Wrestlers advance to state

Amy Carton
Heading to state are members of the Geneseo wrestling team from left: Ryan Pitra, Hunter Grau, Josiah Cropp, Lane Akre, Brandon Mizlo, Cole Hunzeker, 
Elliot Koster, Antonio Tumbarello, Jon Warner, Justin Scott, Josh Dodge, Jarred Bruce, Cameron Panicucci, Nick Verbeck, Mitch Miller, Joey Medina, Gunner Gaines, AJ Marmion and Clayton Kennedy. The Leafs will next wrestle at the IHSA Dual Team State Tournament Feb. 23 in Bloomington. The squad’s first match is at 9 a.m. against Bloomington.

For the first time in school history, the Geneseo wrestling team is heading to the IHSA Dual Team State Tournament.

The Leafs dominated East Peoria 55-12 in the Rochelle Team Dual Sectional Feb. 19 to earn a spot at the state tournament.

“The kids were on last night,” said head coach Jon Murray. “They just know how to show up and get the job done. They were just there mentally. They were loose, having fun, and I am so proud of them. It is fun to watch those guys.”

Lane Akre (195 pounds) started the night off with an 11-0 major decision win over Justin Doty; while Cameron Panicucci (220-lbs.) defeated Kade McDonald in a 3-1 decision.

Nick Verbeck (285-lbs.) fell in a 17-5 major decision to Lucas Joseph; while Antonio Tumbarello (106-lbs.) helped Geneseo bounce back with a pin in 1 minute and 10 seconds of Phoenix Stuart.

Jon Warner (113-lbs.) was victorious over Zach Hogan in a big way with a 15-0 technical fall victory; followed by Hunter Grau (120-lbs.) with another technical fall victory over Austin Harper, 26-11.

“We did expect to have more close matches than we did, but there was such an energy that we were able to score those big points,” said Murray. “Credit goes to everyone, even to those who lost, but didn’t get pinned.”

Clayton Kennedy (126-lbs.) pinned Shane Pitzer in 3:52; while Josh Dodge (132-lbs.) was defeated by Casey McWhirter by technical fall, 19-4.

Jarred Bruce (138-lbs.) earned a pin over Wolfgang Nelson in 1:34; while Josiah Cropp (145-lbs.) beat Bryce Sandoval in an 8-2 decision.

Joey Medina (152-lbs.) fell in a 7-1 decision to Drew Foster; while Ryan Pitra (160-lbs.) pinned Tony Hall in 4:24.

Brandon Mizlo (170-lbs.) gave Geneseo another pin in 2:23 of Jacob Lovell; while Mitch Miller (182-lbs.) defeated Evan Betz by technical fall, 16-1.

“I don’t know how to put into words how huge this is,” said Murray. “I hope this will add interest and get more kids interested. I hope success will build more success.

“I didn’t think of making history when I was thinking of preseason goals, but we did have a regional championship down. The goal was to be involved in this and everything we do from here on out is a bonus. We just have to take it one match at a time.”

The Leaf wrestlers will begin competition in the state meet at 9 a.m. Feb. 23 against Bloomington at the U.S. Cellular Coliseum in Bloomington.

“Bloomington is a solid program with five individual state qualifiers,” said Murray, who graduated from Bloomington High School. “If we are ready to go like we were last night, I feel pretty confident.”