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Old 12-04-2010
Wrestling Media
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Transforming and Getting Ready for High School

Clayton Rush and Mario Morgan are argubably 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.

Periodically, we will add chapters until we get to that final match in March.

Just in case you don't know Illinois wrestling, 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 on 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. She has ridden the back roads off 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. He is my son and a former multiple time kids state champ from the Harvey Twisters.

Here in chapter 8 both Clayton and Mario begin to work on getting bigger for high school. Meanwhile Gail realizes she is no longer Clayton's coach and Mario's parents drive across the country to see him wrestle in the W.O.W. World Championsips.

Transforming by Gail Rush

The transformation from junior high to high school wrestling was challenging. Clayton’s 8th grade year he wrestled at 79 senior and didn’t cut a pound. If I remember right, he weighed a natural 77 or 78. There were some kids who did cut to get to the lower weights in the senior division. I was very against that. Just a few months down the road was high school wrestling and the lowest weight class was 103. My theory was that these kids should be trying to put on weight, not cut it. Anyway, that’s a completely different soapbox you don’t want to get me on.

I think it was shortly before school was out for the summer that we decided Clayton needed to be on some type of a weight gain diet or program if he wanted to reach his goals in high school wrestling. I knew this guy from “Chicago”. Andre Morgan. I actually don’t even think we had met face to face yet. But I’m not shy, and I called him. He set Clayton up with a lifting program. Four days a week lifting and 1 day of cardio. This took place in our garage, where we had weights set up. Now, I’m sure you are thinking of a normal garage. Ours is far from normal. It’s as old as our house, has no garage door…they (they were the swinging kind) got taken off in one of our “storms”, and remember, plywood over the windows. We also have birds in our garage of the sparrow variety. You’ll have that when there is no door.

Back to the weight gain program. Clayton started out at 78 pounds and by the first day of school he weighed about 90 pounds and by wrestling season he weighed a whopping 95 pounds. It’s a far cry from 103 but at least it wasn’t 80. And just a side note, there was nothing involved in that but weight lifting and eating the right stuff. No creatine. That’s another soapbox for another day. Anyway, thank you Mr. Morgan.

There was another transformation taking place. One that I did not like. Loss of control. Some may say I’m a control freak. I know…can you believe that? Anyway, I had been Bubba’s coach, team, transportation, and his funds for wrestling since he was 3 years old. All that was about to change with high school, well, with the exception of funds. I’m not sure that ever changes.

I had been to 98% of his practices for 10 years, all of his tournaments and meets with the exception of one, City High Tournament in Iowa City when he was 4 or 5. It drove me nuts, but I had to work and couldn’t get it off.

Speaking of work, not many people know it, but I am a registered radiologic technologist, or x-ray tech. I quit work when Clayton started school and my oldest son started high school. It was kind of backwards from what most mothers do. Most stay home with their kids before they start school. Not me. Backwards. I quit when they were all in school. I had decided, after many discussions with Rick, of course, that I wasn’t going to miss anything my kids did because of work. AND…I had a 45 minute drive to work in Muscatine, Iowa. I worked at a clinic, mainly for an orthopedic surgeon. Anyway, every morning on my way to work I would see this mom standing at the end of their lane with her 2 kids waiting for the school bus. It really bothered me that I couldn’t be home when my kids got on the bus or when they got off after school. So WE decided I could quit and be at my kids beckon call. That’s where I’ve been ever since, it’s just …they don’t “beckon call” much any more.

So, here was my youngest son in high school. He had what he has wanted for so many years. A Team. Up to this point he was kind of like a Man Without a Country, but he was boy without a team. Not any more. AND he had coaches, AND teammates, AND a bus to get places. Well, heck, why was I even breathing? That was a struggle. Luckily,I think, (Bubba may not) our rural community is small enough and we were close enough that I could actually still go and watch practice 3 or 4 times a week. Watch. Huh. I didn’t like it. I tried not to coach. I probably didn’t do to well that first year, but I think I got progressively better. (again, Clayton may not) I just kept coming back to “who knows my son better than me?” Nobody, that’s who. Most of the boys were used to seeing me around. Shoot, we had been going to tournaments longer than they had been able to walk. So why couldn’t I still coach? Not only was it a loss of control, it was a bigger loss of “being needed”. After reflecting back, this was probably the biggest loss for me. I was the one. I was the one who hugged him when he lost. I was the one who got up before the crack of dawn to get to weigh-ins, I was the one who watched tape and scouted every other kid in the state at his weight.. I was the coach he ran to and jumped in MY arms when he won 3rd place at IKWF State. I WAS the one. WAS is the key word here…WAS.

