by: THE OUTLOOK: DAVID BALL - Centennial High graduate Michael McGuire was an all-star lineman in football, won a state title in wrestling and was the teams designated hitter in baseball. Centennial High wrestling coach Roger Matthews describes Michael McGuire as a gentle giant — albeit a giant who wields plenty of power with his 6-foot-5-inch, 285-pound frame. Still it is his soft-spoken nature that has helped him make the most of his talent, while balancing football, wrestling and baseball in his four years with the Eagles.

That calm, quick-thinking nature showed itself on center stage during the 6A state wrestling tournament. The last bout going, McGuire found himself in the spotlight carrying a 2-1 lead over Canby’s Alejandro Sandoval as the clock rolled under a minute. But Sandoval was set on spoiling the day, scoring a reversal to go ahead with 30 seconds left.

For many wrestlers that is panic time. Do something or lose. Not the case for McGuire.

“I wasn’t freaking out,” he said. “I had a plan and knew what I was going to do.”

McGuire flipped positions moments later and the two ended up going into overtime with McGuire eventually pulling out the 6-5 victory.

“That was definitely my number one moment — it only happens to one person in each weight class,” McGuire said. “I remember standing on the mat thinking ‘wow’ and just soaking in the moment — I was awestruck.”

McGuire dropped a pair of decisions to Sandoval during the regular season, but beat his main competition when it mattered most — at regionals and at state.

“Most big guys go out there and push each other around the mat, but Michael wasn’t afraid to take a chance,” Matthews said. “He would get in on a guy and make a toss — the next thing you know you’re looking at the ceiling.”

Opponents had the same trouble staying on their feet on the football field where McGuire was an all-conference player on the defensive side and earned second-team honors on the offensive line.

While he started plays in the trenches, it wasn’t unusual for him to finish them elsewhere on the field. Eagles coach Chris Knudsen recalls a game against Reynolds last fall where he looked up from his clipboard and saw his all-star lineman bearing down on him.

“Here’s 300 pounds coming right at me,” Knudsen said. “He started the play in the middle of the field and chased down a running back at the sideline for no gain. It’s that combination of strength and speed that made him a standout player on the football field.”

McGuire remembers another play from that game. The team relied on a play that called for him to move off the line and block a linebacker at the next level. Closing in on the end zone, the Eagles called it once more.

“That linebacker couldn’t get away from me. I knocked him over once then knocked him down again. The whistle blows. Play over. But the guy came up and tried to shove me as hard as he could.”

This had all of the effect of dropping a shoulder into a door locked with a deadbolt.

“I just looked at him, saw the flag fly and walked away,” McGuire said. “I’m not that rah, rah guy. I’m the guy who wants to calm things down in difficult situations and keep control.”

His size and demeanor quickly turned heads on the Eagles coaching staff, which called him up to the varsity for the playoffs his rookie season. He made seven tackles in his debut.

“We had been accessing his abilities and it was clear that he would be able to handle himself at the varsity level,” Knudsen said.

McGuire also carried a big bat for the Eagles’ baseball team — a four-year varsity player at first base and designated hitter.

“I feel like all the sports complement each other, if you concentrate on only one you are missing out on a chance to better yourself,” McGuire said. “Wrestling taught me how to be aggressive and stay in good position, and baseball requires a lot of technique and athleticism.

He plans to pursue football in college, starting in the fall either at the College of the Siskiyous or at Orange Coast Junior College.

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