GENESEO — A lot of teammates and coaches like to refer to their teams as family, but for two state wrestling qualifiers for Rock Island, and a state-bound competitor and coach for Geneseo, that is literally the case.
Rock Island cousins Victor Guzman (132) and Michael Myers (126) qualified within minutes of each other Saturday for next weekend's state meet, and Geneseo's Anthony Montez (106) was greeted first by his father and assistant coach Jessie Montez after he earned his state date at the Class 2A Geneseo Sectional.
Guzman and Myers both wrestled at the same time in wrestle backs, with Guzman earning a state-sealing pin in 5:16 to be able to cheer on Myers in his state bid, an 8-4 decision. Both lost their final match of the day, but a fourth-place finish allows them to go to state together.
In consolation finals, Guzman fell 9-7 while Myers was a technical fall victim.
"We've been working together on the mat since I was in 7th grade," Myers said. "When one of us is down, the other will be right there to help out. We're constantly pushing each other to be better. I'm so happy to be there with him."
This will be Myers' first trip to state in his senior year, but Guzman was able to make it to state last year as a sophomore.
"It feels great to qualify for state again, but it feels even better to do it again with Michael," Guzman said. "I wanted to get it done with him. When I lost (on Friday), it was definitely an eye opener, but I definitely know I need to wrestle how I normally do. I need to wrestle to win again."
Rock Island head coach Joel Stockwell at times had to separate the two cousins in order for them to learn.
"They wrestle together so much, there's only so much that they can gain from that experience," Stockwell said. "Sometimes they'll crab at each other like brothers, but they bring it back in because of their common goals."
Also qualifying for Rock Island was sophomore Manny Limon (113), who did not win a single match in the regional round his freshman year. Now he has the opportunity to prove himself at state after the 2019 regional champ finished second this weekend.
"I've come so far since my freshman year and put in a lot of work," Limon said. "I look forward to the experience of state and learning even more."
Stockwell said that Limon, a tech fall victim in his title bout, has room to get even better.
"He's still a bit raw, but he is so tough," Stockwell said. "His weight class is a tough weight to win at, and he even was able to defeat a kid who was able to pin him earlier in the year. It's so rewarding to see three kids qualify. The goal is always to get as many kids to go to state."
Anthony Montez, who is just a freshman, is excited to get some state exposure early on in his high school career.
"I've put in a lot of work to get to this stage, and to be able to move on to the state tournament is amazing," Montez said. "The coaches have been there every step of the way for me. Not only am I going to get a great learning experience from qualifying, I'm going to try and win as much as I can."
Montez won in the ultimate tie breaker 3-2 in his wrestle back match to get to state, and jumped into his father's arms to celebrate after the victory. Assistant coach Montez was proud of his son's sectional performance, but credited his work ethic for getting him there.
"I'm very proud of his accomplishments so far, but even more so in how he takes pride in the process of things," Montez said. "Whatever we tell him to do, whether its a new diet or workout, he'll do without question. It's ultimately his decision whether he wants to follow our advice, and he does it well. For him to qualify in a very tough weight class is outstanding."
Jessie Montez was a two-time wrestling state qualifier for Geneseo in 1994-95, placing fourth in his senior season.
Also qualifying for Geneseo was heavyweight senior Billy Blaser, who finished third with a 7-2 decision. Blaser finished fourth at state last February.
"I feel like I'm opening up more on offense," Blaser said. "I wasn't just getting ahead and then stalling. No matter who I'm wrestling against, I know that they have a lot of drive and heart to be where they are."
Blaser also was incredibly grateful for the community of Geneseo for backing him over the course of his career.
"They mean a lot to me," Blaser said. "Even though I'm going five hours away for college (UW-Eau Claire), I'm going to try to be back here as much as I can. They have been so kind and so supportive to me all four years, and not every kid gets that."