MORGANTOWN — Sammie “The Bull” Henson wanted Brenden McRill wrestling in a WVU singlet after watching him compete for Davison (Mich.) High’s storied program.
He admired the young man’s motor, which never seemed to stop on the mat.
“One of the reasons I recruited him is because he had a gas tank,” the Mountaineers’ head man said. “He can go hard.”
That’s the only way the true freshman knows how to wrestle, as he demonstrated in a Jan. 7 14-8 win over North Dakota State’s Nick Knutson in their
McRill bolted to an early advantage and never let up in earning his second straight dual-match victory.
“Coming from my roots — Davison High — one thing that was stressed a lot is keep going, especially when you are tired,” said McRill, who chose WVU over Michigan and Central Michigan.
“Keep pushing the pace. You get to a point where you don’t think about it. You just keep going. It’s just a gift, I guess.”
McRill couldn’t have asked for better wrestling role models as he grew up in the sport in Davison, a Flint suburb with a population of 5,000.
A number of Davison High wrestlers made their mark on the college landscape. Brent Metcalf went 228-0 at Davison, claiming four Michigan state titles before winning two NCAA championships at Iowa.
Trevor Perry was a three-time All-American at Indiana, while Jon Reeder (Iowa State) and Paul Donahoe (Nebraska, Edinboro) excelled in the collegiate ranks as well.
“Those were definitely big shoes to fill,” McRill said. “Growing up around that, you see that and you want to be a part of that and be one of those guys everyone looks up to.”
McRill was an exceptional all-around athlete in high school. Besides capturing two straight wrestling state titles, at 189 pounds, he quarterbacked the Davison football team to a 10-1 record his senior season and was a standout pitcher in baseball.
His prep accolades mean nothing in college, though. College wrestling has been eye-opening for McRill
(7-9), who faced two top-10 competitors in the first two months of his college career.
McRill dropped a 14-2 major decision to Virginia Tech’s No. 7-ranked Zack Zavatsky and a 6-0 decision against No. 8 Jordan Ellingwood, of Central Michigan.
“It’s actually a lot tougher than I thought it was going to be,” he said. “The first couple of matches getting out there it was not like high school at all.
“It was definitely another level. It took time to adjust. I’m starting to get a feel for it, working with coaches and other teammates and having great leaders like Jake (Smith), Zeke (Moisey) and Parker (VonEgidy) helped me develop as a wrestler and a person. It’s where I want to be right now, and it’s good to have them supporting me.”
Most true freshmen redshirt, but a spot at 184 pounds opened up when VonEgidy moved to
“Normally we like to have them redshirt, but with Brenden one of the deals when I signed him was if we needed him we’d go with him,” Henson said. “I knew he was mature enough to handle it.”
His first 16 college matches have also underscored the importance of conditioning. He realizes he can’t wrestle five minutes of a seven-minute match and expect to prevail.
“Everyone wrestles hard; everyone wrestles a complete match,” McRill said. “Everyone is in shape. That’s something you don’t see in high school as much.
“Where I need to improve is seeing my shots a lot more and keeping the pace going and keeping how I feel in the first period the same in the third.”