Toe to Joe with Eric McGill
[caption id=" align="aligncenter" width="291" caption="Eric McGill wrestling against Pittsburgh's Headlee][/caption]
The first installment of Toe to Joe is an interview with Cornell wrestler and former two-time Indiana state champion Eric McGill.
1. Why did you choose to go to Cornell?
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Choosing which college to attend was probably the hardest, and, in retrospect, best decision that I have made for myself at this point in my life. I chose Cornell University over Stanford, Princeton, Central Michigan, and Purdue because Cornell allowed me the opportunity to acquire an Ivy League education, while at the same time, wrestling for a top-5 Division 1 college program. It was simply something that I could not pass up. The contacts that I have already met, and will continue to meet at Cornell will hopefully put me on a path to success. Just within the network of former Cornell wrestlers, not even including the rest of the university, we have a former CEO of Goldman-Sachs, a former assistant of economic policy to the President of the United States, and a mission specialist for NASA's space shuttle Atlantis, just to name a few. Every year, Cornell wrestlers go to work on Wall Street and become successful very early in their adult lives.
2. Outside of wrestling, what are your other interests and hobbies?
Although schoolwork and wrestling take up a large amount of my time, I still like to have other outlets to take my mind off of these stresses. My Sundays are always devoted to NASCAR and the NFL and I am a huge fan of Tony Stewart and the Chicago Bears. I have been a Chicago Cubs fan since the day I was born and I rarely miss a Cubs game on either the radio or the TV throughout the course of the summer. Also in the summer, I like to fish as much as I can with my grandpa at his lake in Cedar Lake, Indiana. We fish for largemouth bass and bluegill, mostly. Although I have never gone ice fishing, some of the guys on the team have talked about going soon because the winters are so cold here in New York. I'm looking forward to it; hopefully it will be a good time! I am also a big fan of MMA and my favorite fighter is WEC Champ Miguel Torres. He has a high pace, attacking style and is such a well-rounded fighter that it makes him very fun to watch. Miguel grew up with one of my high school wrestling coaches, Bobby Joe Maldonado, in East Chicago, Indiana and we have worked with Miguel on his wrestling in the past.
3. What is the biggest difference between high school and collegiate wrestling?
The two biggest differences between high school and college wrestling are parity and mat wrestling. What I mean by parity is that every single time that you step on the mat, you know that you are going to be in a closely contested match. In high school, if you are at the top, elite level, you may have just 5 or 6 matches a year that are even close. The mental preparation that you must go through to get ready for these big matches is the same from high school to college, except that instead of having to prepare this way 5 or 6 times a season, it could be 5 or 6 times in a day at a college tournament. Another big difference is mat wrestling. For me, the transition on my feet from high school to college was not nearly as big as what I learned on the mat. My top wrestling has gotten infinitely better since high school, and I wish that I knew some of the things in high school that I have picked up from the top position at Cornell. My bottom wrestling is still my biggest weakness, although I am continuing to work to shore it up. I have found myself losing a few close matches recently because of my inability to consistently get off of the bottom. If you can't get away, not only are you not getting an escape, but he is also getting a riding time point. For this reason, if you can't get away on bottom, it's like starting every single match down 2-0. It's hard to win the close matches when you are giving away 2 points.
4. Do you think we should get rid of folkstyle and wrestle the international styles in high school and college? Why or why not?
Although I feel that USA Wrestling would probably see more success at the Olympic and World level if they were to get rid of folkstyle at the high school and college level, I, personally, am against it. As of right now, the successful international style is not very spectator-friendly. It is low-scoring and does not promote action. At the elite high school and college level, on the other hand, you will see a high-pace, attacking style, with lots of exciting scrambles. If nothing else, folkstyle is more fun to watch. The top high school and college level guys in the United States are still wrestling the international styles in folkstyle's "off-season" at tournaments such as Fargo, University Nationals, FILA Jr's., U.S. Nationals, etc., so our international guys are not coming into the game clueless just because they spent the majority of their wrestling careers wrestling folkstyle. Bubba Jenkins from Penn State showed everyone that it's possible to compete in college in today's day in age and still enjoy international success when he won the FILA Jr. World Championship. On the other hand, Henry Cejudo provided an argument for the other side, since he decided to forego college wrestling in order to improve his freestyle, and that seemed to work out pretty well for him, too.
