Colfax-Mingo's McGill caps career with runner-up finish

Feb. 19—DES MOINES — John McGill's route to the No. 1 seed in his bracket at the state wrestling tournament didn't come easy.

The Colfax-Mingo senior won only one match at the state tournament as a freshman and missed the tournament entirely as a sophomore.

But last year's run to a sixth-place medal gave McGill the confidence he can compete on the state's biggest stage and it set up a senior season Tigerhawk nation will remember for a long time.

While his path to the state championship was altered on Saturday night, McGill still had one of the best seasons in school history and was the first semifinalist and finalist at Colfax-Mingo since Michael Bucklin won the state title in 2004.

"I definitely will look back someday and be proud, but this sucks right now," McGill said.

McGill wound up as the state runner-up in Class 1A at 165 pounds. His 38-match win streak ended in the finals of the state championship match at the Iowa High School State Wrestling Championships at Wells Fargo Arena.

The Tigerhawk senior won his first three matches at the state tournament before losing 9-5 to top-ranked and second-seeded Maddox Nelson of Underwood.

"He had a very good down block. It was hard to get deep like normal," McGill said. "I'm used to just shooting through guys and he was stopping me well. That made the match his."

John McGill

McGill was 3-1 in the tournament and finished his final prep season 43-2. He ended his career with a school-record 167 wins and a school-record 107 pins. He had 27 pins this winter.

"He knows he put his work in," Colfax-Mingo head boys wrestling coach Stacey Rice said. "Every match is his stuff and his pace. He's in condition to go six minutes. If he can control the action, we like what the odds are going to be."

McGill controlled the action in his other three matches.

He opened the tournament with a win by fall over Regan Witt (41-11) of Saint Ansgar after receiving a first-round bye.

McGill led 4-0 after one period following a takedown and two near fall points. The advantage grew to 11-0 in the second before he finished the match with a pin.

He handled Interstate 35′s Bode Stanley in his next match, too. His 34th bonus-point victory of the season ended 12-4.

McGill scored an early takedown on Stanley (35-10) and led the match 4-2 after one period. The advantage grew to 10-4 after two and a reversal in the third got him to the difference.

"I just wanted to dominate, believe in myself and stay after it early," McGill said after his win over Witt. "I definitely came in knowing that I'm the one seed, and it's time to kick some butt."

McGill faced one of his toughest tests of the season in the semifinals against East Buchanan's Clay Wilgenbusch.

He trailed for the first time in a while after Wilgenbusch (36-12) scored an early takedown. McGill tied it with a reversal and then took a 4-3 lead with a takedown and led 6-4 at the end of the first following a takedown with 1 second on the clock.

Another takedown by McGill in the second made it 8-5 and it was 8-6 after two.

An escape by McGill early in the third pushed his lead to 9-6, but a takedown by Wilgenbusch closed the gap to 9-8. The Tigerhawk senior went on to win 10-8 following one final escape.

Wilgenbusch, who wound up sixth, took McGill down on the edge of the mat late in the match, but the referee determined it came after time had expired.

"He was strong," McGill said. "I thought he was out of time. When my butt hit the mat, I thought the ref was going to call time. In my head I wanted to celebrate, but if they gave him the two then I had to get ready for another minute. I heard my family going crazy though.

"I felt like the underdog for so long. I had to prove it real quick that it was a mistake, and I should have been the first one to score. Then I took those two points back."

John McGill

McGill and Nelson (32-3) were scoreless in the finals after the first, but McGill didn't get a takedown in the match.

Nelson led 2-1, 4-2 and 6-3 before closing out the 9-5 win with a final takedown it the third.

Nelson won the state championship with four wins by decision. His other victories were 9-3, 8-4 and 5-2.

"He's short and solid defensively. He got low and any time John got close he just had good hands and good defense," Rice said. "That first period (Nelson) probably should have been hit with a stalling because John was doing all the stuff.

"It is what it is. John has had a great year and a great career and he's an example of what you want in your room."

McGill thought Nelson knew what was coming when the two wrestlers tied up.

"His timing was just really good," McGill said. "He got in deep before I could move."

Notes: McGill finished 38-9 at 126 and was 1-2 at state his freshmen season. He was 39-5 at 145 as a sophomore but finished third at districts. Last year, McGill was 47-8 and placed sixth at 160.