Markus Murphy was given no respect.|
The regional and sectional wrestling brackets illustrate that.
In the last two weeks, the United Township 170-pound senior won both postseason tournaments with the bracket spelling his first name wrong. Marcus, not Markus, Murphy was the champion.
"I thought that was pretty funny," Murphy said. "Technically I didn't win anything."
The error was noticed before he entered the Class 2A Rochelle Sectional, but his name still was incorrect.
"It's a common mistake everybody makes," Murphy said. "It's not a big deal to me. As long as they know I won, I'm fine."
Will the real Markus Murphy please stand up? Well, the last two weeks, Murphy has stood tall.
"He has turned it up," UT coach Lambros Fotos said. "He's wrestling to his potential."
All of that started with two losses.
In a 48-hour span late last month, Murphy suffered a losses to Rock Island's Michael Cole and Quincy's Dakota Downs in Western Big 6 Conference matches to close the regular season. Entering the regional having lost two out of his previous three bouts, most figured he would take third and quietly advance to the sectional.
Murphy then topped Geneseo junior Brandon Mizlo and then Cole in the semifinal and championship, respectively, to win the Class 2A Rock Island Regional title.
One week later, he outlasted Cole by an 10-8 decision to win the Class 2A Rochelle Sectional title. It was the first time in 11 years that a UT wrestler won a sectional.
"It still confuses me right now," Murphy said. "I've been replaying all of the matches in my head and realized all of the hard work is paying off. I don't know how I beat Cole (on Saturday). I think it was a luck thing, but I'm OK with that."
Winning a regional could be considered lucky.
Earning a sectional championship is legit.
"He's just stepping up and wrestling well. That's it," Fotos said. "The regional and sectional, that shows how well he's doing. He's doing the right things. He's got one more week to go. He's got the ability to bring back some hardware."
Inside the UT wrestling room, everyone is confident Murphy can earn a medal. What hinders others from believing, that goes beyond a misspelled name, is his height.
Listed at 5-feet-5, Murphy competes in a class reserved for power forwards on a basketball court. Each time he takes the mat, he dwarfs his opponent.
Again, that may lead to no respect.
"I'm wondering how I could weigh 170 pounds. But I make up for height with heart, courage and determination," Murphy said. "People underestimate me. Sometimes, I underestimate myself. But the people who believe in me help me win."
Fotos, a former UT state champion, has Murphy's back.
"He's got the potential to do very well," Fotos said. "He's a tough kid. Anything he does doesn't surprise me."
Murphy, though, wants a surprise. He opens the Class 2A state tournament on Thursday against Oak Park Fenwick's DubemIkedionwu. Based on how the bracket falls, Murphy is seeded third.
In his mind, he can reach the finals.
"You know, that sounds crazy but I think it can happen," Murphy said. "If I keep working the way I have been and keep my focus, there possibily could be an upset if I'm considered an underdog."
Take a quick glance at the bracket. Murphy already is an underdog.
Marcus Murphy made the 170-pound bracket.
"Markus with a 'K' can sit on the sidelines and cheer for Marcus with a 'C,'" Murphy said. "That's the way I see it. That's a pun there."
Then the real Markus Murphy stood up.
"But," Murphy said, "it should be Markus with a 'K' who ends up with that state final bracket."
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