Geneseo’s Jon Murray recently joined a prestigious group of athletes as he was inducted into the Illinois College Sports Hall of Fame Oct. 12.
Murray, a four-time national championship qualifier and three-time conference champion in wrestling, was one of 10 individuals making up the Hall of Fame Class of 2012 in Jacksonville, Ill.
“Wow, I was surprised and didn’t expect that,” said Murray. “There are only two other wrestlers inducted and they were All-Americans. I am just proud to be added to the list. It is an honor.
“It is humbling and I don’t even know how to put it into words. I feel very appreciative of the honor, especially in a sport that was cut from the school, that they will induct former wrestlers.”
Murray wrestled for Illinois College from 1988-1992 and graduated in the spring of 1992.
“It was a great experience, and it felt like for me, Illinois College was the right fit,” he said. “We had a good wave of guys who went through the wrestling program, which included (others with local connections) Corey Atwell, Lane Murray and Sean Hickerson.”
Murray decided to attend Illinois College and wrestle for the school after he competed in a spring tournament at the Illinois School for the Deaf where he met wrestlers from the Illinois College team.
“They ended up recruiting me,” said Murray. “And once I visited Illinois College, I was sold.”
During his four years at Illinois College, Murray qualified for the NCAA Championships all four years.
“It was a good accomplishment, but my only regret, and it is maybe the reason why I coach, is I have that fire because I never made All-American,” he said. “It hurt at the time, but made me a better coach because I feel I have unfinished business and have more to do in the sport.”
During his senior season, Murray and the Illinois College wrestling team were nationally ranked as a team and won the conference title.
“I was fortunate to be a part of a really good wave of wrestlers and at the peak of the program,” he said. “That was fun and one of my highlights (winning conference as a team).”
Other highlights for Murray include being named team captain and team MVP, and, the most important of all for Murray, was earning Academic All-American honors.
Murray also got to enjoy his time at Illinois College with his brother Lane, who also was a national qualifier for the wrestling team. Lane Murray and Atwell were sophomores on the team and qualified for nationals with Jon during his senior year. Hickerson also was a part of the conference championship team and a national qualifier.
Page 2 of 2 - “Lane and I were the only two brothers in the NCAA tournament that year,” said Murray. “It was great, Lane and I were high-school teammates and he came to join me in college.”
Wrestling has always been a part of Murray’s life. He began wrestling in first grade when his dad, Michael Murray, was a coach at the YMCA in Iowa.
Over the course of his wrestling career, Murray had to battle through injuries, which he said was the toughest thing to recover from, but he just kept his goals in mind.
“I was just a wrestler and I didn’t know life without it,” he said. “I never considered not wrestling.”
Murray believes his time wrestling at the collegiate level has made him a better coach because wrestling in college brings the sport to a new level.
“It is a lot of fun and you learn more about the sport,” he said. “It takes a new mentality and, for me, it was never a question, wrestling was what I did.
“Wrestling is a tough sport to be involved in, especially for that long. It is not a money-maker sport, it is not the popular thing to do, but it is the most work I have put into anything. You do it because it is part of who you are. I feel I have always been a wrestler.”
Murray is in his 21st year at Geneseo High School and his 11th year as head coach of the wrestling team.