BLOOMINGTON --With the state wrestling trophy in hand and the medal draped around his neck, Geneseo 182-pound senior Mitch Miller struggled grasping the moment.|
"This," Miller said. "is school history."
A long-time dream within the program reached reality as soon as the Maple Leafs accepted their Class 2A dual-team state runner-up trophy on Saturday night at the U.S. Cellular Coliseum. For the first time, Geneseo has a state wrestling trophy.
"This is why we do what we do -- to try and get to this level," Geneseo coach Jon Murray said after a 49-10 loss to Lombard Montini in the finals. "It's amazing."
If there ever was a team who truly was happy with a silver medal, Geneseo was that team. A program that had its last state bid end with the cancellation of the state series 18 years ago finally had its moment.
The Maple Leafs won the school's first non-football state trophy in 26 years. It had been 120 years -- yes, more than a century -- since a boys' team from the school won a non-football state trophy.
Ending the drought was a team few thought would reach this level when the season started.
"This is crazy," Geneseo 170-pound junior Brandon Mizlo said. "It's like a dream."
What made the day so special was a group that formed a bond that seemed unbreakable. Murray said the "team camaraderie" is what he will remember most about this season. Wins were special, but the type of people he coached is lasting.
From the starters to the reserves, this truly was a team. The coaching staff saw a group who took more pride in the team succeeding than individual success.
That explains how this group could finish as the state runner-up with one state medalist and two other state qualifiers on the roster.
"I knew that I could count on them to be ready," Murray said. "It got to the point where I had to stay out of the way."
All that kept the Maple Leafs from a perfect ending was Montini, which won its sixth consecutive state title and 11th since 2000. The top-ranked Broncos secured bonus points in seven of their 10 wins, but did not have a fall until the last two bouts.
Mizlo ended Montini's five-bout win streak to start the dual with a 9-3 win. Nick Verbeck (285) earned a decision win and Jon Warner (113) capped the night with a major decision.
When it was all done, the only pain the team felt was the season being over.
"This feels pretty darn cool," Murray said.
The best part? Twelve of the 15 wrestlers who took the mat return next season.
"I hope it feeds off itself, adds excitement," Murray said.
Making history tends to do that.
"A happy moment," Miller said. "Unreal."
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