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Geneseo Republic - Geneseo, IL
  • Historic Finish: Leafs earn runner-up honors at state finals

  • It was a celebration of pure joy as Geneseo's grapplers wrestled their way into school history.

    GHS wrestlers were all smiles as they claimed runner- up honors at the Feb. 23 IHSA Dual Team State Finals in Bloomington despite falling to Lombard Montini, 49-10 in the championship match.
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  • It was a celebration of pure joy as Geneseo's grapplers wrestled their way into school history.
    GHS wrestlers were all smiles as they claimed runner- up honors at the Feb. 23 IHSA Dual Team State Finals in Bloomington despite falling to Lombard Montini, 49-10 in the championship match.
    The Leafs ended this season with several firsts including: advancing to the team dual state finals, placing at the state finals, tying the IHSA record for most team points scored in the dual team state tournament, and being the highest placing GHS team in any sport outside of football.
    "I am very proud and absolutely grateful for this experience," said head coach Jon Murray. "These guys deserve it because they have worked hard all year and they have a great team unity."
    Geneseo started off action at the state finals in dominating fashion as they defeated Bloomington 38-33. The Leafs led 38-15 with three matches to go and decided to forfeit the final three, but still earned the win.
    Hunter Grau (120 pounds) overpowered Jack Henderson in the first match of the day to win by technical fall, 26-10 in 5 minutes and 47 seconds. Clayton Kennedy (126-lbs.) grabbed a 4-0 decision win over Austin Carrol, while Josh Dodge (132-lbs.) was pinned by Sevonte McGrown in :41.
    Jarred Bruce (138-lbs.) suffered a 16-9 decision loss to Casey Wyatt, but Josiah Cropp (145-lbs.) helped the Leafs rebound with a 9-3 win over Kyonn Keith to lead 11-9.
    Joey Medina (152-lbs.) earned a pin of Kyle Ridgeway in 3:20, while Ryan Pitra (160-lbs.) pulled out a 3-1 decision win over Tre Sims to give Geneseo the 20-9 advantage.
    Brandon Mizlo (170-lbs.) pinned Ethan Henderson in 5:49, followed by Mitch Miller (182-lbs.) who took care of Tyron Jolly with a pin in 1:01.
    Lane Akre (195-lbs.) was pinned by Austin Weltha in 3:41, while Cameron Panicucci (220-lbs.) countered with a pin of Darius Summers in 1:49 to put Geneseo up 38-15.
    The Leafs decided to forfeit their 285-lb., 106-lb. and 113-lb. matches for the 38-33 win.
    "These guys show up every single match and kept coming back every round," said Murray. "They were ready to go. They wanted this."
    Geneseo advanced to the semifinals where the Leafs met Antioch and earned a convincing 58-13 victory to send Geneseo into the finals.
    Antioch took the early lead with wins in the first three bouts. Antioch's Chris Ruth defeated Kennedy (126-lbs.) in a 14-5 major decision; and Michael Gussarson pinned Dodge (132-lbs.) in 3:38. Johnny Denikas gave Antioch its third win over Bruce (138-lbs.) in a 9-2 decision for the 13-0 lead.
    Cropp (145-lbs.) put the Leafs on the board with a 14-6 major decision win over Tyler Stephens for a 13-4 score, while Cole Hunzeker (152-lbs.) came out in his first match of the tournament and pinned Kenneth Strohman in 3:19.
    Page 2 of 3 - Pitra (160-lbs.) gave the Leafs the lead 16-13 with a pin of Joe VanDiest in 2:34, while Mizlo (170-lbs.) notched another pin for Geneseo in 1:46 over Justin Miller.
    Miller (182-lbs.) overpowered Lukas Poplevicius in an 18-3 technical fall victory; followed by Akre (195-lbs.) who escaped with a 4-3 decision win over Julio Ramirez.
    Panicucci (220-lbs.) earned a pin of Dylan McBride in 3:59, while Nick Verbeck (285-lbs.) captured a pin in his first match over Kyle Nicholas in 3:59 to put Geneseo up 42-13.
    "This was a really great experience and exciting," said Panicucci. "The first team ever to make it to state is a big deal. I am happy with my performance and it was a great way to end my senior season."
    Antonio Tumbarello (106-lbs.) pinned Nathan Dlugopolski in 1:48; followed by Jon Warner (113-lbs.) with a 14-4 major decision win over Briley Schultz. Grau (120-lbs.) capped off the match with a pin of Austin Ellis in 3:15.
    In the championship match, the Leafs squared off against a tough Lombard Montini squad, which won its last five appearances at the state dual tournament and had 13 state qualifiers, eight wrestlers in the finals and four state champs at the individual state tournament. Montini was too much for the Leafs to handle and earned the title with a 49-10 victory.
    Dodge (132-lbs.) suffered a 25-10 technical fall loss in the opening match to Jordan Laster, followed by Bruce (138-lbs.), who fell in an 18-5 major decision to Jose Champagne.
    "Win or lose, we were just so proud of those guys," said Murray. "We were just having fun. They did what they needed to do and they had a blast with it. That is what helped with our success and they were motivated to do even better."
    Cropp (145-lbs.) was defeated by technical fall, 22-7 in 5:38 by Michael Sepke, while Medina (152-lbs.) fell in a 13-5 major decision to Luke Fortuna; and Pitra (160-lbs.) lost his bout in a 26-11 technical fall in 5:54 to Xavier Montalvo.
    Mizlo (170-lbs.) gave Geneseo its first win of the match as he defeated Michael Maduko in a 9-3 decision for a 23-3 score.
    "I am very excited," said Mizlo. "This was something we dreamt about all year and we finally got it. It is a lot to take in. Montini is a tough team and for us to take second our first time here is an accomplishment."
    Miller (182-lbs.) was defeated by Jake Turk in an 18-3 technical fall in 3:34, while Akre (195-lbs.) was edged by Anthony Ferraro in a 5-3 decision; and Panicucci (220-lbs.) fell in a 9-5 decision to Edgar Ruano.
    Verbeck (285-lbs.) narrowly defeated David Sarkan in a 3-2 decision, while Tumbarello (106-lbs.) fell in a 6-1 decision to James Pawelski for a 37-6 score.
    Page 3 of 3 - Warner (113-lbs.) grabbed a major decision win over George Benes, 18-6 to cut Montini's lead to 37-10, but the Leafs dropped the final two matches — Grau (120-lbs.) was pinned in 3:34 by Thomas Pawelski; and Kennedy (126-lbs.) was pinned in 3:28 by Vincent Turk.
    "I couldn't be prouder," said Murray. "I hope this continues to build the program, and shows if you keep working great things can happen.
    "We had such a great crowd. Our crowd was the louder and better crowd. It was incredible to see."
    The Leafs end the season with a record of 24-3.
    "This season was amazing," said Murray. "To place second is just amazing. We overachieved my goals, and I am absolutely ecstatic.
    "No, I never thought this is where we would go at the beginning season. I thought we could win our side of the conference, win a regional and a dual meet to go to state. It all just fell together.
    "A lot of the younger guys were able to experience dual state and hopefully that will motivate them more to get there next year."

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