Geneseo senior Oliver Newton will be heading to his first IHSA State Wrestling Finals.
Newton (195 pounds) earned a spot in the Feb. 16-18 state finals with a second-place finish at the Feb. 10-11 Sterling Sectional.
“It was a roller coaster,” said head coach Jon Murray. “Of course, the high point was Oliver, but the down points were we had three other guys who were just right there in that final round to decide if they would go to state and they just got caught.”
Newton pinned his way into the championship bout with wins over Belvidere North’s Jesse Galvan in 3 minutes and 14 seconds; East Peoria’s Kade McDonald in 2:26 and Galesburg’s DeMario Walker in 4:44.
“Oliver is mentally tough, and he is always ready to wrestle,”?said Murray. “He takes advantage of his opportunities and gets those pins. All his matches were tough, and in the semis Oliver was down 2-1 and then just took over and wore the other guy down.”
In the championship match, Newton was pinned in 2:09 by Sycamore’s Jake Davis.
“The score was 0-0 in the first period, but Davis was able to get an escape, and Oliver got caught and tripped to his back for the pin,”?said Murray.
Tristan Thies (120-lbs.) finished his season with a record of 2-2 at sectionals. He lost his opening match to Pontiac’s Stephen Richardson by technical fall in 2:35, but bounced back to pin DeKalb’s Brad Green in 3:06. He went on to pin Sterling’s Austin Olade in 2:42, but met up with Pontiac’s Richardson again and fell in a 13-11 decision.
“Tristan had it,” said Murray. “He had to wrestle a guy who beat him pretty bad on Friday night.?He had him on his back and the whole gym thought he had the pin, but the ref didn’t see it. It is disappointing, but that is the nature of the sport.”
Jarred Bruce (138-lbs.) was ousted from sectional competition in two matches. Bruce was pinned in his first match in 1:33 by DeKalb’s Jacob Sommer and then fell to Peoria Notre Dame’s Scott Bousek in a 9-1 major decision.
Joey Medina (145-lbs.) won his first match of the meet with a 9-6 decision over Morton’s Ryan Wertzler. Medina ended his run with two losses in his next two matches to Yorkville’s Connor Bass by technical fall in 4:51 and Ottawa’s Jared Jones in a 15-3 major decision.
Ryan Pitra (152-lbs.) suffered a loss in his first match of the tournament, 10-5 to East Peoria’s Jeremy Gumm. Pitra responded with a 7-5 decision win over Burlington’s Deshon Rambo, but was later defeated in a 7-0 decision by Marmion’s Sam Kellett.
“I love Joey and Ryan’s attitudes, because they go out even as freshmen and expect to win,” said Murray. “They both beat some good kids, but they just didn’t beat enough.
Tyler Puls (160-lbs.) fell just short of a trip to state in his senior season as he went 3-2 at the sectional. Puls began action with a 15-5 major decision win over Yorkville’s Tyler Wilkinson, but was defeated in his next match by Washington’s Dylan Reel in a 19-9 major decision. Puls bounced back with two wins as he pinned Peoria Notre Dame’s Luke Barkley in 6:00 and beat LaSalle-Peru’s Travis Mahoney in a 13-5 major decision. Puls was pinned in his final match in :49 by Rock?Island’s Lucas Rusk.
Mitch Miller (170-lbs.) ended the season with a 2-2 record at sectionals, also just missing a trip to state. Miller opened with a 3:13 pin of Manual’s Dante Fox and a 9-3 decision victory over Burlington’s Omar Awad. He then fell in a 10-6 decision to Yorkville’s Steve Pozeg and was pinned by Rock Island’s Michael Cole in 1:26.
“Both Tyler and Mitch both had some pretty tough kids to get to where they were,”?said Murray. “Both got caught in a pin hold and just couldn’t fight out of it.”
Cameron Panicucci (285-lbs.) was pinned in his first match at sectionals by Rockford East’s Michael Estergard in 5:32. He responded with a 2-1 decision win over Peoria’s Robert Walker, but later fell in an 11-2 major decision by DeKalb’s Michael Halverson.
Newton will compete Feb. 16-18 at the IHSA Wrestling State Finals at Assembly Hall in Champaign-Urbana.
“I hope to see Oliver confident,” said Murray.?“He will have to come up with a couple good wins, which are possible. Records don’t mean anything, now it is just a matter of who shows up. If he is ready to go he could be on that awards stand.
“As a coach, I always play the ‘what if’ game, but I try to look at the big picture that we were 16-5 in duals, so I guess we did OK,” said Murray. “You always just want more.
“Overall, I am proud of our guys, and I think we had a winning season. The best thing is what we have coming up is only getting better.”