Geneseo's Billy Blaser earned a fourth-place finish at state and Anthony Montez competed at state as a freshman.

Billy Blaser’s fourth-place finish at the IHSA Class 2A wrestling tournament carried more meaning than when he placed fourth at 285 pounds at state a year ago.

“It means a lot more than it did last year,” Blaser said. “I went out placing two times in a row. I wanted the state championship, but the ability to place two years in a row and make history means a lot to me.”

After falling in the opening round against Westville’s Hayden Copass 7-3 at state, Blaser felt the pressure melt away as the tournament shifted to the win or go home wrestlebacks on Feb. 16.

“It actually helped to lose that first match,” Blaser said. “It made me feel more in control of the matches I wrestled because my back was against the wall. If one thing went wrong, my season could have been over. I didn’t want that to happen.”

A senior, Blaser won by pin over Alex Diaz in 1:54 in the first-round consolation match.

In the second round, Blaser won in an ultimate tiebreaker 3-2 against Freeport Isaiah Batteast.

Blaser paved his way to the third-place match with pins over Marian’s Thor Paglialong (1:04) and Eisenhower’s Caleb Guise (4:33).

“He had a streak where he came on and was better than I have ever seen him,” Geneseo Coach Jon Murray said. “I certainly saw him peak at the state tournament for his prep career.”

Blaser finished fourth after he was defeated in the third-place match 3-2 against Lake Villa’s Jack Brunati, and Blaser finished the season with a 40-7 record.

However, Murray believes the strength of the Class 2A bracket speaks shows what kind of accomplishment a fourth-place finish represents.

“Aydin Guttridge who won the 3A bracket, Billy beat him this year at the Hinsdale tournament,” Murray said. “I would say any of the top guys in Billy’s bracket could have won the 3A bracket this year.”

After a rough start to his first match at state, Geneseo’s Anthony Montez came roaring back in the third period but was defeated by decision 13-7 by Sean Conway from Chicago St. Patrick in the 106-pound bracket.

Just a few points away from a technical fall against Conway, Montez scored six points in the final period. He was able to get Conway on his back for a near fall but ran out of time before he could finish off the comeback effort.

During his first round wrestleback match, Montez earned a 1-0 win by decision over Brandon Edelen-Hultz of Oak Forest.

In the second round of wrestlebacks, Montez was eliminated by Mattoon’s Coby Haney after falling by decision, 12-6.

“Sometimes you see freshmen get starstruck a little bit and not be at their best,” Murray said. “I feel like Anthony was ready to go and able to perform at his best. He’s going to just keep getting better over the next three years because of his work ethic and the year-round training he does.”