McGeary takes top billing at regionals, now on to nationals

Move over Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania. Cedar Rapids, Iowa is next for Waynesburg University’s freshman Rocky McGeary. The heavyweight phenom needed to finish at least third  at the southeast regionals to qualify for nationals. He did better.

McGeary, the top-seeded wrestler at 285, battled and won every one of his matches en route to a spot at the top of the podium.

“It’s kind of a surreal feeling right now,” McGeary said. “I really don’t know exactly how I feel. It was a really tough tournament.”

On Friday, he pinned York’s Thomas Tabatneck and squeezed Washington &  Lee’s Clay Chadwick with a 5-4 quarterfinal’s victory. Although he survived Friday without getting beat, Waynesburg coach Ron Headlee didn’t feel the best version of McGeary was out there on the first day. 

“I thought he was a little timid at the beginning yesterday,” Headlee said. “But he found a way to get it done, I definitely think he looked a little bit better today.”

McGeary started Saturday, with a   9-8 win against fourth-seeded Nico Ramirez in the semi-finals. Then in the finals with a bid to nationals already locked up, McGeary matched up with the second-seeded Palmer Rodenhaber of Alvernia. McGeary walked away with a 4-0 win.

“I was just concentrating on one match at a time and advancing,” McGeary said.

McGeary is the first Yellow Jacket’s freshman to earn a spot to nationals since Waynesburg Central graduate Shaun Wilson did so in 2017.

McGeary has never been to Iowa or on an airplane, the one thing he is expecting is “a lot of cornfields.”

Waynesburg as a team finished 12th out of 20 teams this weekend with 54.5 team points. Multiple other Yellow Jacket wrestlers placed at regionals, but not high enough to punch a ticket to nationals. Headlee wanted to send a few more wrestlers with McGeary to Iowa.

“We were hoping for a little bit more,” Headlee said. “But to be honest, it was a really tough tournament.”

At 157, Colby Morris had a promising start to his day after winning his first match 9-1. Then he suffered a 3-1 heartbreaker that sent him to the consolation bracket. 

Morris rattled off two straight wins until he ran into Messiah’s Stephen Maloney, who defeated Morris by tech fall. Due to injury, Morris defaulted in his placing match to finish sixth, ending his solid freshman campaign.

Senior Zach Mackall finished his career off with a sixth-place finish at a tough 165-pound weight class. Mackall, like Morris, won his first match of the day by major decision, but  Johns Hopkins star Dominick Reyes and lost by way of a major decision. Mackall won two straight in the consolation bracket, keeping his hopes alive, but fell in the semifinals and in his placing match.

Mackall’s , Dillion Charlton finished eighth in his final collegiate tournament at 174. Charlton rode tough on top in his first match and secured a tech fall which led to him matching up with Washington &  Jefferson’s Hunter Neely. Neely edged Charlton by a point and eventually won the weight class. After the loss to Neely, Charlton bounced back with a win, but then fell in the third round. John Hopkins Joe Paul defeated Charlton in the battle for eighth place.

Seniors Matt Lascola, Dan Verhovse and Adam Rigney all won at least one match in their last time stepping on a mat as Waynesburg University wrestlers. 

“This tournament is so bittersweet,” Headlee said. “You have the good things happening for Rocky, but it is also the last tournament for your seniors. They have given us so much and we were hoping each of them would do better, but it didn’t turn out that way.”

McGeary moves over to preparing for Division III Nationals  Mar. 13-14 and looks to join Wilson as one of the few freshmen All-Americans in Waynesburg wrestling history.

“We’re not just showing up there to show up,” Headlee said. “I think he can wrestle with anybody and become a national champion or an All-American.”