Senior Spotlight, Justin McCunn, Red Oak

By G Wyatt Schultz

Do you have any family members who wrestled before you? How did they do?I am the first. My family has been full of baseball players and runners.

Did you catch on to wrestling quickly or was it a gradual process?It was a gradual process until about 8th grade, where I really started to make jumps.

Did you wrestle in a club growing up, and if you did, how would you describe your experience with the club?
I wrestled through our Red Oak Wrestling club, and it was an amazing experience. I had two great coaches in Zach Bentley and Cole Meek who taught me the foundation for everything I know now.

What are a couple memorable moments from youth/JH wrestling?My first was winning the Harlan tournament as a team both my 7th and 8th grade, and my second would be my first time placing at AAU State.

Who were your wrestling heroes growing up?
Dan Gable has always been an inspiration since the beginning, but as I’ve gotten older and learned more about the wrestling culture I’ve really been inspired by Dave Shultz.

How did you finish at state tournaments as a youth?
I finished 4th at AAU and 3rd at USA my 8th grade year. It was my one and only time coming home with a medal at the state tournament.

How do you like the seedings at the state tournament?

I see both the positives and negatives with seeding. It separates guys so you don’t have that championship match in the quarters. But I feel like some of the criteria can be looked at and better prioritized.

How fun was it to be in the Grand March?

The state tournament is a great experience in general, but to be able to walk out on Saturday night with all the other medal winners and all of the fans watching is an incredible feeling.

How did you finish at the state tournaments you wrestled in at the high school level?

I failed to qualify for districts as a freshman, but then came back next year with an 8th place finish. This last year I finished off as a runner-up at state.

Was there ever a point in your career where you noticed yourself jumping levels and making improvements?
My freshman to sophomore year I felt myself make a big improvement, but wrestling my junior year I felt like I had become a rounded and less one dimensional wrestler and that has helped me more than anything.

Who were some of your toughest competitors in HS?

In freestyle and greco especially, I have always had Lance Runyon, and Cade Devos right there. It was nice because it always has and still does show me where I need to be to make that next step.
Who did you have the best battles with?
Caleb Kingery, Drew Venteicher, and Caleb Swalla. Drew and I have been going back and forth since 7th grade, so I’m excited to get our last couple battles of high school this year. Swalla and I will also get another couple of shots at each other.

What is you favorite style of wrestling: folkstyle, freestyle or greco-roman and why?

Greco-Roman is probably the style that I have the most fun competing in. Our style in Red Oak doesn’t shy away from going upper body and that makes greco a ton of fun.

What are your wrestling goals for the upcoming high school season?

I want to finish first for the first time at the State Tournament and be Red Oaks third wrestling state champion. I know that if I work as hard as I can and wrestle my absolute best then I will finish on top in February.

How would you describe your wrestling style? Who would you compare yourself to?

My wrestling style I feel like has evolved over the last couple of years. Sometimes I have low scoring grind style matches and I love just being hardnosed and out working opponents. Last year, though, I felt my style get more aggressive and put up more points against guys that I usually wouldn’t. I go out trying to score as many points as I can but I also am not afraid to grind a close match out for as long as it takes.

Do you have any regrets involving wrestling that you want to make up as a senior?

I feel like this year especially I need to really enjoy competing for my school, because this is my last season as a Red Oak Tiger wrestler.

What other sports do you play and how have you done at them?

I run track, and play football. This year I also decided to take on Cross Country as well. I am a state qualifier in the open 800, and 4 x 800 in track, and have been all district in football the last two years. I’m excited to see what I can do with Cross Country. I’m on a very strong team who is determined to get us all to state.

What are some of your hobbies besides wrestling and athletics? And what is a favorite memory from those hobbies?

I love hunting and fishing. One of my favorite memories was fishing at a pond with a friend of mine. She hadn’t fished very often so anytime she caught a fish of any kind it was fun, but all of a sudden what had to have been at least a 10lb. catfish smoked the crankbait she was using to catch bass. I couldn’t tell which one of us was more excited when we got it in the boat!

What is your favorite subject in school?

I have always really enjoyed and been interested by math.

What is some of the best advice you ever received, and who gave you that advice?

You make growth in the summer. Be a mat rat, and always look for opportunities to better yourself not only on the mat but in the weight room, school, everything.
Do you have any advice for up and coming wrestlers?
The same thing I was told. Wrestle year round, it shows in the winter.

Who were some of the most influential coaches you worked with?

Zac Bentley, and Cole Meek instilled the hardworking mindset in me and gave me an amazing foundation for my wrestling. They drove me all over to tournaments from 5th grade through probably Sophomore year. My high school coach Tiegen Podliska has had a huge part in my success. Every practice and competition opportunity available, he’s made possible for us wrestlers. Coach Podliska and I got to travel over 7,000 miles together just this summer to practices and competition, his commitment to Red Oak Wrestling has made it easy for us athletes to buy in and take those opportunities. In the last couple years I’ve gotten to be apart of the SWIFT wrestling club and guys like Jake Head, Adam Manz, Jeff Ziegler, and Joe Stephens have all helped me develop better hand fighting, footwork, and given me another type of offense and defense that I can use making me more well-rounded as a wrestler. SWIFT has also given me tons of opportunity to go and get different competition and travel to places like Vegas which I am very grateful for.

What were some of your favorite tournaments?

I always have liked our only Friday night tournament of the year in Central Decatur, along with John J. Harris in Corning. They both have high quality competition and are unique in their own way.

What are your college plans? Is wrestling in your future, whether it be competing or coaching?

I plan on competing in college next year. I’m still a little way from any decision but am excited to see what direction I go.

Red Oak finished fourteenth last season, what is the future outlook for Red Oak wrestling?

We lost a lot of good guys in last year’s senior class, but we return three state qualifiers, two that are place winners. We also have some hard working and committed guys who will make a huge impact this year. Along with some really solid freshmen talent coming in. I think that this year if everyone stays healthy and committed, we will be just as if not more successful. I’m excited for my senior season!