5. What is your college major and why did you choose that area?
At this point, my major is Economics within Cornell's College of Arts and Sciences. I have also declared a minor in Law and Society within Cornell's College of Arts and Sciences. I feel that this course of study gives me the most versatile set of options upon the completion of my undergraduate degree. Friends of mine who have graduated from Cornell with Economics degrees have gotten jobs on Wall Street and become successful at very young ages. If an opportunity like that were to fall into my lap, it would be tough to pass by. However, with the economy in its current condition, and the uncertainty of Wall Street at the present time, I also have the options to go to Business school and work towards an MBA, go to Law School, or both.
6. What is the most memorable match you have wrestled in?
I have wrestled in so many matches that it would be hard to classify one as my "most memorable match." For this reason, I will just run through some that stick out in my mind for various reasons, from all the way back in youth wrestling, all the way up until my college career. For me, there is no better feeling than avenging a loss. When I think back on losses that I have avenged, a few stick out in particular. The first happened in 6th grade. Growing up wrestling in Illinois' IKWF youth program, I used to always wrestle a kid from the Harvey Twisters named Mario Morgan, who now wrestles in Division 2 at the University of Nebraska-Omaha. The first time that we wrestled was when I was 8 years old and he tech-falled me 15-0. We would go on to wrestle each other almost every single year after that with him winning every single time, but the score getting closer and closer and closer. Finally, in 6th grade, I beat him and it was extremely gratifying to see that I had not only caught up to him, but passed him. He served as a sort of measuring stick for my progress from the time I was 8 years old until the 6th grade, and I had finally outgrown it! Another avenged loss that sticks out in my mind happened in 8th grade. At Liberty Nationals that year, I lost 6-0 in the 3rd and 4th place match to a kid from New Mexico named Matt Ortega, who went on to win Senior Nationals and now wrestles at IU. Just 3 weeks later at the Virginia Challenge, we wrestled again in the finals and I beat him 5-2. The first match of my sophomore year in high school sticks out as another gratifying victory. My freshman year I went 46-1 and advanced to the state championship match at 103 where I lost 4-2 to Jon Lloyd from Warren Central. The very first match of the following season at 119 we wrestled again in the first round of the Indianapolis Cathedral Super Six and I came out on top of that one by an identical score, 4-2. Other than those 3 matches, my first high school state title, a 3-2 win against Adam Walters from Portage at 125 in 2006, and the whole 7-match series with Brennan Cosgrove which culminated in my second high school state title sticks out as some other matches that were memorable in my career. Two that stick out as particularly memorable in that 7 match series were the very first two. In the first one, a dual meet at Hobart in which we were battling back and forth, exchanging takedowns and reversals and backpoints and I won 9-8 with a takedown in the final seconds. The second match in that series, the finals of the Lake County Tournament was also memorable. He threw me to my back in the first period and I was down by 5 right away. I slowly picked the lead off one point at a time and came back and won 10-9, also with a takedown in the final seconds. He won the third match, a 5-2 decision in the finals of the Lake Athletic Conference Tournament. He also won the fourth match, a 3-1 decision in the finals of the Hobart Invite. The fifth match, the Calumet Regional finals, was a memorable one, even though it went to him by a score of 9-7 In that one we put a lot of points on the board and it came right down to the wire. In the sixth, the Merrillville Semi-State finals, he was winning late in the 3rd period when he was disqualified for an illegal slam. The 7th and final match for the state championship also came right down to the wire and an escape with under 30 seconds to go gave me the 6-5 win. Those are what I would classify as my most memorable matches, however, the best atmosphere that I have wrestled in would undoubtedly be the hostile crowd in the dual meet at Penn State last year when I faced returning All-American Jake Strayer. The state championship match is a fun atmosphere, but nothing compares to thousands of fans who are out for your blood, and sitting literally inches from the edge of the mat. They actually pushed you back on when you went out of bounds.
