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Chip off the old block

Big Red’s McGhee one-ups his father as OVAC champ

January 28, 2012
By FRED YOUNCE - Sports writer ( , The Herald-Star

STEUBENVILLE - A four-year mainstay on the Big Red wrestling team, Shawn McGhee, who possesses a 123-19 career record, comes from a strong wrestling pedigree. His father, Shawn McGhee Sr., and grandfather, Dwight "Skip" Motley, were Ohio Valley Athletic Conference champions making McGhee a third-generation conference champ.

"My dad taught me everything I know," said McGhee, who wore his father's singlet on Jan. 21 when he won his second consecutive OVAC crown with a 16-0 technical fall win over Shadyside's Mason Gulash.

The fact his father was an OVAC title winner pushed McGhee even harder to want to repeat his senior year. Mainly because, like most kids his age, he had a goal to one-up his old man.

Article Photos

TAKEDOWN — Big Red's Shawn McGhee takes down Mason Gulash of Shadyside during last week's OVAC champiosnhip at 145 pounds at WesBanco Arena.
-- Fred Younce

"I don't compare myself to him, I actually try to be better than him at everything I do," McGhee said smiling about his father.

Big Red head wrestling coach Mike Blackburn sees McGhee's pedigree as one that pushes him to be great.

"When you have a dad as good a Shawn's, you want to be better and as a dad I'm sure he wants Shawn to be better than him too," said Blackburn. "That's one of the driving factors of where Shawn's come from and he's done a great job."

Big Red assistant wrestling coach Cornell Birden, the OVAC assistant coach of the year, saw how bad McGhee wanted to repeat at the OVAC meet.

"He knew this year was his last year and he wanted to go out on top, so in the room he worked hard," said Birden. "I saw he wanted this in his eyes and he went out and accomplished his goal."

Blackburn knew how bad he wanted to win and wasn't surprised that he did, but even he couldn't help but be impressed with just how dominant his grappler was.

"He was focused all week wrestling in the tournament, but you could tell when he came out to wrestle in the final match he was on another level," said Blackburn. "There was nothing that was going to stand in his way. He was going to go out and get the second title."

In addition to his Big Red coaches, McGhee credits a visit during the summer from a Big Red wrestling great in helping him prepare to make his dominant run.

"Just last year Tubbo Yetts came in and worked with me all summer," said McGhee. "He worked on everything I needed to work on. Without him I wouldn't have tech falled the kid in the OVAC final."

The environment in the Big Red wrestling room has also been a key to McGhee's success as each day he works head-to-head with Big Red's strong stable of wrestlers.

"We got a saying, it's called steel on steel," said McGhee. "You work with somebody good, you're going to get better.

"Steel on steel, tough on tough. Everyone in the room is tough and we all work hard.

"It feels really good to experience the atmosphere. There isn't anyone doubting themselves, saying they can't do something. Everyone pushing to be the best they can."

Blackburn credits McGhee with being one of the big reasons for the improvements seen in the Big Red wrestling program which won this year's OVAC class 4A crown and finished second overall.

"Being a senior and a starter for four years, Shawn's definitely grown up with the program," said Blackburn.

"He's become a great captain and a hard worker in the room. Every year he's just tried to get better and better.

"He's been our mainstay for the last four years. He's been solid, even as a freshman as a 103-pounder.

"He was one of the big reasons we have been able to turn this thing around. Build the team around him and he's been a great leader for us."

Birden continued regarding McGhee's leadership and work ethic, "Shawn is a great kid. I've had him all four years and since his freshman year he was a leader and every year he's grown to be more and more of a leader.

"He really leads by example in the room and on the mat."

With his goal of earning back-to-back OVAC crowns in his rear-view mirror McGhee, who is a two-time state tournament qualifier, prepares to make his push to reach the one goal he has yet to accomplish.

Standing on the podium in Columbus.

"It's real important because I haven't placed yet and that's been one of my goals since I was little to at least win a state title," said McGhee. "I have to get up there first. One step at a time."

Added Blackburn, "With his work ethic in the weight room and in the wrestling room, he's just continued to improve and improve. Hopefully this is the year for him at states.

"Hopefully he finishes this up right in his last season."

Before his run begins, McGhee has one more large hurdle in his path as Big Red takes on Claymont at 8 p.m. tonight in the Crimson Center in a huge dual meet.

In a previous tournament Claymont finished fourth to Big Red's fifth in the prestigious Top Gun Tournament. Individually, McGhee will be tested against the state's fourth-ranked wrestler in Kyle Warner.

"Kyle Warner is a great wrestler," said McGhee of his opponent. "We've known each other since we were pee wees.

"I just have to stay focused and wrestle hard and see what happens."

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