Sports don’t offer a lot of do overs.
Sports don’t offer a lot of do overs.
However, the Maple Leafs ‘Hunter Grau earned a second chance against Rockford Boylan’s Alexander Butler on wrestling’s biggest stage — the state championship.
Following a 5-4 decision at the Sterling Sectional, Grau had the toughest path to the 2A state championship at the 138-weight class facing both the No. 2 and No. 3 seeds.
Waiting for Grau in the championship was the top seeded Butler with a 43-0 record.
Grau made the most of his second opportunity winning a 5-3 overtime decision to win the state title.
“I knew when that overtime came I had to pursue and get what I wanted,” Grau said.
A junior, Grau became the second Geneseo wrestler in the schools’ history to earn a state title following Adam Sheley’s victory in 2009.
For the second consecutive season, Geneseo brought home multiple state medalists.
“The atmosphere at state helps everybody there realize what we are working for when we are in the trenches in the wrestling room,” Geneseo coach Jon Murray said. “To do what you do in front of 10,000 people at the State Farm Center, it pays off. I want the kids to realize if you put the work in even on the dogs days when nobody is watching, someday they will be watching you and it will all pay off.”
The Maple Leafs’ Lane Akre battled back for a third-place finish at 220.
Akre began the state meet with a major decision but was toppled in a 4-3 decision in the second round by Al’lon Carter from Riverside-Brookfield.
Akre would win his next three matches in the consolation bracket to reach the third place match and win a 3-1 decision in overtime. “Every match is a toss up,” Akre said. “Once you get to state, everyone is good. There are no for sure wins or for sure losses. You just have to go out and fight.”
Josiah Cropp won his opening round match in an 8-0 decision at 160, but was defeated in the second round by Kordell Norfleet from Chicago Heights Marian in a tight 8-5 decision.
In the consolation rounds, Cropp bounced back winning his next three matches to reach the third-place bout, but the senior was defeated in a 5-0 decision landing fourth.
It’s the second season Cropp returned from state with a medal and thinks the Maple Leafs’ success just breeds more success.
“We have partners in the wrestling room who we take down to the individual state tournament,” Cropp said. “Coming home with medals is a big deal going into team state. I think it really boosts our morale and makes us better in the room when we know we are wrestling against state caliber-people.”
After an opening round loss at 170, Cole Hunzeker fought his way back to a sixth-place finish.
“Once you are in the consolation rounds, you know you have to keep fighting for your spot,” Hunzeker said. “You know you are facing the best wrestlers in the state. You have to win it by determination, heart and guts.”
Senior Joey Medina won his opening round match at 152 with a 6-0 decision.
Medina was knocked out of the championship round by technical fall against Chicago Heights Marian’s Jose Champagne who brought a 36-0 record into the state finals.
In the consolation round, Medina lost a hard fought 2-1 decision against Jake Wright from Grayslake North.
During his senior season, Medina took a risk dropping weight and earned his first state berth at weight 152.
“The coaches told me you see an open door you go through it,” Medina said. “I wanted to go out with a bang my senior year. It felt pretty good to have it end down in Champaign and it was the right move to get myself in that position.”
Ryan Pitra led his opening round match 6-2 at 182 pounds, but Javier Soto forced the match into overtime with a takedown in the waining seconds of the match.
Soto completed his comeback with another takedown in overtime for a 10-8 decision.
Still bothered by a back injury, Pitra bounced back with a pin in the consolation round in 5:59. In the next round, Pitra was knocked out following a 5-1 decision.