7. Class wrestling, yay or nay?
Although I can see both sides of the argument, I am against class wrestling in the individual state tournament. At this point, with Indiana wrestling still growing and looking to gain national attention, I do not feel that there is enough depth to successfully split up the individual state tournament. At each weight class, the top 5 kids are head and shoulders above the rest of the competition, and until Indiana can qualify 16 kids for the state tournament (and maybe even leave some at home) that are capable of beating the state champion on any given day, I feel that class wrestling would have a watering-down effect on the individual state tournament. In the past couple of years, it has become a more nationally recognized accomplishment to win 2 or 3 state titles in Indiana with guys such as Matt Coughlin and Andrae Hernandez becoming All-Americans after winning only 2 Indiana state titles. If Indiana was to split up the individual state tournament, kids who are not on this elite level would be winning multiple state titles, and the image of Indiana wrestling in the national picture would suffer a setback. Although this is how I feel about class wrestling in the individual state tournament, I am open to the idea of class wrestling for the team state tournament. In the past years, with the exception of Evansville Mater Dei, who has an unrivaled feeder system, the team state tournament has been dominated by large schools, and I do not see any problem with splitting that tournament up into classes.
8. Who is the most influential person in your life? Why?
The most influential people in my life are my parents. They were the ones who set me up with the opportunities that have helped me get where am I today. They each played pivotal roles that you don't quite understand until you get older and are able to look back on it. My dad was at almost every single practice up until I got into high school and would drive me all over for the best coaches and workout partners. I'm sure he could have found more relaxing things to do after work. He was also a driving force behind my success in school and was always motivating me to do better. My mom never missed a match and did the "behind-the-scenes" work which often gets taken for granted. She was able to put up with me as I cut weight, taking my special diet into account every night as she prepared dinner, and always made sure all my clothes were washed and ready for the next day's workouts. Both of my parents put me and my success and interests before themselves and I am very grateful for this.
9. Do you have any superstitions or routines when it comes to wrestling?
Those who know me know that I am extremely superstitious when it comes to wrestling. There are so many I can think of, that I will just name a few. First, I eat and drink the exact same thing in the exact same order after each and every time that I weigh-in for a competition. My morning warm-up always consists of the exact same number of reps and exact same techniques every single week. I also wear the exact same items of clothing at every single competition. I have my singlet on, and on top of that I have a t-shirt and shorts, followed by a long sleeve t-shirt, followed by a sweatshirt and warm-up pants. Three matches before I am going to wrestle, I take off the sweatshirt and warm-up pants. Two matches before I am going to wrestle I take off the shorts and long sleeve t-shirt, and when there is 30 seconds left in the third period of the match before I am about to wrestle, I take off the t-shirt. This is just something that I have been doing for a long time, and works well as a routine for me, although many people find it quirky.
10. The weight class 103â€¦ keep it or get rid of it?
Being a former 103 pounder, I am all for keeping 103. Here in New York, they even have a 96 lb. weight class. There are just too many talented kids at 103 to get rid of it. I was just looking back at my 103 lb. weight class at state and noticed that there were 4 kids in there that went on to be high school state champions. That's 1 out of every 4 kids that made it that year! I am also against moving 103 up to a higher weight like 108. Every year there are upperclassmen at 103 that are less skilled than some freshman at the same weight class but win because of a size, strength, and maturity advantage. If 103 got moved up to 108, this problem would be even larger since more upperclassmen could make 108 than can make 103.
Just as a fair warning to future people that want to go Toe to Joe, this is what Eric looked like afterward.
[caption id=" align="aligncenter" width="666" caption="This is Eric Mcgill after going Toe to Joe][/caption]