The wrestling team’s only walk-on

Nate Stuart

Kent State senior wrestler Jason McGee has overcome long odds to be where he is today.

He is the lone walk-on on the wrestling team, a senior captain and a lead-by-example athlete. Now, a 22-year-old sports management graduate student, he is engaged to former Kent State star volleyball player Anne Butts.

When McGee was in the sixth grade, his wrestling career began when he and two of his buddies joined the wrestling team, just for the heck of it. Neither of his friends stuck with wrestling, but he did. He said he wasn’t very good as a kid but had the desire to improve. Eventually, he became a top wrestler for his varsity team.

He said he wasn’t really good until his sophomore year on the varsity team. In his junior season, the team won its league for the first time in school history. McGee was a three-year letter winner and three-year starter for his high school team. He was a state runner-up as a senior. When he graduated he said he didn’t know what he wanted to do.

McGee has certainly done a lot with his life since then.

He went to Westminster College to play football but didn’t like it, so he transferred here to Kent State. He walked on to the wrestling team and stuck, which very rarely happens.

He is the only walk-on on the team now.

He has a job lined up this summer as a sales associate with Aflac, which he said he is excited about. In the future he hopes to coach wrestling at the high school level but said when the season is over, he wants to take a break from wrestling and enjoy time with his soon-to-be wife, Anne.

Butts is a 2006 graduate of Kent State and a former star volleyball player. In 2002, she set the single-season assist record for the Flashes.

During one of his first classes at Kent State – a volleyball course -McGee met Butts.

They have a special place, the park behind Franklin Avenue, along the river.

In January, McGee arranged several candles and bouquets of flowers along the steps at the park where they usually hang out.

At the top of the steps, he asked her to propose with a sign – an “M” for McGee, an “A” for Anne and a question mark. She said yes.

They both said the park is a very special place to them now.

“The park is a big part of what we are. It’s a landmark. It’s something that will always bring us back to Kent,” she said.

They are planning to get married Dec. 29 in Bloomington, Ill., her hometown.

“It’s kind of ironic,” Butts said. “I was mad at him that morning because he kept teasing me about waiting three to six months to ask me. I told him, ‘I’m a girl, I can’t wait that long.'”

She said she is mostly dealing with the wedding stuff now to let McGee focus on wrestling.

“I understand now how hard it is to date an athlete when you’re not an athlete,” she said.

When the wrestling season is over, Jason looks forward to helping her with the wedding arrangements.

Butts said she will support him as much as she can throughout the rest of the season.

“He’s pretty tough,” she said. “If he gets injured, I don’t usually know about it until a couple days later. Wrestling is a violent sport. I can’t watch most of the time. Maybe about a minute, but then I’ve got to turn away.”

McGee said some of his teammates tease him about being engaged. They tell him he is “locked up for life.”

At the MAC Championships this weekend, the 149-pounder, the former walk-on, will potentially be wrestling in his last matches.

“I formed a special bond with these guys,” he said. “What I’ll definitely miss most about wrestling is the guys.”

Contact wrestling reporter Nate Stuart at [email protected].