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Rock Island wrestler Victor Guzman is this week's Dispatch-Argus-QCOnline Metro Pacesetter. The junior is 27-1 this season and hopes to add his name the list of Rocky wrestlers who have placed at the state tournament.

ROCK ISLAND — Victor Guzman remembers the disappointments and the doubts leading into a mid-January weekend two years ago.

“Coming in as a freshman, and wrestling seniors and juniors is hard,” the Rock Island junior said. “I did have a lot of close matches that year, losing to ranked guys, but I finally knew I belonged when I won at a really good tournament like Geneseo. It really boosted my confidence. I knew then I could compete with the best guys.”

Fast forward to the eve of another Bi-State Invitational, and Guzman is undeniably one of those “guys” now heading into Geneseo’s 44th annual throwdown.

This week’s Metro Pacesetter for The Dispatch-Argus-QCOnline is ranked second statewide in Class 2A at 132 pounds.

Guzman sports a 26-1 record and rates among the local leaders in pins (15), major decisions (three) and technical falls (two) after winning his second tournament title in as many weeks last weekend at Sycamore.

Now, the two-time Geneseo finalist looks to add a second Bi-State crown to his resume, following up that mark-making title claimed as a freshman.

“Geneseo is just my favorite tournament because of all the ranked competition coming from both Iowa and Illinois,” said Guzman, who also won at the Lincoln Holiday Tourney before New Year’s Eve with four pins and a major decision in a 5-0 title run.

“But what I really like is, because it’s so close to home, a lot more family members are able to come watch. You can’t say that about every tournament because they’re all so far out of town.”

The eldest of four brothers thrilled his family by winning his Geneseo final two years ago by pin, but came up short, 7-5 in last year’s title tilt to Reese Heller of Chicago Heights Marian, who a month later finished fifth at state.

“I felt like I wrestled well,” Guzman said about that setback. “I just felt like that was the kind of match I’d have at state since he also was ranked.”

Unfortunately, the experience failed to pay off.

“Going to state and not placing last year because of a tough seed really motivated me for this year,” said Guzman, who was one-and-done after a first-round state loss to another ranked foe.

“I want to do more than just get back there this year. I want to get on that podium. I want to be standing on top.”

Right now, the biggest threat to those wishes is the only competitor ranked ahead of Guzman, Coal City senior Alex Friddle.

Guzman is in the same Geneseo Sectional as Friddle, who handed the Rocky standout his lone loss this season, 10-2 at the Downers Grove South Dual Tournament. At the time of that early December event, both were ranked No. 1 at their weight, with Friddle moving up from 126 to face Guzman.

“I went in cautious,” Guzman said. “Neither of us wanted to make a mistake. But, that’s no way to wrestle. That’s wrestling not to lose instead of wrestling to win.”

Rocky coach Joel Stockwell could relate, having experienced the same feelings while earning four state medals including a 1992 state title at Riverdale.

“I felt like I was wrestling badly the first few weeks, and it’s because I wasn’t aggressive. He said he went through the same thing his senior year,” after winning the state title, Guzman said. “So he told me to just relax and let it fly, and I have ever since.”

In turn, that attitude has trickled down to Guzman’s team, which last week snapped a 29-dual meet, Western Big 6 Conference winning streak for five-time defending league champion Moline.

“It meant a lot to beat them. It means a lot any time we face them because they are a rival so there’s always a big crowd,” said Guzman, who decisioned state-rated Isaac Martinez in that dual. “Beating them says we’re growing as a team. We have a lot of young kids who are getting better and better. The future looks bright and our present looks pretty good, too.”

Guzman’s in particular.

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