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updated: 4/10/2014 9:02 PM

Guryn's staying focused on pitching excellence

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  • Pitcher Justin Guryn of Grayslake Central is focused on extending his terrific start to the season.

      Pitcher Justin Guryn of Grayslake Central is focused on extending his terrific start to the season.
    Gilbert R. Boucher II | Staff Photographer

  • Pitcher Justin Guryn of Grayslake Central High School.

      Pitcher Justin Guryn of Grayslake Central High School.
    Gilbert R. Boucher II | Staff Photographer

  • Pitcher Justin Guryn of Grayslake Central High School.

      Pitcher Justin Guryn of Grayslake Central High School.
    Gilbert R. Boucher II | Staff Photographer


Not many teens or adults can remember specific conversations they had in first grade.

But Justin Guryn will never forget what he said to his parents Tina and Tom shortly after he took medication for the first time to treat his ADHD.

"I used to be the craziest troublemaker ever when I was a little kid," said Guryn, now a junior at Grayslake Central. "I would talk out loud and run around. I used to get rewarded (in school) for not getting in trouble.

"When we started to see a difference in me (from the medication), I remember saying to my parents, 'Taking this pill is the best decision I ever made.' I was just a first grader, but I really remember me saying that."

Guryn still takes his medication, and it continues to help him. He is more disciplined and focused in school. And he's become an even better athlete because of that focus.

In fact, Guryn has been so spot-on to start the baseball season that he is arguably the hottest pitcher in Lake County right now.

Over spring break, in his first outing of the season, the wiry, but hard-throwing southpaw registered a no-hitter, the first of his varsity career.

The Rams were on their annual trip to Walt Disney World in Florida and Guryn got the start against a team from Kentucky. With a fastball that can routinely hit 84 mph, he struck out 12 batters and walked just one.

He also got some help from his defense.

"Pat Burba made the most amazing diving catch out in left field in the sixth inning," Guryn said. "This guy hit the ball really hard out there. I first realized I had (a no-hitter) right before that, in the fifth inning and I said it out loud. I thought I had jinxed the no-hitter when I saw Pat running backwards after that ball. But he made a great catch. The ball was practically hanging out of his glove.

"I ran up to him after that and gave him a high-five and a hug. I think that catch gave me the momentum to finish the no-hitter."

The momentum stayed with Guryn.

In his next outing, a nonconference battle back here against Antioch, Guryn methodically struck out 10 of 12 batters.

"I guess I set the bar pretty high for this season," Guryn said of his red-hot start and what people might expect out of him from now on. "There's a little bit of pressure there, but I like that. What I wanted to do most after we celebrated (the no-hitter) was to forget about it. If I go through the season thinking all about how I already have a no-hitter, that's like saying 'Well, that's it. That's my season. What else is there?' I want to do more than that. I want to do even better."

For Guryn, who is 2-1 with 26 strikeouts in 16 innings, getting better on a personal level involves two things that have nothing to do with baseball.

He says he needs to lift more and eat more, with an emphasis on the latter.

Guryn is 6-foot-1 and just 155 pounds, which is actually a vast increase on the scale from where he was last season as a sophomore with six starts (and a 3-0 record) on the varsity. Last year, he was the same height but 135 pounds.

According to the Robinson Formula for ideal weight, a 17-year-old, 6-foot-1 boy such as Guryn should weigh around 170 pounds.

"I used to be kind of a chubby kid when I was younger," Guryn said. "When I increased my dosage (of ADHD medication) in third grade, that changed. The medicine just kind of ruins your appetite. It takes it right away.

"I would miss breakfast and lunch and I would barely realize it. I really didn't like eating."

He likes it more now, but still struggles.

"I found a way to force myself to eat," said Guryn, who recently discovered that bacon might be his favorite food. "But I know I have to keep eating, keep putting on the weight. That's going to help me as an athlete."

With more weight, Guryn will add to his velocity, which is mindboggling already considering his size.

"One of the reasons I'm able to throw pretty hard for my weight is that I take really long strides when I pitch, so I'm putting myself closer to the plate," Guryn said. "And I've also got a lot of torque in my upper body, which gives me a lot of speed in how I move to the plate."

Add in the fact that Guryn is a lefty who seems naturally built to be a pitcher and his upside is significant.

"Some people are just gifted and that would be Justin," Grayslake Central coach Troy Whalen said. "He's got this fast-twitch muscle fiber thing going that not only gives him speed but it keeps him loose and flexible in all the areas where most pitchers are sore for days after they pitch.

"Justin can pitch a game and he'll be like, 'It doesn't even feel like I threw today.' That kind of quick recovery is amazing and it's definitely a unique gift he has."

It's also a product of work.

Guryn is almost fanatical about the way he takes care of his arm.

"My dad has helped me so much, researching the best things for pitchers to do to take care of their arms," Guryn said. "We have bands to stretch with, we even have an electric shock therapy machine, which calms the muscles down in the arm.

"I've really never had any problems with my arm. It's almost like rubber. My coaches would never let me do it, but I could pitch an entire game and come back the next day and throw some more."

Guryn tries to channel some of his extra energy into a newfound interest: dancing. He recently discovered some local animation dance groups that compete in contests around the area and he follows them in person and online. He also made a video of his own moves and put it on YouTube. He says he would consider getting more involved with those groups if he weren't so busy with baseball.

In the meantime, he did win a dance-off during an assembly at school.

"I bet I'm the best dancing baseball player in the state of Illinois," Guryn said with a laugh. "Outside of baseball, I'm into a bunch of things. I'm just a different kind of person. But I'm having fun."

Follow Patricia on Twitter: @babcockmcgraw

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