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Geneseo Republic - Geneseo, IL
  • Verbeck’s determination pays off with multiple state honors

  • Going from the child who always was cut or picked last to a three-time All-Stater and a four-time state medalist in a single year, Geneseo’s Nick Verbeck let his actions speak volumes.
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  • Going from the child who always was cut or picked last to a three-time All-Stater and a four-time state medalist in a single year, Geneseo’s Nick Verbeck let his actions speak volumes.
    “Being a kid who was always cut and never picked for teams to now being a three-time All-Stater and having four state medals my senior year is crazy,” said Verbeck.
    “It is kind of something really special to even have the opportunity I had at state meets either individually or as a team. I couldn’t have asked for a better senior year.”
    Verbeck is the first athlete to earn All-State honors in three different sports — football, wrestling and track.
    Verbeck always has been a three-sport athlete, but it wasn’t always football, wrestling and track. Verbeck started his high school career playing football, basketball and baseball until his sophomore year when he made the decision to switch from two sports he loved to wrestling and track.
    “I surprised myself,” he said. “ I wanted to be a basketball player, but a couple days into practice my sophomore year it just wasn’t the same. I always had grown up playing baseball, but when I knew I had a chance to play varsity football I realized baseball wasn’t helping me with football.
    “It is crazy how much has changed. Those were two of the best choices I made.”
    Verbeck said he started his senior year with high goals of making multiple trips to the state finals.
    “I definitely thought we could make it in football and wrestling, and I wasn’t sure about track, but I just wanted to qualify,” he said. “After (making it to state in) football everything kept rolling.
    “Last summer, I wrote all my goals for football of where I wanted to be physically, in the classroom and for the team. Playing in the state championship was one of them. We knew we could do something special and if we put it together we could do it.”
    The one football moment from this season that sticks out in Verbeck’s mind was the Rockford Lutheran semifinal game when the Green Machine won 35-7 to advance to state.
    “I can’t really describe it. I never really cried tears of happiness,” he said. “One of the best moments was hugging my dad. To know we made a mark on Geneseo football with the 51st consecutive winning season and the 10th state berth. I was able to see all the hard work and hours pay off.
    Page 2 of 3 - “To be able to share this experience with my dad was special because I always had my dad there.”
    His father, Ryan Verbeck, was a member of Geneseo’s 1990 state runner-up team. Ryan’s own father never got to see him play.
    Verbeck said the subject of the state championship game is never an easy topic because he knows how close they got to a state title, but realizes he was lucky to have the opportunity.
    The Green Machine fell to Rochester, 16-8 to earn runner-up honors.
    “Being able to compete at a that high level I need to be grateful for,” he said. “Being at NIU was awesome. We had Rochester on their heels the whole game, and we just played our game. The result was not what we wanted, but everyone left everything they had on the field.”
    A few months later, Verbeck found himself in the state finals twice this time for wrestling.
    Verbeck placed fourth in the state at the IHSA Individual State Wrestling Finals at 285 pounds.
    “(Individual State) was an awesome experience,” he said. “The year started off shaky, but, at regionals, I got hot, and sectionals I pinned a guy who beat me at conference. Wrestling at that high level I placed behind guys who are going to Nebraska and Purdue. It was cool to say I was able to wrestle with the best.”
    A few weeks later, Verbeck joined the rest of his Leaf teammates at the Team Dual State Final where the Leafs took home second place for a second straight year, falling to Montini in the championship, 49-21.
    “Last year, people were saying we got lucky with the draw with Montini on the other side and East Peoria not being tough so we still felt like we had something to prove,” he said. “We had a tough sectional (this year) with Lincoln Way West, and then we beat Simeon who was undefeated and Oak Forest was ranked third and we blew them out. Montini is a powerhouse and there is not much you can do.
    “To be at state two years in a row is something that the powerhouse teams do and it is good for us to be there.”
    After wrestling, Verbeck headed into track season with another trip to state in his sights.
     Verbeck advanced to the state finals in the shot put and discus. He reached the podium to earn his fourth state medal of the year in the shot put with a seventh-place finish on a throw of 52-0.
    “Last year was a heartbreaker just missing going to state, so to go this year was a really cool experience,” said Verbeck. “I had my eye on five state medals, but just came up short. To get one-of-two track medals and four-out-of-five is unbelieveable. Five state medals in one year is ridiculous, but to almost reach that is really cool.
    Page 3 of 3 - “To be All-State in three sports is a huge accomplishment for me. I am just in awe. All the awards and accolades are awesome, but I realize that was my prep career and now I have to keep the same mentality and apply that to collegiate career and I hope it goes the same way.”
    Verbeck will continue his football career next fall at Truman State University.
    “My advice to other athletes would be don’t be afraid to dream big and do what feels right to you,” he said. “Do it to the best of your ability and don’t take anything for granted because you don’t know when it can be taken away from you. Work hard and do the extra stuff. Your coaches are there for you and have your best interest in mind. Anything is possible.
    “We have the best staff at GHS who are so supportive. I am very fortunate to have grown up and played in Geneseo.
    “If I would have to do it all over again, I would do the same thing. I still love baseball and basketball, but wrestling and track were the best for football and helped me mature physically and mentally. I am happy with how my four years went.”
     

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