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Geneseo Republic - Geneseo, IL
  • Leafs stack the deck in hopes of NIB 12 title

  • This year’s crop of Geneseo wrestlers have the potential to be a force to be reckoned with on the mats with a full lineup of quality wrestlers at each weight class.
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  • This year’s crop of Geneseo wrestlers have the potential to be a force to be reckoned with on the mats with a full lineup of quality wrestlers at each weight class.
    “Oh man, we have a good mixture of experience and young guys coming in to fill the lightweights,” said head coach Jon Murray. “Finally, we have a full lineup. We have a nice group of freshmen and a good group of upperclassmen at the upper weights.”
    Coach Murray’s goals for this year’s Leafs, which he believes are fully attainable include: conference title, regional championship, qualifying as a team for state and have at least four individuals at state with at least two place winners.
    The seniors looking to lead the way are: Justin Blaser, Tom Carlson, Josh Dodge, Wil Ehert, Nate Johnson, Mitch Miller, Cameron Panicucci, Asa Schackelford, Christoph Stemmermann, Tristan Thies and Blake Whitmer.
    “From the seniors, I am looking for positive leadership,” said Murray. “Some of the kids are more vocal leaders, while others are more of silent leaders who work hard and hopefully the other kids see that.”
    The juniors set to make an impact this season are: Phil Anderson, Gage Blackert, Cody Bormann, Jarred Bruce, Justin Cain, Justin Curry, Bryce Johnson, Josh King, Drew Krebs, AJ Marmion, Brandon Mizlo, Alex Naseef, Ryan Petsche, Scott Schulte and Nick Verbeck.
    “I want the juniors to go out there and focus on what they can control every match,” said Murray. “It doesn’t matter if it is varsity, junior varsity or freshmen you have to go out the same way.”
    The Leafs will have a good mix of freshmen through seniors in the varsity lineup this season.
    “Just because these guys are freshmen it doesn’t mean they are beginners,” said Murray. “We have a good mix. When you lose seniors you want to be able to refill and overcompensate for what you lose. Losing Oliver Newton and Tyler Puls was a tough loss, but we have overcompensated with experience and the young guys we are bringing in.”
    Geneseo’s sophomore class of wrestlers include: Lane Akre, Josiah Cropp, Jake DePauw, Jeremy Harper, Paul Kastorff, Clayton Kennedy, Joey Medina, Ryan Pitra, Grant Pritchard and Levi Warren.
    In their first year of high school wrestling are: Arthur Atwell, Gunner Gaines, Hunter Grau, Cole Hunzeker, Elliot Koster, Bo Lindstrom, Joey O’Leary, Kiko Pena, Justin Scott, Antonio Tumbarello, Jon Warner and Benji Watkins.
    With a mix of seven juniors and seniors and seven freshmen and sophomores filling out the 14 weight classes the Leafs have a mix of experience and inexperience.
    Page 2 of 3 - “We have a mix of experience and inexperience, but they are not totally inexperienced because of middle school wrestling and Spider Club wrestling experience,” said Murray. “The only thing new is that it is high school.”
    A big strength for the Leafs this season will be their depth.
    “We have a full lineup and have enough depth right now that every guy on varsity is a quality wrestler that I trust on varsity,” said Murray. “We even have tough wrestlers who won’t break the varsity lineup. There are only so many slots and a lot of good guys left over. Depth will be a plus. We do have the quality and quanity, which is a great combination.”
    Murray said the biggest challenge for the Leafs this year will be getting his wrestlers at their proper weight classes, along with always staying healthy.
    “Everyone being at the proper weight classes and being healthy will be our keys to success,” he said. “We need to work hard and show up with the right mind set every single match.”
    Murray said he never looks at a season as a rebuilding year, but just continuing to progress the program.
    “I think we are a stronger team this year than last year,” he said. “This is one of the stronger teams I have had over that past few years. We have not only quality guys, but they are spread over all the weight classes, which is a huge strength and plus for our team.”
    With such good quality wrestlers on the team this year it is only going to make the Leafs better and provide some healthy competition.
    “We have wrestle offs so just because you are on varsity now it doesn’t mean you will be next week,” said Murray. “You have to defend your spot. It is the nature of the sport, which I think is great. It keeps everyone on their toes.”
    As far as the outlook of the conference this year, coach Murray likes to focus just on his team, but knows Sterling is always solid, along with LaSalle-Peru, and the other side of the conference is tough.
    The Leafs open their season at 5 p.m. Nov. 20 at the UT Quad.
    “We are starting off with a boom right away with Machesney Park Harlem,” said Murray. “This is the first meet and first time some have wrestled a six-minute match. I want to see a good competitive nature. Weaknesses will always be exposed, but competition always helps the guys out with their training.”
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