That all changed, and I’ll admit, it wasn’t an easy transition. I guess we both had our transitions to high school. College was even worse, but that’s another chapter all together.

Getting Ready For High School…by Andre’ Morgan

On March 11, 2002, the Monday after winning the IKWF 79 pound state championship Mario and I began preparing him for high school sports.

We had talked on the way home from Southern Illinois the previous day about his commitment to Mt. Carmel athletics. We knew he would play three sports; football, wrestling and baseball, in that order come September 2002. He needed 24 pounds added in a hurry, and that was to break even at 103 pounds. I knew that extreme measures would be needed and that it would require training that even a three-sport 14-year-old kid athlete was not use to.

We decided to get a personal trainer, well actually two personal trainers. The coach that first started Mario into wrestling, Will Franklin was a personal trainer to many professional and college athletes. Franklin’s who operated out of Quad’s gym in Calumet City, Illinois, list of success was impressive including, NFL player’s Napoleon Harris, Rodney Harrison, Darrell Hill, Harold Blackmon, Jack Golden, and Kevin Hayden. NBA player Charles Oakley and elite wrestlers Joe Williams, Tony Davis, TC Dantzler, TJ Williams and David Douglass all trained with Franklin as well, so I was pretty sure he could put together a program of gaining weight for Mario.

Morgan with Trainer Will Franklin of WillPower Fitness

Mario also trained at World Gym in Highland, Indiana with Tim Maldenado, younger brother of Iowa State legend Billy Maldenado. A high school coach and trainer, Maldenado may not of had the glamorous clientele that Franklin had but he had Mario’s ear. Because he was younger in age they seemed to bond real quick.

The workout plan was simple. Every day, six days a week Mario lifted, twice a day, 5:30 a.m. in Indiana and 6:00p.m. in Illinois. We did add in some wrestling because World Gym had a wrestling mat. Every day I charted Mario’s weight at every session. I had this really big chart in his room by the door. I wanted him to see his progress or his failure. In a lot of ways, I thought this was a big key. When you can see what you are doing you can gauge if it is where you want to be and if you can get to where you want to go. Mario is very goal orientated so this helped a lot.

The charts first date was 3/11/02 and the last date on it was 8/9/02. The end date was the first day of freshman football practice at Mt. Carmel. I knew that at this point in Mario’s career he cared a lot more about football than baseball or wrestling. So when we had our little talk riding home from IKWF state I mandated that I was not going to let him play football in the Chicago Catholic League if he did not weigh 100 pounds. He knew I was dead serious and went to work with earnest right away. I am convinced that this training not only worked for Mario going into high school but four and a half years later when he tore his ACL during his true freshman year at UNO. This was the same work ethic he needed to rebuild his career with his knee ripped up. The ACL rehab was nine months, twice a day of lifting and training. Because he had done this previous he was not afraid to put in the necessary hard work and his ACL rehab was a big success.

The only supplement we used was Weider Weight Gain and it worked. Everything else was proper healthy food including fruits, vegetables and little red meat or fast foods. While not a big sweets eater the eliminating of fast foods took a little work but he committed once he saw results. At this point, I must give my wife Nicole big credit because she was up every morning preparing a breakfast, protein drinks and juices for us. We had to leave at 4:30 a.m. for the thirty-minute drive to Hammond. Coach Maldenado would greet Mario every morning with a brisk 25 minute warm up run followed by focus on a particular part of the body for 30-45 minutes. Another run or bike ride ended the day unless there were wrestlers in the building to roll with. Then it was off to school for him and work for me. The two-hour daily workouts were a great bonding time with my son.

