Posted Online: Jan. 30, 2013, 6:01 pm

Geneseo, Rocky set for regional wrestling showdown

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By Daniel Makarewicz,

More photos from this shoot
Photo: John Greenwood
Rock Island 120-pound senior B.J. McGhee will compete in Saturday's Class 2A Rock Island Regional. The Rocks are seeking their third consecutive regional title.
More photos from this shoot
Photo: Todd Welvaert
Geneseo's Joey Medina, left, works a move on Mercer County's Zach Nelson during a 152-pound bout in Aledo on Jan. 22. Medina and the Maple Leafs will compete in Saturday's Class 2A Rock Island Regional.
With his last wrestling appearance inside Rock Island Fieldhouse looming, Michael Cole predicts "a big crowd" will fill the venerable gym to watch intrigue unfold when postseason begins and a regional team champion is decided on Saturday.

"It's going to be close," the Rock Island 170-pound senior said. "It's going to come down to who is tougher."

Determining who that is will draw the crowd.

Only one team champion will be crowned at the Class 2A Rock Island Regional as sixth-ranked Geneseo and seventh-rated Rock Island vie for the plaque. The only regional with two of the top seven teams in Class 2A should bring a significant following as one program seeks to reach a 3-peat and the other attempts to end an extended postseason drought.

"I'm jacked," Geneseo 220-pound senior Cam Panicucci said. "We've been working hard all year. To have this opportunity is good."

Unknowns when the season started, Geneseo has put together a season that rivals some of the best in program history. Not since 1995 have the Maple Leafs won a regional, a drought that could end Saturday.

All they need to do is outlast Rocky for the title.

"Big-time point getters," Geneseo coach Jon Murray said when asked why the Rocks are so scary. "They have those guys who can go out and win a championship. When you're talking about a tournament, that's big-time points. We're going to have to place a lot of guys to make up for a few of their big hitters."

What the Maple Leafs, who topped Rocky in a dual earlier this season, lack in "big-time point getters" is countered with a deep lineup.

"They're really consistent," Cole said. "They don't have a weak spot. They're pretty strong from top to bottom."

Does it take depth to win a regional title? Or heavy hitters?

Saturday will decide that.

The winner will advance to the dual-team sectional in Rochelle, but the champion is determined based on tournament scoring. Both Murray and Rocky coach Joel Stockwell are confident their respective teams can outlast the other in that format, but each is cautious as well.

Tournament scoring favors champions, with more points being awarded on first place. Another factor is bonus points. So, earning falls, technical falls and major decisions can help gain separation.

However, the wrestlebacks can play an important role. Advancement points still count in the consolation bracket, so each bout is valuable.

When a tournament will be close, every single match counts.

"We realize we have to be on," Murray said. "We believe it's possible, but we need to be on for this to happen."

Stockwell knows what he will get, too.

"The tougher the setting," Stockwell said, "the better we are as a tournament team."

On the other side, Geneseo believes a solid dual team can perform in a tournament setting.

"We have the potential to score in 14 weight classes," Murray said. "That's huge. That's definitely a plus. We have 14 solid wrestlers."

The strength of each team should make the regional interesting. Perhaps no other Class 2A regional will have this much intrigue with two state-caliber teams vying for the title.

"All the wrestlers and coaches will feel the tension," Stockwell said. "Every match is going to be important."

Regional wrestling preview capsules

Class 1A Eureka Regional
Where: Eureka High School
Saturday's times:
10 a.m. (Session I); 1 p.m. (Session II)
Teams: Kewanee, Monmouth-Roseville, Eureka, Farmington, Illini Bluffs, Knoxville, Peoria Heights, Varna Midland
FYI: Wethersfield sophomore Carter Pillen will compete in this regional. ... Kewanee last won a regional title in 2009. ... The top three finishers in each weight class advance to the Stanford Olympia Sectional. The team champion will compete in the Heyworth Sectional.
Class 1A Sherrard Regional
Where: Harry Hunt Gymnasium, Sherrard
Saturday's times: 10 a.m. (Session I); 2 p.m. (Session II)
Teams: Alleman, Erie-Prophetstown, Fulton, Mercer County, Morrison, Orion, Riverdale, Rockridge, Sherrard
FYI: Mercer County looks to win its second consecutive regional title. ... Eight reigning regional champions and nine state-ranked individuals are part of the field. ... The top three finishers in each weight class advance to the Oregon Sectional. The team champion will compete in the Byron Sectional.
Class 2A Rock Island Regional
Where: Rock Island Fieldhouse
Saturday's times: 10 a.m. (Session I); 2 p.m. (Session II)
Teams: Geneseo, Rock Island, United Township, Dixon, Freeport, Galesburg, Rochelle, Sterling
FYI: Rock Island is seeking its program-best third consecutive regional title. ... United Township last won a regional in 2007, and Geneseo is seeking to end an 18-year drought. ... Nine returning regional champions are in the field. ... The top three finishers in each weight class advance to the Rochelle Sectional. The team champion will compete in the Rochelle Sectional.
Class 3A Joliet Central Regional
Where: Joliet Central High School
Saturday's times: 9 a.m. (Session I); 2 p.m. (Session II)
Teams: Moline, Bradley-Bourbonnais, Joliet Central, Joliet West, Minooka, New Lenox Providence, Normal Community, Normal West, Plainfield South
FYI: Moline seeks to win its first regional title since 2008. ... The Maroons had two sectional qualifiers a season ago. ... Moline 285-pound junior Adarios Jones is rated No. 3 in the Illinois Best Weekly Class 3A poll. ... The top three finishers in each weight class advance to the Moline Sectional. The team champion will compete in a sectional at a yet-to-be-determined site.