Stevenson's Geick is out to make a difference

Updated 3/4/2017 8:12 PM
  • Stevenson's Dylan Geick, right, battles Marmion Academy's Nate Jimenez durng the Class 3A semifinals in the wrestling state tournament in Champaign.

      Stevenson's Dylan Geick, right, battles Marmion Academy's Nate Jimenez durng the Class 3A semifinals in the wrestling state tournament in Champaign. John Starks | Staff Photographer

You don't want to wrestle Dylan Geick. You don't want the Stevenson senior eyeballing you, tugging at your singlet and tumbling to the mat with you.

And, no, not because of that reason.

You don't want to wrestle Dylan Geick because you'll probably bruise and lose.

"Last year, before I was out, there were kids who didn't want to wrestle me," Geick says, "because they were afraid to get hurt."

Geick is confident, athletic, combative, smart, talented, mature -- and openly gay.

If you don't like it, you don't have to. Geick understands, and he doesn't care. Because when he wrestles, he thinks only about how to destroy you. And considering he placed fourth in the state in Class 3A at 160 pounds each of the last two seasons, suffice it to say, he destroys a lot of opponents.

He's so good -- not only on the mat (42-3 record this season) but in the classroom as well -- that he's going to wrestle for Ivy League-member Columbia University in New York.

Yes, ahem, they know.

And, if they don't already, his opponents will know too.

Bring them on. Geick -- who first revealed his sexual orientation in an article written by Grace Westphal of Stevenson's student newspaper, The Statesman, last month -- didn't get this far in wrestling by being afraid. If he's willing to come out of the closet and post pictures of him and his boyfriend on his Instagram account, he's willing to knock the closet door off its hinges and say he's a proud member of the LGBTQ community.

Besides, if you had his biceps, there's probably not a lot that would scare you.

"I'm happy to take on the mantle (in college)," Geick says. "It's something I'll have to deal with maybe ... probably. But I'm ready to go. I'm going (to Columbia) to wrestle, and that's what I'm going to do. If anyone wants to be a jerk about it, they're going to get ignored ... or lose."

One day last spring, Geick decided he had been in the closet long enough. He and his boyfriend, Grant, had been dating for a couple of weeks. No one knew.

"I just didn't like it. It was getting on my nerves," Geick says. "One day at lunch with like five girls, somehow it came up and, as a joke, they said, 'When are you coming out, Dylan?' I said, 'Actually, I might as well come out because I'm gay.' They thought I was kidding."

He wasn't laughing. He and Stevenson wrestling coach Shane Cook talked privately. Geick says Cook told him if there was to be a situation where an opponent tried to get under his skin about his sexual orientation, Geick had to keep his cool. Other than that, Cook assured Geick, everything else stayed the same. The goal was still winning a state title. His teammates supported him, Geick says.

There are haters, however. There are people who are simply uncomfortable with a gay wrestler wrestling a straight wrestler. This is the ultimate contact sport, after all.

"I get random kids commenting on it on my Instagrams," Geick says. "But if you understand the sport, you know the level of aggression and controlled violence. The level is so far removed from that whole realm of sexuality that I don't think it really bothers (other wrestlers). There was concern from me that kids would maybe not want to wrestle because they weren't comfortable, but it never happened."

Geick says he grew up with "a lot of aggression." He first tried hockey, but since players weren't allowed to hit each other, he didn't like it. So he switched to taekwondo, but there wasn't enough contact with that sport either. He then gave MMA a try in third grade, loved it, and by fifth grade was wrestling.

Your typical boy, right?

"There's always been another side to me, more than just the athlete," says Geick, a 'Lord of the Rings' fan who wears a thick gold ring on a chain around his neck. "I'm very into music, art, literature."

That's why when he came out, it all made sense to him. Of course he's gay.

Of course his mom, Kelly, figured it out.

"My mom was super accepting, super OK with everything," Geick says. "She was a professional ballerina, so she had plenty of gay friends -- and she's worked in the health-club industry. What's funny is, I'm super masculine. My brother (Mason) is an artist. He has some feminine qualities. He lives in L.A. We all thought when he went to L.A. maybe then ... but no. He's 100 percent straight."

Geick adds that his stepdad, Tom, and biological dad, Steve, are also supportive.

So, too, is Columbia wrestling coach Zach Tanelli. Geick visited Columbia's campus last fall. At the time, Geick was "fully out" as revealed on his Instagram account.

"I didn't know what he knew," Geick says of Tanelli. "I went into the trip in the closet again because I didn't want to tell anyone who didn't know, because I was a little nervous. But I also wasn't going to hide it necessarily, so I was in this weird place."

While on the visit, Geick and Tanelli were walking and talking after lunch in the middle of Manhattan.

"He was like, 'There's so much cultural and ethnical diversity here. You'll see people of all kinds, all sexualities,' " Geick says. "When he was saying this, I thought, 'He knows. And he's letting me know that it's OK.' "

Tanelli didn't know. He had no idea.

But after Geick told his story to, after The Statesman article ran, Tanelli called Geick. Funny enough, Tanelli told him he only "vaguely" remembered their conversation about diversity that one day in New York. Tanelli called only to tell Geick that he saw the story and that he still wanted him to wrestle for Columbia.

So that's the plan. Geick is going to wrestle for the Lions, maybe pursue a degree in English and not hide who he is.

Since his story became national, Geick has picked up 7,000 followers on Instagram. It's crazy. Maybe his story, some day, won't sound crazy.

"The whole point of sharing this story was to inspire and let other athletes know that this was possible and that they can compete and be who they are," Geick says. "I've gotten other high school athletes reaching out to me saying that they were inspired by the story. Older guys have said, 'It's awesome how much change there has been. I remember when I was in high school. You could have never done this. Super happy for you.' "

Cheers to Dylan Geick. The wrestler has earned them again.

• Follow Joe on Twitter: @JoeAguilar64

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