Jon Murray approached this season with the same anticipation as any other one, believing the Geneseo wrestling team would follow the same script during his tenure as head coach.
Looking from the outside, Murray was wrong.
Grounded expectations have fizzled three weeks into the regular season as the Maple Leafs have gone from an unknown to a threat. An 11-match winning streak and a top 15 state ranking have put Geneseo on the cusp of special things this year.
"I knew we had some good stuff coming our way. As of now, it's coming together," Murray said. "We still have some pieces to put together. I think we can make improvements. But this isn't surprising."
Inside the room, the Maple Leafs are doing exactly what they thought they could do.
Solid numbers combined with experience and talent give Geneseo confidence. All that translates into a lineup that features very few weaknesses.
In the latest Illinois Best Weekly Class 2A poll, no individuals are ranked. However, the Maple Leafs are proving quantity can be quality.
"It's nice to have 14 bodies in the lineup," Murray said. "And quality on top of that."
So far this year, a lineup built on experience and consistency has pushed the Maple Leafs to an 11-1 start. During the run, Geneseo has topped Galesburg, Moline, Rock Island and United Township.
The only loss was a setback to Class 3A state-ranked Machesney Park Harlem.
Geneseo also captured the Rockford East Invitational title and the sophomore squad won the United Township Invitational on the same day.
"That said a lot to me about depth," Murray said. "We didn't load up one or the other. We sent our teams and won both. That's pretty nice to do that."
Interchangeable parts keep the roster strong. During a Northern Illinois Big 12 Conference dual against Dixon on Thursday, the Maple Leafs still earned a comfortable victory despite missing two starters.
"We're confident in the guys stepping up," Murray said.
How confident are the Maple Leafs? Normally, Murray focuses on getting as many individuals to the state meet as possible. That goal has not changed, but he adds being "regional champions and taking the team to sectional."
So in that case, the outlook is different than the past.
"If we're healthy and everybody's in the right spot," Murray said, "it can happen."
Ealy reaches century mark: With a 48-24 win over Putnam County on Thursday night, first-year Alleman coach James Ealy recorded his 100th career victory. Ealy previously coached nine years at Sherrard and Moline.
"One hundred career wins is nice," Ealy said, "but career win No. 1 at Alleman meant a lot more."
On top of the milestone, the Pioneers ended a 43-dual losing streak. Before that, their last win was Dec. 4, 2010, against Dakota.
Jones on the mend: Moments after his major-decision victory over Geneseo's Cam Panicucci on Wednesday night, Moline 285-pound junior Adarios Jones passed out. He remained unconscious before an ambulance transported him to Genesis Medical Center, Illini Campus for observation.
Moline coach Todd Thompson said Jones was released on Thursday, but there was no diagnosis on what exactly happened. The situation was not from a wrestling-related incident, Thompson said.
Two days later, Jones took third in the Mount Prospect Invitational.
"In his first match, he looked like his normal self," Thompson said. "As the day went on, you could tell he wasn't himself. He was tired and a little sluggish. ... It looked like he needed a five-hour nap."
The Maroons are off this week until participating in the Hinsdale Central Invitational. The two-day tournament starts Friday in suburban Chicago.
"As of this point, there's no plan to hold him out," Thompson said. "We'll see how practice goes this week."
This 'n' that: Top-ranked Rock Island senior B.J. McGhee won Sterling's Carson DeJarnatt Invitational title for the fourth consecutive year. McGhee won the title in four different weight classes as well. ... The IHSA announced last week the individual state wrestling championship matches will start at 170 pounds and go up this year. It's the first time the finals will not start at the lowest weight class and move up. The 160-pound class will be the finale. ... United Township 152-pound senior Tanner Schuldt entered the Illinois Best Weekly Class 2A rankings at No. 6 last week.
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Today is Wednesday, Dec. 11, the 345th day of 2013. There are 20 days left in the year. 1863 — 150 years ago: The message of Abraham Lincoln, read in congress yesterday, is published in full in our paper today, with a new proclamation relating the terms upon which states can return to the union. 1888 — 125 years ago: An appropriation has been made by congress for the improvement of the upper Mississippi River with $200,000 set aside for the portion of the river between Keokuk and the mouth of the Illinois River. 1913 — 100 years ago: Work of remodeling First Swedish Lutheran Church at 4th Avenue and 14th Street was nearly completed. 1938 — 75 years ago: An unexplained outbreak of tularemia (rabbit fever) in the state has Illinois public health officials puzzled. Ten persons have died, and 243 are officially reported ill with the infection. 1963 — 50 years ago: A dramatic, multi-million dollar riverfront improvement project for the downtown area of Rock Island was unveiled at a meeting of 200 civic leaders at noon today. 1988 — 25 years ago: For several supporters of the Dispatch Goodfellow/Argus Santa program their donation is a year long project. Emma Pugh and Anne Persinger spent a good part of their spare time this year knitting forty pairs of mittens and slippers.