BLOOMINGTON -- A team filled with youth sometimes makes Geneseo wrestling coach Jon Murray wonder when the inexperience will show.|
In making history, the Maple Leafs displayed a seasoned poise.
Two convincing victories in the Class 2A dual-team state tournament on Saturday at the U.S. Cellular Coliseum eased the concerns Murray felt. Geneseo opened the day with a 38-33 win over Bloomington in the state quarterfinals before rolling to a 58-13 victory against Antioch in the semifinals.
Despite making their first-ever appearance at the state tournament, the Maple Leafs secured a state title shot later in the day.
"Every time I start to get worried, we just keep coming back. I'm so proud of how they can do that," Murray said. "These guys are competitors -- they know how to be 'on'. They just show up every single time. Even when you worry about that low coming off the high, they turn around and show up again."
So many times in the last month, Murray spoke about the confidence he had in his team if Geneseo wrestled to its potential. In the postseason duals, the Maple Leafs are at their peak.
Two of their wins -- East Peoria at the sectional and Antioch in the semifinal -- were by 39 points or more. Geneseo held a 38-9 advantage over Bloomington before forfeiting the last three bouts when the dual was decided.
"We were on fire," Geneseo 152-pound freshman Cole Hunzeker said. "We were jacked."
The Maple Leafs hardly looked like a team that had nine freshmen and sophomores wrestle in the first two duals.
"I knew we could do this," Geneseo 120-pound freshman Hunter Grau said. "We just needed to wrestle as hard as we could."
Wrestling with the savvy of veterans, the Maple Leafs earned four pins and a technical fall in their quarterfinal win. Despite falling behind 13-0 in the semifinal, Geneseo won the final 11 bouts of the dual.
The 58 points tied a Class 2A state record and the seven falls rank second. Ten of Geneseo's 11 wins in the semifinal featured bonus points.
So much for a semifinal letdown.
"We just had to keep our heads up," Grau said. "We stuck through it."
Twelve of the 14 weights earned at least one win in the two duals.
"Solid all the way through," said Murray, who has three seniors in the lineup. "That's why I'm so proud. I feel good about every single kid stepping out there."
Overlooked when the season started three months ago, the Maple Leafs stand one win away from the state championship. Geneseo, which meets top-ranked Lombard Montini in the finals, is guaranteed the school's first non-football state trophy since 1987.
The last time a boys' team won a non-football trophy was 1893.
"I wouldn't be honest if I said that it isn't hard to grasp. It is a little bit," Murray said. "I'm so proud of these guys. It's so fun."
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