CHAMPAIGN -- A sprint up the Assembly Hall steps ended with a long hug from his dad, a moment B.J. McGhee dreamed about.|
After so many heartbreaks, disappointments and setbacks, McGhee finally was embraced as a champion.
Three takedowns and an escape allowed McGhee to win a state championship he wanted so bad for so long. The Rock Island 120-pound senior captured his Class 2A state title after a more-impressive-than-it-looked 5-3 win over Lombard Montini's Vince Turk on Saturday night.
McGhee had his long-awaited state title, the 22nd in Rocky history. When it was all sealed, a hug from his father, Barlow, awaited.
"It was amazing, man," McGhee said with the first-place medal around his neck and bracket board in his hands. "I don't know how to explain it. I just ran up there because everybody up there knew I could do it -- I just had to believe I could."
Was there ever any doubt? Not at all.
Not after McGhee rested in the intensive care unit two summers ago with pneumonia. Not after he suffered a last-second loss in the state championship bout one year ago. Not after he dropped an overtime match one week earlier in the sectional final to end his perfect season.
None of those setbacks altered McGhee's belief that he could be a state champ.
"I just had a really good mindset," McGhee said.
In becoming the first wrestler in school history to win a first-, second- and third-place state medal, McGhee (46-1) controlled his fourth consecutive state bout. He used a takedown to build a 2-1 lead after the first. Another takedown, plus two free escapes, turned it to a 4-3 advantage entering the third.
Choosing bottom, McGhee narrowly escaped giving up back points, but eventually wiggled free as the third period wound down. As the clock expired, he threw his hands in the air, hugged Rocky coach Joel Stockwell and sprinted up the stairs.
The victory capped a stretch in which McGhee had 13 takedowns in the state meet. He was not taken down, surrendering all 16 points on escapes.
This season, McGhee was taken down once.
"It didn't matter where I was seeded and it didn't matter if I got beat this year," McGhee said. "I just proved I can beat anybody."
When those words left McGhee's mouth, a smile beamed. During the run to this night, he said all along he would trade the national title and All-American honors for a state title.
Turns out, he can keep it all ... and add one more honor to his resume.
"I can't put it into words," McGhee said. "This is better than what I imagined."
Cole gets fifth: For the third consecutive season, the Rocks had multiple medalists as 170-pound senior Michael Cole came back from a quarterfinal loss to place fifth. Cole earned an 11-1 win over Geneseo junior Brandon Mizlo in his final bout.
"I didn't place as high as I wanted, but I went out on top," Cole said. "It's good to know all my goals have pretty much been reached. I feel good."
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