Posted Online: Nov. 18, 2012, 7:15 pm

No holding back this time for McGhee

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By Daniel Makarewicz, danmak@qconline.com

Photo: Clark Brooks / PhotoNews
Rock Island's B.J. McGhee lost to Marmion's Johnny Jimenez in the 113-pound title match at the IHSA state wrestling finals last february. That match still haunts McGhee, who in in search of that coveted first state title of his own this season.
B.J. McGhee cannot go a day without recalling the loss.

The lingering pain makes it too difficult to forget

Ten months have passed since McGhee, a Rock Island senior wrestler, suffered a heart-wrenching 4-2 loss to Aurora Marmion's Johnny Jimenez in the Class 2A 113-pound title match. Since that time, he constantly recalls that February night and wonders how he could have changed the result.

"I should've been a state champion," McGhee said last week. "I think about it every day."

Moving forward should be McGhee's focus, but he's not thinking that way.Reliving such a haunting result is a good thing.

All the reminders allow McGhee to realize what he needs to do to secure that elusive state title.

"I'm not going to hold anything back," McGhee said. "That's what happened in that match -- I held back and I didn't keep attacking."

Thinking about that pushes McGhee forward.

Two instances kept McGhee from winning that match, so he's spent the last 10 months perfecting those weakness. After taking Jimenez down in the first period to grab a 2-0 lead, McGhee allowed him to escape, thus cutting the lead in half.

With the bout tied 2-all after two periods, McGhee again gave up a point when he elected to go neutral instead of down. An escape would have given him a 3-2 advantage.

"That's one thing that's been pushing me to get better," McGhee said. "If I was able to ride him out, it would have been 2-to-1 going into the third period. If I was able to get up, I would've gotten up 3-to-1. That's what's been pushing me. I'm always reminded of that."

McGhee can live with the single-leg shot late in the third period that resulted in Jimenez's last-second takedown because he saw an opportunity for the win. What made the last few months difficult was knowing he could have preserved points.

Do that, he would not have needed the late shot.

"It was a bummer, man," McGhee said. "I really thought I had the state title."

Winning state now because the top priority.

"We just want to get there again," Rocky coach Joel Stockwell said. "We know he's capable of it. He deserves it. But when you get to that level, you need a little luck."

Luck is something McGhee really cannot control, but he has the accolades and experience to reach that level.

Since that loss, he earned All-America status at the ASICS/Vaughan Junior and Cadet National Championships for the third consecutive year. McGhee followed that by winning theCliff Keen USA Wrestling Preseason Nationals 120-pound title two weeks ago.

Those two results add to an already decorated career that is impressive even without a state title.

"The confidence is there," Stockwell said.

Asked about the hardware, McGhee said he would trade it all to be on top of the medal stand in late February.

So far, the quest seems possible. McGhee enters the season ranked nationally in the InterMat and WIN Magazine polls. The preseason state rankings do not come out until later this week, but the two-time medalist figures to garner a Class 2A 120-pound top ranking.

All that's left is finishing the deal.

"Should he do it? Yes. Is he capable of doing it? Yes," Stockwell said. "A lot of things have to come together at the right time for that to happen."

The first step was fixing some holes in his repertoire. In his mind, that's done.

The next step was finding some motivation. Well, there are no issues with that.

February cannot come soon enough.

"Everything is set up perfectly for it to be my time," McGhee said. "I'm really excited about this year."