Numbers show McKillop's dominance on the mat
The title is somewhat pretentious, but it represents power and control — almost a mastery of the mat.
Travis McKillop is the “Most Dominant” Division II wrestler in the country. Really. There's a stat for that. In fact, there's an award presented by the NCAA at the national championships where McKillop is competing this weekend in Birmingham, Ala.
A sophomore at Pitt-Johnstown and a Burrell graduate, McKillop was unaware that somebody kept track of such a thing.
“To be honest, I wasn't,” said McKillop, the Mountain Cats' 184-pounder. “There was about a month and a half left in the season when I found out about it.
“It's a great stat. It reflects work ethic, not only the one I have, but the one my teammates have as well. They push me in the practice room.”
McKillop (29-1) has a 4.610 points average, a formulation of points awarded in matches divided by the number of matches.
McKillop knows the title could lose its value if he doesn't follow up with a national title.
“I know there are kids out there working as hard as me,” McKillop said. “I think that if I perform to the best of my ability no one can stop me.
“I want to finish on top and then go out and win the award again next year. My mom will be pretty happy if I do.”
McKillop enters the national tournament fresh off an NCAA Division II Super Region I championship. He is No. 1 in the Super Region I rankings and No. 6 in the NCAA.
“I call him my franchise quarterback,” UPJ coach Pat Pecora said. “He is the type of young man you know you can set forth and he'll represent the program well in all areas.”
Pecora thinks the MDW stat is good for the sport and an accurate measure of a wrestler's achievements.
“It's a bonus,” Pecora said. “It's nice that they keep that type of stat, and in this computer-age, it's easy to do. It shows he's not only winning, he's dominating.”
Last season, McKillop did not redshirt like many freshmen before him, and he flourished — all the way to All-American status. He took third at the Super Region I Tournament and placed seventh at nationals.
For as proud McKillop is of his new title, he'd prefer to dominate in the classroom, as well.
After all, his mother did.
“My mom (Lisa Gene Myers) was an All-Academic and All-American and is in the hall of fame at Allegheny (College),” McKillop said. “She played basketball and softball. It would be cool to live up to that. She graduated with a degree in economics and a 3.9 GPA.”
A biology major, McKillop said he carries a 3.35 GPA.
McKillop is the cousin of former Kiski Area and Pitt standout linebackers Scott and Chris McKillop. Scott was a star wrestler, too.
Travis knows the level of competition, particularly in the later rounds, won't give him any passes because of his “most dominant” label.
He said one opponent he expects to see is St. Cloud State (Minn.) redshirt senior Shamus O'Grady, whom he leap-frogged in the Most Dominant standings.
McKillop knows how he'd draw up a national-title win.
“I have always been a pinner,” he said. “That kind of sounds cocky, but that's what you train for. I want to inflict my will on people.”
McKillop has 11 pins this season. His lone loss is to Findlay's Adam Walters, the No. 1 184-pounder in the country, 5-2, on Nov. 29.
At Burrell, McKillop won a state championship in 2011, compiled a 163-31 career record and helped lead the Bucs to three WPIAL team titles.
Pecora never takes for granted the fact that McKillop chose UPJ when he was coming out of Burrell.
“I smile every time I see him,” Pecora said. “We got him to commit early, which was nice. And he went out and won a state title. He was one of the top recruits in the nation. We stayed after him.”
Success this season, McKillop said, is a credit to all aspects of his training from technique to nutrition. It's a package deal that neatly ties together wrestling and college life.
“Coach Pecora says you don't have success in wrestling by winning matches and practicing,” McKillop said. “You have to ‘live the lifestyle.' In college, you can face adversity: drinking and partying. I have lived the right lifestyle. I work hard and and eat right. I put the right things in my body.”
Now, he's out to dominate.