Why Choose WU? Athlete Spotlight Series

Sophomore wrestler ready for season with new appreciation for competition

By: Erin Onderko

For the Yellow Jacket

With athletics finally beginning to get underway, Waynesburg student-athletes are working harder than ever to prepare for a season that is unlike any other. While every sport has different protocols to protect its athletes, the excitement is there nonetheless, and sophomore wrestler Rocky McGeary is no exception.

McGeary, a Psychology major from West Allegheny High School in McDonald, Pennsylvania, has absolutely loved being part of the wrestling team here at WU. While he has wrestled since the age of seven, McGeary says his team here at WU is his favorite so far.

“It has been amazing. I’ve been on a lot of teams in my life, but this one is definitely one of my favorites,” McGeary said. “We get along well. It’s not easy because we haven’t been able to practice that much, but already at the beginning of this semester it’s been going well.”

During the short time he has spent with the team thus far, McGeary has collected some impressive recognitions. He was featured in national rankings for both flowwrestling.com and the National Wrestling Coaches Association (NWCA). He was also named to the Waynesburg University All-Decade Wrestling Team, featuring wrestlers from 2010 to 2020.

McGeary says the one thing he is most proud of is not his national rankings, but a match last season against W&J.

“There were three or four matches last year where it came down to me because I’m the heavyweight which is the last match,” McGeary said. “It came down to me to win for the team, and I got a couple big wins, like the win at W&J, which definitely felt the best.”

While McGeary recognizes how different things are in light of the Coronavirus pandemic, he also acknowledges that everyone else is in the same boat. What is different, however, is that the nationally ranked wrestler is recovering from a surgery he endured this past offseason.

During the season last year, McGeary rolled his ankle several times. While he thought it was just sore, a doctor’s visit after nationals revealed that he had torn two ligaments in his ankle. Due to Covid-19, the necessary surgery was postponed by two months, then followed up by six months of McGeary being unable to walk. Now, the wrestler is working hard to get back to doing what he loves.

Head Coach Ron Headlee has high praise for the sophomore, whom he named captain this year.

“He’s definitely a team player. Like last year, he just loved doing everything for the team. He’s a great motivator,” said Headlee. “This year we made him one of our team captains because of the way he works with the whole team and not just thinking about himself. The team comes first with him, and when he does that he’s just a great example in the room for us.”

McGeary has known Headlee since he was young. McGeary’s father, a wrestling coach himself, used to coach against Headlee.

“I didn’t know much about Coach Headlee when I was thinking about coming here, but he actually coached against my dad in high school,” McGeary said. “He coached one of the best wrestlers of all time, Cary Kolat, which is one of my favorite wrestlers. So I was definitely a little intimidated by him.”

Despite the season being shortened and limitations being imposed on the team, both McGeary and Headlee are looking forward to one thing: the opportunity to be able to compete again. Both have high hopes for this season.

Numbers may be down due to the recruiting season being interrupted last March. With a large number of seniors graduating, Headlee is focused on taking it one day at a time, making the most of the four weeks of practice and few matches they will have. 

McGeary is excited to see how the team will do without last year’s seniors and to see how they can improve. He also has a new appreciation for the ability to compete, something he has missed dearly.

“I’m just honestly looking forward to competing,” McGeary said. “You don’t really realize how much you miss the competitive part until it’s gone, just competing in that team atmosphere.”