Geneseo claims third in conference competition, and Billy Blaser earns the NIB 12 285-pound title.

It was Billy Blaser’s dream to have his name added to the wall of the Geneseo wrestling room as an individual champion last year.

This year, Blaser joins an elite group of two time Northern Illinois Big 12 champions.

A senior, Geneseo’s Blaser successfully defended his 285 pound NIB 12 title, and the Maple Leafs earned a third place team finish at the conference meet.

DeKalb (304) won the team title, and Geneseo landed third (122) among a 10 team field held in Sterling on Jan. 26.

Blaser marched his way to the title bout after notching a pair of pins in the quarterfinals and semifinals.

With the 285-pound crown on the line, Blaser believed his improved ability to keep someone pinned down really paid off in the championship match.

Blaser earned a victory by pin in 3:26 to secure a second conference title.

“I’ve been struggling this year with making sure people stay down. That’s one of my issues,” Blaser said to the DeKalb Daily Chronicle. “(It) was kind of a turning point because that shows I can learn because I worked on it all week.”

When Blaser earned the title last season, he won the championship match with an escape to secure a 1-0 victory by decision.

This season, Blaser has worked to become more aggressive and offensive oriented to leave nothing to chance on the biggest stages.

“I feel like I can definitely get better,” Blaser said. “If I keep working, I feel, when I get that state championship that I want, then I’ll feel like there’s no more room, but there’s always room to improve.”

Seeing his first action after returning from a hamstring injury, Andrew Rizzo had the best conference finish of his career.

A senior, Rizzo finished his quarterfinal and semifinal matches with pins before he finished runner-up at 145 pounds.

In his first conference meet, Geneseo’s Anthony Montez battled his way to a runner-up finish.

Montez was defeated by technical fall in the championship match 17-2 against DeKalb’s Ben Aranda.

However, Montez has already proven he belongs among the best in the conference.

“It’s great for a freshman to be at that level already,” Geneseo Coach Jon Murray said. “(Aranda), who beat him in the finals, he’s a solid kid. He could be a 3A place winner this year.”

Geneseo’s Cade Hornback earned a victory by pin in 48 seconds to claim third place at 113 pounds.

The Leafs’ Rob Stohl nabbed a 5-2 decision to land third place at 220 pounds, and Clay DeBaillie came in fourth at 138 pounds.

Geneseo’s Bruce Moore battled his way to a fourth-place finish at 132 pounds, and Luke Henkhaus won the 120-pound fifth-place match with a 17-2 technical fall.

The Maple Leafs’ Eli Allen finished sixth at 182 pounds.

Geneseo’s next matches will be at the Dixon Individual Regional on Saturday, Feb. 2.

With the top three individuals advancing to sectionals in each weight bracket, the Maple Leafs’ individual qualifiers will advance to the Class 2A Geneseo Sectional, on Saturday, Feb. 9 at 9 a.m.