As much as singing and wrestling are different, Marcus Jackson finds a correlation.
In both cases, success requires the same approach.
"If you want to be great," the Rock Island junior said, "it takes a lot of hard work."
Jackson is the poster child for those words, somehow balancing choir and wrestling commitments to succeed in both. Within the last month, he earned All-State honors in choir while helping the Rocky wrestling team secure its 15th consecutive Western Big 6 Conference dual victory.
"It shows his versatility as a person," Rocky wrestling coach Joel Stockwell said about Jackson's talents in both choir and wrestling. "We talk all the time in the room about being successful in life, not just wrestling. It's a tribute to him that he can work at both and be successful at both."
Somehow, he handles two opposites with ease.
One activity sometimes requires a tuxedo with impeccable concentration. The other brings a singlet and headgear with unbridled aggression.
On the surface, singing and wrestling are different.
Then again, wrestling is music to Jackson's ears.
"There's something about being on the mat -- just like singing," Jackson said. "It calms me and makes me feel good."
A Tenor 2 in the honors choir, Jackson is one of nine Rocky students named to the Illinois Music Educators Association All-State team. Adding to the story is Jackson being the 160-pound starter on the school's 10th-ranked wrestling team.
Both require a commitment that features studying lyrics mixed with cutting weight. While counting notes, he's counting calories.
"It's equivalent in difficulty," Jackson said. "It's not just memorizing music or getting in shape. It's mental."
Luckily, each activity gives Jackson some slack. Both Stockwell and Rocky choir director Scott Voight know that Jackson's passion lies in singing and wrestling, so each understands when the other must take priority.
December has countless performances, keeping Jackson away from the mat. With that out of the way, he's focused on helping the Rocks defend their back-to-back Big 6 and Class 2A regional titles.
What will help Jackson over the next couple weeks is his singing background. Armed with confidence from the All-State honors, he now craves to duplicate the success on the mat.
"At the beginning of the season, I wasn't as confident as I am now," Jackson said. "Being All-State told me that I can do it."
The award served as a reminder, too.
"I want to work to work as hard as I can," Jackson said.
Any Rocky choir concert proves what his effort and talents can do.Each time a number needs a soloist, Jackson provides it.
However, the solo, in his mind, carries zero stage fright. The cold feet start when a bout begins.
"I've been singing solos since my freshman year," said Jackson, who joined choir in fifth grade, two years before he started wrestling at Washington Junior High. "Being on the mat and having everyone look at you, it's nerve-racking."
Jackson admits his focus in music is how it should be on the mat.
"I don't think about it. I practice so much that I know my music and I know that I'm not going to miss a note," Jackson said. "It all comes together when I'm on the stage."
A first-year varsity wrestler, Jackson is finding his groove on the other stage.
"He's put in a lot of time and worked his way up," Stockwell said. "When he's on, he's up there with anybody."
We already know what he can do at a concert. Wrestling is seeing improvements each day.
Does that mean he can do both at the same time?
Stockwell suggested Jackson could sing the National Anthem before a dual "maybe his senior year."
The offer lies on the table.
"If my coach wanted me to," Jackson said, "I'd sing."
Singing in a singlet, that sounds about right.
Prep wrestling notebook
Pustelnik gets Hall of Fame nod: Mark Pustelnik, a 1986 United Township graduate, will be inducted into the Illinois Wrestling Coaches and Officials Association Hall of Fame on April 21 during a ceremony in Chicago.
Prior to his induction, Pustelnik will be honored next month in Champaign during the individual state meet.
Pustelnik was the 1985 Class AA 98-pound state champion and took second the next season. He remains the only wrestler in school history with two state championship appearances and his 45 wins as a junior are a single-season program record. After high school, he had a decorated wrestling career at Northern Iowa.
Besides his individual accomplishments, Pustelnik won six Western Big 6 Conference titles as the UT head coach.
This 'n' that: Geneseo athletic director Travis Mackey confirmed that Bettendorf, North Scott and Pleasant Valley will be part of the Bi-State Invitational. The two-day meet, which includes Geneseo and Moline, starts this Friday. ... The Erie-Prophetstown at Kewanee dual scheduled for last Friday was moved to Jan. 22. ... Both Rock Island 120-pound senior B.J. McGhee and Moline 285-pound junior Adarios Jones repeated as Sycamore Invitational champions. In fact, McGhee claimed his third consecutive title. ... Mercer County senior Zach Nelson was named Most Outstanding Wrestler at the Princeton Invitational for the upper weights. Nelson won the 152-pound title with his 143rd career victory, which makes him the all-time winningest individual in Aledo/Mercer County history. ... The Dispatch and The Rock Island Argus leaderboard returns in Thursday's edition.