GENESEO -- Geneseo’s Billy Blaser faced tough competition most every day in practice last year in the form of Geneseo 285-pounder Sam Thomas.
On Saturday, he had to make Geneseo grad Thomas proud, winning the Geneseo Invitational 285-pound championship, just as Thomas did a year ago.
“Me and him were often training together, as much as we could,” said Blaser, a 3-1 winner Saturday in the championship match over Josh Vis of Cedar Rapids Kennedy. “It was always a battle between us. There was no quit in either of us.”
That attitude had to come in handy for Blaser, the lone Quad-City area champion at the prestigious 43rd annual tournament. He had a near fall at the end of the second period to grab a 2-0 lead but ran out of time to get the pin.
“I did (have a near fall), but as I was getting my arm bar in the back I was nearly able to bring him to his back, but time wasn’t on my side for that one,” Blaser (26-1), a junior, said.
“If he had more time, I think he would have (got the pin),” said Leaf coach Jon Murray. “I am really happy for him. He deserves it. He’s pretty solid, that’s for sure.”
Blaser was the lone local winner on a day when four other area wrestlers took home second — Rock Island’s Victor Guzman at 132, and North Scott’s Collin Lewis at 145, Jacob Matthaidess at 160 and Zach Petersen at 220.
“Knowing I am the only local one means so much to me,” said Blaser. “That means I am shining out in our local area. That’s something I really want to keep doing.”
North Scott finished third with 183.5 points behind New Lenox Providence, which won its third straight invite title, and Cedar Rapids Prairie. The Lancers also got thirds from Caleb McCabe at 126 and Deven Strief at 138.
“It’s a tough tournament,” said North Scott coach Drew Kelly. “You get in the finals, every match can be tough.”
The closest Lancer match was Petersen’s 7-5 loss at 220. The fifth-ranked wrestler in 3A in Iowa trailed the No. 2 ranked in Illinois’ Class 3A, New Lenox Providence's Logan Anderson, 4-3 entering the final period.
“He had his opportunities there,” Kelly said. “Being aggressive got (him) hit with a headlock there in the second period. He had his chance. He was on the attack late in the match and had an opportunity to send it to overtime. He wrestled aggressively.”
Overall, Kelly seemed OK with the day, although he lost two wrestlers to injuries.
“We had eight guys in the top four,” he noted. “It’s always a tough tournament. Overall, pretty solid. We still have work to do.”
Guzman getting second in a tourney he won at 126 a year ago may show just how tough the tourney is. the Rock Island wrestler lost 7-5 to the wiry, long and strong Reese Heller of Chicago Heights Marian in the championship at 132.
“That’s a good kid, a quality kid from a quality program,” Rock Island coach Joel Stockwell said. “He caught Victor off-guard early, got that first takedown. We were kind of battling back the whole rest of the match. I think we kind of wore ourselves out.”
Rock Island finished 11th in the 17-team field with 64 points. United Township, led by Trevelle Teague’s fifth place at 120, placed 14th with 36.
The Rocks also got a fifth from Jaiden VanCoille at 160.
Geneseo took ninth in its own invite, getting fourth-place finishes from Andrew Rizzo at 138 and Joe Stohl at 220.
“Obviously, finishing on a high note,” Murray said regarding Blaser winning the championship bout at 285, “makes you feel a lot better. But I am happy with them. I think everybody gave everything they had, and we learned, and we got the competition that we needed. And we use it to continue to improve.”