Posted Online: Jan. 20, 2013, 9:50 pm

Ealy, Thompson set for first-ever meeting

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By Daniel Makarewicz, danmak@qconline.com

More photos from this shoot
Photo: Paul Colletti
Alleman wrestling coach James Ealy gives instructions during the Bob Mitton-Orion Invitational on Friday night. Ealy, a former Moline head coach, will meet his former team during a Western Big 6 Conference dual on Thursday at the east gym.
More photos from this shoot
Photo: John Greenwood
First-year Moline wrestling coach Todd Thompson will go against his former colleague James Ealy on Thursday during a Western Big 6 Conference dual at the east gym. Thompson was an assistant under Ealy, the current Alleman head coach and former Moline head coach, for five years.
You could say history and circumstance make Thursday night much more than what it appears to be on paper.

Neither James Ealy nor Todd Thompson are fully embracing the hype.

For the first time ever, the former teammates and colleagues oppose each other as coaches when Moline hosts Alleman in a Western Big 6 Conference wrestling dual at the east gym. What truly makes this an intriguing event is how Ealy and Thompson reached the opposite benches.

Ealy was removed as the Moline wrestling coach on March 6, then hired at Alleman six weeks later. A former assistant under Ealy for five years, Thompson eventually became the Moline head coach on May 1.

Thursday really cannot come soon enough.

"It won't be all that different than any other (dual)," Ealy said. "I'm going in with the mindset that they're a team we're wrestling against."

Thompson echoes that statement.

"We've got a job to do," Thompson said. "We've got to be prepared."

With the typical responses out of the way, each admitted there is a little more to this dual. Considering their past, it's hard to overlook the moment.

Teammates on Moline's 1996 Class AA state championship dual team, Ealy and Thompson formed a friendship that still is tight to this day. Working closely together for five years will do that to a relationship.

However, the respect between the two is strong enough that Thompson refused to apply for the Moline job without Ealy's blessing. When Thompson officially accepted the position, Ealy was there to celebrate the hiring that night.

No grudges.

Just happiness for a friend.

"I wanted him to get it," Ealy said. "We had a good thing built up, and he was a part of that. I wanted someone who helped build it continue it."

Thompson simply followed the path Ealy started when both were in high school. When they were teammates, Ealy, who is two years older, was someone Thompson respected. To this day, the admiration remains.

"He taught me a lot both as a wrestler and as a head coach," said Thompson, a 1998 Moline graduate. "I learned from that. It has made me a better coach and wrestler."

Perhaps the first-ever meeting between the two will be more interesting than each make it seem.

"It definitely will be strange looking across the mat," Thompson said. "That part will be different, but we have to focus on the task at hand."

At the moment, both put all their energy on reviving programs that are seeing improvements each day. Moline is relying on a youth movement that has them peaking with the postseason less than two weeks away. Across the mat stands Alleman, which is doing the same.

Behind all the potential are head coaches who are both committed to their jobs and eyeing the present and future.

The past is exactly that.

"I'm perfectly happy where I am now," Ealy said. "I'm the Alleman coach, and that's what I focus on."

All Thursday means is a chance to secure a Big 6 victory.

"Both sides will handle everything very professionally," Thompson said. "I don't see anything taking place."

The dual trumps the coaching storyline.

"I am looking forward to see it as a stepping stone -- how we're improving and where we're going," Ealy said. "It will be a good test."

Afterward, though, is when the history re-emerges. Nothing can take that away.

"Big picture, he's my best friend," Ealy said. "He'll continue to be my best friend."


Q-C prep wrestling notebook

Breedlove ties school mark: Kewanee 132-pound senior Mark Breedlove earned his 121st career win on Saturday at the Bob Mitton-Orion Invitational. Breedlove now is tied with his brother Adam for the most wins in program history.

Mark Breedlove can set the school record on Tuesday during a Three Rivers Conference dual against Erie-Prophetstown. Adam Breedlove's lost win came in the Class 1A 140-pound state championship bout in 2009, the only wrestler in school history to win a state title.

This 'n' that: Both Orion 145-pound senior Joe DeVolder and Erie-Prophetstown 106-pound senior Brandon McCullough earned their 100th career victories on Saturday at the Bob Mitton-Orion Invitational on Saturday. ... Erie-Prophetstown can sew up a Three Rivers Conference title on Tuesday against Kewanee. Sherrard needs a win over Orion one day later to win its third consecutive West Central Conference title. ... Geneseo's third-place finish at the Northern Illinois Big 12 Conference meet was its highest since the league formed three years ago. The Maple Leafs were seventh in the previous two conference tournaments. ... Riverdale's Cole Ebenroth was taking from the Bob Mitton-Orion Invitational on Saturday by ambulance after injuring his neck during a match. It was later announced that Ebenroth sustained a neck strain and X-rays were negative. ... Rock Island stands three wins away from earning its third consecutive outright Western Big 6 Conference title. The Rocks travel to United Township on Thursday and face Galesburg and Quincy at Don Morris Gym on Friday.