Heading into the 2019-2020 season, there were a lot of concerns if the Waynesburg University wrestling team would be able to replace former Division III National Champion Jake Evans. The Yellow Jackets wrestling team would’ve been happy to just make up for half of Evans’ production.
Knowing whose boots he was filling, freshman heavyweight Rocky McGeary didn’t let the pressure get to him.
“I didn’t really feel any [pressure],” McGeary said. “I really didn’t want to put any on myself. I don’t think of it as replacing anyone. I just want to live up to my standards, maybe there was some on me, but I didn’t realize it.”
The coaching staff at Waynesburg also didn’t want McGeary to feel any pressure. Assistant coach Gennaro Bonaventura recruited McGeary to be himself, not like his namesake, Rocky Balboa.
“I told Rocky that I don’t want him to be the next Jake Evans,” Bonaventura said. “I want him to be the best Rocky McGeary he can be.”
McGeary, a 2018 graduate of West Allegheny High School, took a year off before attending Waynesburg. The gap year allowed McGeary to sort out his priorities.
“I didn’t really want to go to school, so I took a gap year, and figured out I wanted to go to school and wrestle again,” McGeary said. “I realized how important education was.”
Despite the off year, McGeary hasn’t missed a beat. He currently has a 32-3 record in his freshman season, as well as being ranked fifth by DIII FloWrestling. Even with McGeary not setting expectations for himself, it was hard to foresee the freshman being this dominant.
“I really had no expectations coming in, other than I wanted to wrestle again,” McGeary said.
McGeary never wrestled in the heavyweight class at high school, which he said has helped him be more of a hybrid at the weight class giving him an advantage.
“My high school coach is a lighter weight guy and I adapted my style around him,” he said. “A lot of heavyweights aren’t used to that.”
With the end of the season approaching, McGeary’s expectations have changed slightly from the beginning of the season.
“My goal is to win PACs all around,” McGeary said. “It would be great for the team after having a great dual season and for me individually it is to just make nationals, because if I get there anything can happen.”
The coaching staff has noticed the impact McGeary has had inside and outside of the wrestling room for the team, something Headlee is pleased with.
“I think everyone is raising to his level and he’s not boastful about it, he just goes in and does his work every day,” Headlee said. “That’s one the things that I admire most about him. He works hard every day in the room, wants to get better, and our guys have rallied around him.”
Three matches have come down to McGeary needing a win in order for Waynesburg to win the dual meet, and he has come through each time. Headlee agreed that the team’s record would be a little different without McGeary.
“Zach [Baughman] and Leo [Fetterolf] are good,” Headlee said. “But getting a high quality kid like Rocky has lifted our team.”
McGeary and the rest of the Yellow Jackets compete in the Presidents’ Athletic Conference Championships at 11 a.m. this Saturday. If Waynesburg is to win its fourth straight conference title, McGeary will be a big reason why.
“He’s a really good kid,” Bonaventura said. “He will do anything for everyone.”