Geneseo senior wrestler Oliver Newton capped off his career at Geneseo with a fifth-place finish at 195 pounds in the 2012 IHSA State Wrestling Finals in Champaign Feb. 16 to 18.
“We are very happy with fifth place,” said head coach Jon Murray. “He over exceeded what all the rankings had predicted. He went out there and made his point, and, on his way there, he beat two guys who had beaten him earlier in the season.”
“The experience was terrific,” said Newton. “I loved the wrestling and the atmosphere.?Last year was my first time there watching, and I told myself I was going to make it there and I finally did.”
Newton opened action with a pin in the preliminaries in 1 minute and 47 seconds of Highland’s Dustin Rosborough.
“I was a little nervous going into it, but once I got on the mat it was time to get to work,” said Newton. “I was excited to win my first match by pin. It was a really good start to the tournament.”
In the quarterfinals, Newton pinned Lombard Montini’s Anthony Ferraro in 3:00 to advance to the semifinals. With the pin in the quarterfinals, Newton tied West Cathcart for the school record of 29 pins in a season.
“That pin in the quarterfinals was even more meaningful because it meant I would place at state and it was against Anthony Ferraro, who had beaten me earlier in the year,” said Newton. “And, I did know how close I was to the school record because it was something I set out to do this season.”
“You always expect them to be ready to give themselves a chance,” said Murray. “I am not surprised with the pins from Oliver, that is how he wins. He was definitely ready to go and had a great mind set. You could just tell his mind was in the right place, and he expected to win. He was on a mission.”
Crystal Lake Central’s Gage Harrah, who was the eventual champion, was the one who stood in Newton’s way of the chance at the state title in the semifinal round. Harrah got the best of Newton has he pinned him in :47.
“I was just glad he didn’t get hurt and was able to bounce back,” said Murray. “That is the key, you have to be mentally tough and have to get up physically and be mentally prepared for five different matches over the tournament. Oliver was able to stay tough and was ready to go.”
Newton went on to the semifinal wrestlebacks where he lost to Lemont’s John Tomala in a 9-2 decision, which sent Newton to the fifth-place bout.
In the fifth-place match, Newton defeated Freeport’s Trey Pempilton in a 5-1 decision to reach the awards stand and bring home a fifth-place medal.
“My fifth-place match was against Pempilton, who had beat me twice this year, and I told myself I couldn’t let him beat me again, so I went out and did my job,” said Newton.
“It was Oliver’s top position work that allowed him to score back points,” said Murray. “In the third period, we were doing so well so we chose top and rode him the entire period. It was his top work that won him the match.
“I hope he was happy because we are very happy for him.”
“To say the least, it was amazing,” said Newton. “All I remember is I was kind of in shock when?I won and got fifth. I remember going up and giving my mom, Kendra, a hug and saying ‘I did it, I finally did it.’”
Geneseo senior Tyler Puls at 160-lbs. filled in for Burlington Central’s Buddy Toth, who had to withdraw from the competition due to a concussion.
“Tyler was at practice when he found out and was planning on going to state anyway just in case someone didn’t make weight,” said Murray. “So he was going to be ready either way and got that break.”
In the preliminaries, Puls lost in a close 5-4 decision to Midlothian Bremen’s Chris Wright.
Puls later suffered another close loss in the first round of wrestlebacks in an 11-10 decision to Mt.?Vernon’s Alex Vosburgh.
“Tyler was right there with both of the guys he lost to and proved he belonged there,” said Murray. “I hope, even though he didn’t place, he takes a good experience way from this because to wrestle at the state tournament is an honor.”
Murray said it is very rare for an alternate to get to compete at the state finals and the coaches and Puls didn’t know until weigh ins at the state meet whether he would be in or not.
“I am very proud of both of them,” said Murray. “Being at the state meet is the highest honor in this sport, and they both just battled. They have to be proud of getting to where they did.”