Blaser and Montez reach state wrestling tournament.

The Maple Leafs’ Billy Blaser earned a return trip to the state wrestling tournament, and the Maple Leafs’ Anthony Montez earned his first state berth at the Class 2A Geneseo Sectional Tournament on Feb. 9.

A fourth-place finisher at the state tournament last season, Blaser put together a 40-1 record during the regular season last year.

This season, Blaser feels he’s flying under the radar after he finished the sectional tournament with a third-place finish at 285 pounds.

A senior, Blaser retooled his style to be more aggressive, and he feels ready to see the work he’s put in this season pay off at the state tournament.

“If people don’t expect you to win, it really drives you more,” Blaser said. “You want to prove them wrong.”

Blaser won his quarterfinal match with a pin in 1:49, but was defeated in the semifinal by Freeport’s Isaiah Batteast in a 3-2 tiebreaker.

After winning his wrestleback match to advance to state with a pin in 1:18, Blaser finished the tournament with a 7-2 win by decision to claim third place.

A freshman, Montez upset Coal City’s Evan Rivera in the quarterfinal round with a comeback 5-4 victory by decision at 106 pounds.

After Montez was defeated in the semifinal round by eventual runner-up Alex Crawford, Montez won his wrestleback match 3-2 in an overtime-ultimate tiebreaker to earn a state berth.

“We put in a lot of work in the room and our conditioning is one of the best things about our team,” Montez said. “Everyone on our team has great conditioning. If we lose, it’s because we got outwrestled. We never lose because we run out of gas.”

With a fourth-place finish at sectionals, Montez believes having faced such a talented group at 106 pounds gave him a taste of what to expect at state.

After wrestling his way to a state berth at the Illinois Kids Wrestling Federation State tournament last year, Montez has set his sights on bringing home a state medal as a freshman.

Geneseo had a pair of underclassmen finish a win away from reaching state.

The Maple Leafs’ Bruce Moore won a 4-2 decision at 132 pounds in the opening round.

After suffering a 6-0 defeat by decision, Moore won a 3-1 bout by decision in the wrestleback matches.

Moore added another win in the wrestleback matches with a 6-4 win by sudden victory in overtime before being eliminated one match away from earning a state berth.

Geneseo’s Clay DeBaillie won his first round match with a 5-0 decision at 138 pounds, and he reached the semifinals with a 7-4 victory by decision.

After being knocked into the wrestlebacks, DeBaillie was eliminated after a 4-2 defeat by decision.

Geneseo’s Cade Hornbeck won his opening round match 11-0 by major decision at 113 pounds, but he was knocked into the wrestlebacks following the quarterfinal round.

Hornbeck won his first wrestleback match by pin in 1:45 before being eliminated by a 5-2 decision.

The Maple Leafs’ Eli Allen earned a 1-0 win by decision at 182 pounds before being eliminated in his wrestleback match with a 2-1 sudden victory.

Montez and Blaser will begin their state tournament bids at the State Farm Center in Champaign on Thursday, Feb. 14.