The Geneseo wrestling team did not enter postseason hoping to snag a regional title.|
"We came in expecting it," Geneseo 182-pound senior Mitch Miller said.
How the Maple Leafs performed backed that up.
Four champions, four runners-up and three third-place finishes gave the Maple Leafs something they had not experienced in nearly two decades. Geneseo believed it was the best team in the Class 2A Rock Island Regional, then went out and proved it by scoring 218.5 points to win the team title at Rock Island Fieldhouse.
In winning their first regional title since 1995, the Maple Leafs topped two-time defending regional champion Rock Island by 35 points.
"Awesome," Geneseo coach Jon Murray said as he clutched the regional plaque. "I really don't know how to put it into words. I'm so proud of every single guy."
Every single Geneseo wrestler had a hand in this title.
All 14 individuals advanced to the championship or third-place bouts, with 11 qualifying for next week's Rochelle Sectional. After that, they will meet East Peoria in the dual-team sectional at Rochelle on Feb. 19.
"It was a team title," Miller said. "We knew we could win it. Instead of kids on our team shrugging it off and thinking we had it, the whole team came out and performed. It worked out for the best."
Geneseo set a tone from the start that this day would end with a title, with one bout epitomizing that belief. Trailing 3-0 against United Township junior Jeronnie Steward in the 113-pound title match, freshman Jon Warner hit an outside sweep to get the takedown.
From there, he completed the second-period fall to give the Maple Leafs their first regional champion on the day.
"This is pretty awesome," Warner said.
It got better from there.
Miller, Josiah Cropp (145 pounds) and Cam Panicucci (220) each earned titles. Hunter Grau (120), Joey Medina (152), Ryan Pitra (160) and Lane Akre (195) took second in their respective bouts.
"Hats off to Geneseo. They came more than ready. They wrestled out of their minds," Rocky coach Joel Stockwell said. "It will be interesting to see if they can keep that momentum going into sectionals. They definitely have the momentum going. If they wrestle like that, they'll (get to) state."
Right now, the Maple Leafs think anything is possible. Actually, expect good things to happen.
"That's why they win," Murray said. "We're going to go into the dual (sectional) expecting to win."
McGhee gets fourth title: Top-ranked Rock Island senior B.J. McGhee captured his fourth consecutive regional title. In pushing his season record to 38-0, the Missouri signee completed a first-period pin over Grau to get the championship and first-round bye at the sectional.
McGhee won both bouts by fall.
"This means everything," McGhee said. "But I'd trade everything for one state title."
Rocky 132-pound senior Chase Wiggins won his second consecutive regional after a decision win over Dixon's Trent Brinkmeier. Wiggins won his semifinal bout by fall.
"I'm peaking now," Wiggins said. "Hopefully, I can peak even higher next week. Then even higher the week after that. I'm pretty satisfied with how I'm doing."
Tyler Dehaven gave the Rocks three regional champions with the 126-pound title with a victory over Rochelle's TC Hager. Devin Syler (138), Jean-Louis Sawadago (145), Michael Cole (170) and Nick Niles (220) all took second.
Panthers get three winners: Seniors Tanner Schuldt (152), Deryck Wessels (160) and Markus Murphy (170) gave UT a trio of regional champions.
The biggest win was Murphy, who avenged a 5-0 loss to Cole last week. Murphy earned an 11-6 victory to repeat as regional champion.
"Getting retribution feels good," Murphy said. "Getting that bye in sectionals feels awesome."
Schuldt and Wessels each won their first-ever regional. Schuldt cruised to a 13-0 major decision over Medina.
"I tried to be aggressive," Schuldt said. "Aggression is my thing, man."
In his victory, Wessels had control over Pitra from start to finish in the 9-4 decision.
"I could've done a lot better on my feet," Wessels said. "I was a little on the defensive side. Next week (at sectionals), I've got to be on the offensive side and be on the attack."
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