ALEDO -- Five starters were out because of injury or illness on Tuesday night, forcing the Geneseo wrestling team to bank on three freshmen to overcome a late deficit.|
None flinched when the spotlight found them.
All three found a way to win when it mattered, allowing the Maple Leafs to overcome a late deficit against Mercer County and prevail in a state-rated showdown. Freshmen Tumbo Tumbarello, Jon Warner and Hunter Grau won by falls, forfeit and major decision, respectively, in the last three bouts to help Geneseo earn a 34-28 come-from-behind win over the Golden Eagles.
"We expect every guy to give everything they have," said Geneseo coach Jon Murray, whose team is rated eighth in the latest Illinois Best Weekly Class 2A poll. "That's how things like this happen."
Effort was not the key question when those three took the mat. Experience was the issue.
Turns out, the trio displayed both.
Tumbarello needed 53 seconds to complete a 106-pound fall against Drake Stirn, cutting the Mercer County lead to 28-24 with two bouts left. After Jon Warner earned a forfeit victory at 113 pounds, the Maple Leafs regained a 30-28 advantage.
That turned the 120-pound bout into a winner-take-all match.
"I went out there with a mentality that I was going to come out on top," Grau said.
Within 30 seconds of the opening whistle, Grau took a 4-0 lead with a quick takedown and near-fall. By the end of the second period, the advantage ballooned to 13-4.
Grau eventually earned a 17-4 major decision over Preston Adams.
"I knew we were going to win," Grau said. "When it came down to me, I just had to get the win."
The ending mirrored the start as Geneseo won the first three of the first four bouts to get a 13-3 lead. After that, the Golden Eagles, ranked fifth in the Class 1A poll, found a groove.
Zach Nelson (152), Devin Morford (160), Jesse Snyder (170) and Jon Ricke (182) won, in order, by decision, major decision, fall and decision to build 19-12 lead. Geneseo had a team point deducted after the 182-pound bout because of unsportsmanlike conduct.
Lane Akre ended the Mercer County four-bout run with a fall at 195 pounds, but Mason Weeks (220) won by forfeit and Alex Kisner (285) secured a decision to push the Mercer County advantage up to 28-18.
"But down the stretch," Mercer County coach Jeremy Finch said, "(Geneseo) had too much in the lighter weights."
The Golden Eagles (20-3) knew that before the bout, so they tried to shift their lineup to overcame that. In the end, Mercer County could not get the bonus points needed to offset the Maple Leafs' late run.
Geneseo held a 10-4 advantage on bonus points.
"We thrive on bonus points," Finch said. "In the middle of our lineup, that's how we get rolling. Geneseo did a good job of not letting that happen."
Staying strong in weak spots proved to be the difference for the Maple Leafs.
"Our guys were fighting tough," Murray said. "We had some guys who aren't our normal starters in there. They knew what they were up against. They just fought their guts out."
Once again, Geneseo proved its lineup has interchangeable parts. No matter the age, they find a way.
"Every year we keep doing what we do," Murray said. "Hopefully success breeds success."
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