A path toward a regional wrestling championship meant Geneseo 113-pound freshman Jon Warner had to potentially beat three opponents who handed him four losses this year.|
Despite all that, fear never entered his mind.
"I knew I could get there," Warner said.
What followed was a transformation that made Warner a champion against a field he could not beat earlier this season. So this week's Metro Pacesetter for The Dispatch and The Rock Island Argus did get where he wanted to go, turning himself into a contender with one eye-opening stretch.
"That's a rare occasion to see a kid come out that strong as a freshman," Geneseo coach Jon Murray said. "I wouldn't say I've never seen it before, but it's a rarity to see someone come on like that at a young age."
Youth no longer is an issue with Warner.As of now, he's experienced.
One of two freshmen to win a Class 2A Rock Island Regional title, Warner had to go through three opponents -- Rochelle junior Jeff Board, Sterling sophomore Isaac Anderson and United Township junior Jeronnie Steward, in succession -- in order for that to happen.
Warner entered the day unseeded, needing to beat the top seed and second seed in the semifinal and final, respectively. He also was 1-4 against those three, including an 0-2 mark against Steward.
"I knew I could beat them sooner or later," Warner said. "It was how hard I got ready for my matches. I wanted it."
Wins over Board and Anderson put Warner in the final, but Steward jumped to a 3-0 lead as the second period reached its halfway point. From there, he orchestrated a move that had Rock Island Fieldhouse buzzing.After grabbing Steward's arm, Warner executed an outside sweep, hooked his opponent's leg and put him on his back. A few moments later, Warner finished the tide-turning pin that completed the comeback.
Vindication was in Warner's hands.So was a championship.
"It wasn't that much of a shock," Murray said. "It's exciting to see a win, but I don't feel like it was a shock. The team knew he had it in him."
Confidence remained with Warner even though previous matches would have shaken it.
All of that comes from years developing into a winner.
"A good, natural talent," Murray said. "He's grown up with the sport. He just knew from a young age that he was a wrestler. That's his thing. That's what he does."
He is doing it very well.
"He finds a way to win," Murray said. "There's something about that mentality that's hard to coach. That's the kind of guy you love to see. He finds a way to win. He's a good competitor."
The next step is going from a regional champion to a state qualifier, outlasting a sectional bracket that includes the state's third-, fifth- and sixth-ranked individuals. Warner already topped No. 5 Steward and No. 6 Anderson last week, proving he is no sleeper.
Warner embraces the pressure. Right now, he expects another title.
"I'm going to keep training," Warner said, "and hopefully be a sectional champ."
Based on recent results, do not count out Warner. He already proved he can get where he wants to go.
"He's not done yet," Murray said. "That's for sure."
Metro Pacesetter -- Geneseo's Jon Warner
Favorite food: Spaghetti
Favorite movie: "Lord of the Rings"
Favorite class: Science with Mr. Eastlick
Favorite band: Metallica
Favorite team: Ohio State Buckeyes
Parent: Maria Montez, Geneseo
In the running
Sean Wetherell, Alleman: Captured the 170-pound title at the Class 1A Sherrard Regional.
Jessica Howell, Moline: Won the United Township Sectional bowling title, helping the Maroons to the team championship and state berth.
Tyler Dehaven, Rock Island: Won the 126-pound title at the Class 2A Rock Island Regional.
Kurgan Macias, Rock Island: Swam to two individual wins in the 100-yard breaststroke (1:07.85), and the 100 freestyle (52.79) as Rock Island completed an undefeated dual meet season with a win over United Township.
Markus Murphy, United Township: Beat the Nos. 1 and 2 seeds in succession to win the 170-pound championship at the Class 2A Rock Island Regional.