DEL CITY — Josh McNaughton, like almost every kid, thought his dad would always be there.
“You always hear about those kids and never think that could happen to you,” the Del City 220-pound senior wrestler said. “My dad was going to be there forever.”
Until he wasn't.
Jason McNaughton was staying at a motel with his wife not far from their Topeka, Kan., home in September 2008.
Just before midnight, he stepped outside of his room to smoke. When he didn't come back in, Cathy McNaughton went looking for him. Jason was gone.
Nearly a month later, a pedestrian crossing a bridge over the Kansas River spotted a body in the water. It was Jason.
When Jason's body was found, Topeka police said there was no evidence of foul play and a preliminary autopsy showed no signs of obvious trauma to his body.
“After he passed away, I didn't want to do nothing. I needed something to motivate me. I think about that stuff every day and what would happened if this would've happened or that would've happened or if they wouldn't have gone out that night, stuff like that,” Josh said. “There's nothing I can do about that now. I'm just trying to make the best out of everything.”
He's doing that now, as a senior on the Eagles' wrestling team, a state title contender in 5A just a little more than two years since he took up the sport.
After Jason's death, Cathy moved her family from Topeka to Del City, where she grew up.
In Kansas, McNaughton hadn't played sports much or even thought about it. Jason had sometimes pressed him to wrestle, something he'd done himself in middle school. Josh's uncle, Jason Grandstaff, had wrestled at Del City and hoped his nephew would take up the sport.
One of the first people he ran into when he registered for classes at Del City was Eagles football coach Nick Warehime.
Warehime talked McNaughton into giving football a try.