one twice), or the Midwest Classic looking for state champs to beat and hardware to win. Some parts of the Civil War were fun. The kids just wanted to wrestle and on both sides really had no clue about the politics.

If nothing else, these trips were excellent bonding times with Mario and his friends. It was not unusual for us to return on Sunday’s just in time to weigh-in on Sunday with Saturday’s bounty in hand. There were always trophies, Eagles and bracket boards for our other teammates to see.

The 1999 season was a fun filled one except at the end. The IWF State final was held at Eastern Illinois. Mario wrestling at 62 pounds finished second falling to a Wrestling Factory kid for the second straight year, Dane Lund. It was a match he should of won but didn’t. The final day was weird as the semi final match was at 9 a.m. and the finals match was at 9 p.m. making for an extremely long day and a lot of down time for a 10 year old.

The Twister have a tee shirt that has all of their state champs on it since their inception in 1983. That shirt with your name on it was much sought after in the Twister room. The whole key to it was you had to earn your way onto it. On the disappointing ride home, Mario said to me, “I will never be a real Twister until I get my name on that tee shirt.” He them curled up in the back of the van and went to sleep, mad as hell.

Without a doubt, some changes had to be made if Mario was going to make it to the top of the podium and get on the red champions tee shirt.

In the summer of 2000, Mario began training exclusively with Coach Harrell twice a week. It was the first time he dedicated himself to wrestling other than during the regular season. It was not unusual to leave a travel team double header in baseball, change to wrestling gear in the back of the van and head to the wrestling practice room to get better. I will never forget that first off-season practice. Coach Harrrell said, “I don’t like anything he does. We are going to start all over.” That threw me for a loop. Here was my son a 2x All American, 2x state finalist and coach was taking him back to square one. He literally started him out in a new stance and rebuilt him from there. There is no doubt in my mind that Coach Harrell is the best wrestling coach in this state if not in America. Who was I to debate a living Hall of Fame coach if he wants to start Mario from scratch?

Coach Quint Harrell watches Mario to this day

It was really amazing to see the results. When the season started, Mario looked like a different kid. By mid December coaches from other teams were approaching me asking what did we do to Mario. He looked unbeatable they said. Well I didn’t buy that but he did wrestle really well that year. He was quick, able to score at will and he was riding legs with an offensive style that scored points. He added the Granby series and the front chauncery to a cradle. His best defense was his offense and in my opinion was one of his top three overall seasons ever. And his confidence was through the roof. He knew he would win matches, not hope to win and that is a big difference in wrestling.

Morgan pins Antwoine Brown in :57 for 1st title @ 66 pounds

At state series time, he was not scored upon at regional, sectionals or state, recording all pins including a :57 pin of Antwoine Brown of the Waukegan Hawkeyes. Finishing 44-2, Mario left no doubt he was finally a state champ and he was on the champion tee shirt.

Morgan headed to the top of the podium

NEXT MONDAY; Middle School Duals and Team Illinois…

Last edited by MR TWISTER; 11-18-2010 at 10:37 AM.
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