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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Perseverance pays off for Saxon

Ferris senior Robert McGrellis, left, helps lead the Saxon wrestling team by example. Here he's seen in a match a year ago against Donovan O'Neel of Lewis and Clark High School. 
 (File/ / The Spokesman-Review)
Mike Boyle Correspondent

Fairy tale analogies aren’t usually the first thing that comes to mind when the sport of wrestling is mentioned.

In the case of Ferris High School wrestler Robert McGrellis, though, the tale of the ugly duckling may be perfect for his high school career.

“He couldn’t win a match, hardly,” said Ferris coach Tim Owen.

“His freshman year he got pinned most of the time. As a freshman and a sophomore he got pinned a lot.”

But like the ugly duckling, McGrellis turned into a swan, making the Saxon varsity as a junior and now helping to lead the team from his spot at 189 pounds.

“Wrestling was always a tough sport for me,” said McGrellis. “I just learned to keep at it and stay dedicated.

“You get out of it how much you put into it.

“Whenever I put in more time after practice, my techniques would get better. If I did a little bit more conditioning, I’d get less winded.”

“He’s the kind of kid who just wanted to get good at wrestling,” Owen said. “He doesn’t have a ton of physical ability.

“If you take a look at him, he’s not the kind of kid who has a striking physique.

“He’s one of the first guys to get to practice and almost always the last kid to leave the room. He’s always working out, watching film, and always asking coaches to help him. He’s turned himself into a fairly decent wrestler.”

McGrellis was a late bloomer in the sport, as he turned his attentions to another discipline as a youth.

“When I was really young, I did martial arts,” McGrellis said. “This past summer I went to Japan and did judo there. I started doing judo in ninth grade.”

“I first started wrestling in middle school in the eighth grade,” he continued. “One of my English teachers was a wrestling coach and he was talking to the class, and it just appealed to me.

“My dad was a karate teacher and we did all kinds of martial arts and grappling. That’s how I got into it.”

While most people would assume judo and wrestling would have a lot in common, McGrellis has discovered it has more differences than similarities.

“I think wrestling is more of a fast-paced sport,” said McGrellis. “You have to really be in shape. You can’t just sit there.

“You have to move and be quick, and that’s the biggest difference. Staying aggressive, keeping at it, and wrestling hard in the third period are the hardest thing for me.”

McGrellis did use the discipline he acquired from his martial arts training to take the steps he needed to go from wrestling novice to accomplished varsity performer.

“He was always a kid who was trying to figure out what was wrong,” said Owen. “He was always asking what he was doing wrong.

“His body position, especially from his feet – he did a lot to improve that. He had to really improve his defense from a neutral position, wrestling from his feet. That was maybe the biggest thing he had to change.”

“Even today when I work on my techniques, you work and you work, and when you don’t seem to be improving, you get to that point where you just put in more time and effort, and it starts developing for you,” McGrellis said. “That’s why I like wrestling so much.

“If you put in enough time, it starts working. You become a better wrestler.”

McGrellis is also quick to thank his coaches for his development over his career at Ferris.

“He (Coach Owen) pushed me a lot and helped me greatly in my conditioning,” McGrellis said. “After practice he puts in extra time. He’s just been a great help for me.

“This year, the assistant coach, coach Bond, has been a really big help to me. Every day, if I have questions or want to watch videotape, he stays an hour after practice and helps me in my matches.

“Every little technique that I’m doing wrong – he helps correct it, and it really helps in my wrestling.”

With his wrestling career winding down at Ferris, McGrellis is thankful to have had the opportunity to wrestle as a Saxon.

“Just going out there and representing Ferris, getting wins, I just love it so much,” he said. “Going to tournaments, getting the opportunity to go to places like Montana and wrestling against guys from different states, that’s been the best.”

“My ultimate goal this year is to go to the state competition and to place in state,” he said.

“I think I’ve got to get a little more aggressive on my seat and get a little bit more in shape. My matches have been really close.

“I just have to get more aggressive, and I think I’ll be able to do it.”