B.J. McGhee said his undefeated wrestling season ended "for a reason."|
Finding one proved easy.
"I should have a loss," the Rock Island 120-pound senior said. "It motivates me more."
There was no pity party when McGhee suffered his first loss this season during the Class 2A Rochelle Sectional semifinals on Saturday. The 3-1 overtime defeat to Morris junior Kenny Baldridge was met with a renewed determination as McGhee searches for that elusive state title.
As McGhee put it, there was no time to sulk. There still was unfinished business he had to handle.
"Normally I put back on all my things and chill" after a match, McGhee said. "When I lost, I just put on my warm-up jacket and that was it. I kept my knee pads up and straps on my singlet up. After that, I was ready to wrestle. I didn't want to do anything else."
The experience was nothing new. A year ago, he entered the sectional semifinals with an undefeated record before being pinned by Baldridge. A week later, he beat Baldridge in the state semifinals before falling in the 113-pound state final.
McGhee (41-1) sees the correlation between the two scenarios, but truly believes the ending will be different.
"I'm in such a motivated mindset right now," McGhee said. "I know what I have to do. I'm not going to hold anything back. I'm going out there, giving my all and do what I can."
Experience has taught McGhee to learn from a loss, something he spoke about during practice on Monday afternoon. Baldridge "stuck to the gameplan" by "stalling me out and slowing me down on my feet" to get the win. Gifted on his feet, McGhee could not get the a takedown even though he was aggressive with his shots.
Baldridge scored a second-period escape to take a lead before surrending a stalling point late in the bout. McGhee lost when he slipped on a dive shot, allowing Baldridge to get a two-point takedown.
The match reminded him to remain aggressive and make sure he's tougher when riding an opponent.
"I'm so motivated to get to the finals again and win state," McGhee said. "I want to prove that I can be a state champion."
A dream ending still can be earned. McGhee opens the Class 2A state meet on Thursday against second-ranked Richmond-Burton sophomore Grant Sutton in the first round. McGhee handed Sutton his only loss this season in the Palatine Invitational championship bout.
Top-seeded Chatham Glenwood senior Sam Butler could possibly be a quarterfinal opponent. Butler entered postseason ranked fifth in the Illinois Best Weekly poll.
McGhee entered postseason ranked No. 1 by Illinois Best Weekly and No. 16 nationally by InterMat.
"He's beaten the best of the best. And he's beaten some of the best in the nation," Rocky coach Joel Stockwell said. "When he's on and 100 percent, he's the best kid in the state in any class at that weight. I stand by that."
Then again, Stockwell, a former state champion and four-time medalist, is cautious.
"I'm not saying he's going to win the state title," Stockwell said, "because things have to be aligned correctly and you have to be lucky."
What provides McGhee hope it can happen is a bracket he views as beatable. Each individual has at least one loss, and those who offer the toughest obstacles has been beaten by McGhee at some point the last four years.
Despite entering state with a loss on his record, McGhee truly believes a title rests in his hands.
"I'm walking out of Assembly Hall with that state bracket board," McGhee said. "I'm going to take it."
Here's a look at Rock Island's three-time state wrestling medalists. Current 120-pound senior B.J. McGhee has two entering this weekend's Class 2A state meet.
-Forrest Benford (1956, 1957, 1958^)
-Kevin Haynes (1990, 1991, 1992^)
-Elijah Roberts (1993, 1994, 1995)
-Dennis Vesey (1986, 1987, 1988)
-Tim Wright (1981, 1982^, 1983^)
^ - State champion
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