Artist pic done of Mario in Reno

After school, if there was not baseball practice or game we headed over to Quads for training with Coach Franklin. The key to him is he always got the extra set or really pushed Mario to use proper technique. He is a great motivator and was always encouraging to be the best. The evening practice was always coordinated with the opposite of what was done in the morning. It may seem like a lot but really once we started it was just what he did and to his credit Mario never ever complained. He wanted to play football. It was amazing how he gained weight in spurts and once he got to 90 pounds in June he really wanted to work even harder.

This pic was in Wrestling USA Magazine 2002-Reno

While doing all of this, Mario completed his kid level career with a trip to Reno in the springtime. We decided to go to the World of Wrestling World championships at the last minute. That decision created a financial problem. When I researched the plane fare to Reno it was almost $1,000 round trip, just for Mario alone. I would have to go to coach him and of course, I had to bring my wife. Therefore, we used some creative ideas and started doing everything from selling raffle tickets to soliciting local politicians. We raised enough money for Mario to fly but not for us. So we sat down and calculated how long and how much to drive to Reno. Twenty-nine hours by car and about $700 with gas and rooms. Oh boy!

Nicole and I made the decision to do the long drive. We booked a room at Circus Circus and a plane flight on southwest. A week later, we put Mario on the plane with other Twister’s and their parents and headed for I-80 west. Mario landed before we got halfway through Iowa. Twenty-nine hours one way with you spouse is a test to say the least. It was fun though and a once in a lifetime experience. Let’s add it all up, 1,910 miles one way, seven states, the entire Midwest plains, the Rocky Mountains, a bit of the Grand Canyon and the last two hours through the dessert. We were either nuts or really dedicated parents, or both. Nevertheless, we did it and like I said, it was a fun road trip.

This was more of a vacation slash celebration for us as a family but Mario did find time to take care of business. I won my travel money back in the casinos and Mario won seven matches in his 90 plus (crazy) bracket lost two and placed fifth in the world. He beat some really good kids including future high school teammate matt McNaughton. He finished the first phase of his wrestling career 260 wins, 42 losses making an All American team six times and now a World placing. Not a bad start but high school was going to get real interesting. I asked Mario just before my wife and I if he wanted to ride back with us 29 hours. He looked at us, politely chuckled and said, “UH…no thanks Dad, I’ll fly.” He ran off with his Twister friends, left the next day and got home before we had even made it halfway back.

Mario getting his hand raised in Reno against Matt McNaughton

August rolled around and the day before football started Mario tipped the scale at 102 pounds. I let the one-pound short on our agreement slide. He had worked hard enough to gain 23 pounds, added muscle and learned how to discipline himself in the weight room, even if he really didn’t love lifting. This was not time for a Dad to be a stickler. Strap it up.

Last edited by admin; 12-05-2010 at 09:14 AM.
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Old 12-05-2010
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Jaguar Jaguar is offline
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I am loving every word. In case anyone misses something, obvious though that it is, parental involvement is SO key in a child's development. The dedication that parents give to their children is a gift that keeps on giving. I would never trade all those early morning hours on Sundays in the cold.... The destination is great, but the journey is where the real value lies.
"Boys freestyle. Real men Greco."

Last edited by MR TWISTER; 12-05-2010 at 11:58 AM.
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Old 12-05-2010
Wrestling Media
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Location: Chicago
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Originally Posted by Jaguar View Post
I am loving every word. In case anyone misses something, obvious though that it is, parental involvement is SO key in a child's development. The dedication that parents give to their children is a gift that keeps on giving. I would never trade all those early morning hours on Sundays in the cold.... The destination is great, but the journey is where the real value lies.
Very well said. I knew that I would be close to my sons development. I subscribe to the two parent family but one close parent can do the job too. Kids need adults and visa versa.

Last edited by MR TWISTER; 12-05-2010 at 11:57 AM.
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Old 12-05-2010
BonesJones BonesJones is offline
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Just in case you don't know Illinois wrestling, 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).

I read this in a Bruce Buffer voice, but I make sure to add 2 time Illinois State Champ.
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