CHAMPAIGN -- All the setbacks gave way to a collapse.|
This time, though, B.J. McGhee's collapse was out of joy.
Moments after securing a berth in the Class 2A 113-pound state championship bout, McGhee, the Rock Island junior wrestler, fell down as he left the mat on Friday night. There was no injury or frustration that put McGhee to the Assembly Hall floor at the state wrestling tournament after a 9-7 win over Morris sophomore Kenny Baldridge, just a moment he always dreamt was possible.
"It's such a big feeling right now," McGhee said. "I just feel so amazing. Words can't even describe how I'm feeling."
McGhee's eyes started watering as he spoke about the semifinal win, giving the Rocks their first finalist since Reese Taylor in 2008. A finals berth always was something the program expected, but McGhee fell short in his quest to be the best.
Last year, it was a semifinals loss to Aurora Marmion's Johnny Jimenez -- who McGhee faces in tonight's finals -- before ending with a third-place finish. A week ago, another collapse happened as Baldridge handed McGhee his only lose after pinning him in the Sterling Sectional semifinals.
Yet, the one collapse he discussed after the win was the collapsed lung and pneumonia that had him clinging to life in the intensive-care unit at University of Iowa Hospitals last summer. At that time, no one knew what McGhee's future would be.
As of now, it could be a champion.
"I came such a long way from the hospital bed," McGhee said. "I was on my deathbed. Now, I'm in the state finals."
McGhee (43-1) did it has way -- through domination. Two first-period takedowns gave him a 4-2 lead that increased to 6-4 one period later. In the third period, McGhee got a fourth takedown before getting reversed, but he still led 8-6. After an escape made it 9-6, he was penalized a point for stalling before time ran out on a 9-7 win.
"I believe I controlled that match very well," McGhee said. "Again, I hit my shots when I wanted. My coaches kept telling me, 'You hit your stuff. Don't worry about adjusting.' I kept that in my head."
The ultimate revenge gives way to the ultimate match. Jimenez, the reigning 103-pound state champion, and McGhee were ranked first and second, respectively, the last six weeks in the Illinois Best Weekly 113-pound rankings.
Both are nationally ranked as well, but most figure Jimenez will coast to a second state title.
"I don't think so," McGhee said. "They thought I was untouchable -- see what happened to me?"
- Hakizimana, Kerres, Newton all fall: Rocky 120-pound senior Ignace Hakizimana could not get the win in his first-ever semifinals appearance. Lombard Montini senior KeVon Powell controlled the match, handing Hakizimana a 22-6 technical fall loss.
"He's good," Hakizimana said. "He knew what I was going to do, so he defended it."
Kyle Kerres, the Rocky 152-pound senior, dropped an 8-5 decision to Lemont's Jake Kaminsky in the semifinals. Kerres led 3-0 in the second period before Kaminsky tied it with an escape and takedown. Kaminsky scored two takedowns in the final period to get the win.
"I didn't finish as hard as I wanted to," Kerres said. "I don't know what happened."
Defending Crystal Lake Central state champion Gage Harrah was too much for Geneseo senior Oliver Newton in the semifinals. Newton was pinned in 48 seconds.
"I did the best I could," Newton said. "Harrah is a monster."
Hakizimana, Kerres and Newton all go into the wrestleback semifinals, but are guaranteed a state medal. Rocky 126-pound senior Darius Henderson lost in the quarterfinals before winning his first wrestleback match. He's one win away from medaling.
Quarterfinal wrestlebacks begin at 9 this morning.
Rocky 170-pound junior Michael Cole and Geneseo 152-pound Tyler Puls were both eliminated after dropping wrestleback matches.
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