Dylan Geick was at home in north suburban Buffalo Grove, talking with his younger sister, Johnna, one day early last March. She had heard a fellow Stevenson High School singer who she thought was amazing.
Dylan heard him and also thought he was talented, so he sent a message with Instagram, with the witty line, "Wanna piano and chill?"
Dylan, 18, a senior and the school's star, elite-level wrestler, soon started hanging out with Grant Mower, 18, also a senior, who is in the school's choir and writes his own music.
"It was kind of this random circumstance," that they met at a school of more than 4,000 students, Dylan said.
After a couple weeks, both came out to each other and they started dating, though both were still in the closet to the school at the time.
"People started noticing that I was hanging out with him," said Dylan, who admitted that they were "sneaking around" to see each other.
Then one day late last March, Geick was eating lunch with five girlfriends, and the topic turned to another student who had then-recently come out.
As a joke, one of the girls turned to him and said, "So Dylan, when are you coming out?'"
"In the moment, I just didn't feel like keeping the secret anymore. I replied, 'Actually, I am gay,'" Dylan said.
They were all shocked.
And Geick admitted he was dating a fellow Stevenson student.
Word spread, quicklyreally quickly.
His phone instantly was blowing up with messages, mostly from students asking if it was true, that the stud athlete was, in fact, gay.
Students and athletes from eight other area schools also messaged Dylan.
All were supportive. All.
"It was a pretty awesome reaction, to be honest," Dylan said of the response. "I didn't really know what to expect. I knew that the environment at Stevenson was amazingly progressive and this is a pretty liberal area, so I knew there definitely would be support, but not as wide spread as it ended up being.
"I haven't endured any harassment in the school."
Dylan Dylan and Grant Mower are still together, close to their one-year anniversary of dating. They attended the Chicago Pride Parade together last summer and went to Homecoming together this past fall.
Dylan will attend Columbia University in the New York in the fall, where he will continue his wrestling career. Mower, who lives in nearby Long Grove, will attend New York University in the fall.
"I didn't realize how connected and supportive the LGBT community is," Dylan said. "From the moment I came out, there was outreach from so many people, [offering] guidance and advice. It surprised me how much people cared in a positive way, how much they really wanted to help me.
"To the kids in the closet who are worried [about coming-out], there is such a huge community that wants to help, and that was pretty surprising to me."
Dylan is convinced that sharing his coming-out story has had "pretty direct impact" on some Stevenson students and also students he has never met, especially in the sporting world.
"It's not like I adopted this issue. I'm just true to myself and just like to live unapologetically," said Dylan, who has, since coming-out, heard from two elite, high-level Illinois wrestlers, among others, offering their support for him, though each is still in the closet.
Dozens more, both current and former wrestlers, have reached out to Dylan, he said, most in the closet.
Dylan has been supported by his teamhis teammates and coaches100 percent, though he admits he was "super nervous" that might not be the case.
Stevenson's wrestling team is very ethnically-diverse, including several Russians, Dylan said. Some of his teammates had, by their own admission, homophobic views, "so I was worried how they would react" to my coming-out, Dylan said.
Take, for instance, wrestling teammate Nikita Nepomnyaschiy, who sent a text to Dylan less than an hour after he confirmed that he is gay during lunch.
Nikita wrote, "Hey, are you gay?"
Dylan started typing a long reply, but before he could even send it, Nikita wrote back, saying that it's no issue and he cracked a joke.
"That completely removed all of the tension," Dylan said. "He was accepting from the first second."
Everyone on his wrestling team has been supportive.
Robert Pavlovich, for instance, is one of Dylan's best friends and a fellow wrestlerhe gave Dylan a big hug the first time he saw Dylan after coming-out.
"Those reactions were a huge weight off my shoulders," Dylan said. "I think I created closer, stronger bonds with all those guys through this whole [coming-out] process."
There was, though, one opponent who, via social media, hinted that he knew Dylan was gayand the two were set to wrestle in the Illinois state tournament, in about 30 minutes.
"It wasn't like he said anything [on social media posts], but I got the message that he was trying to mess with me, trying to get in my head. It pissed me off," Dylan said. "I took care of it on the mat."
Dylan won that match, handily.
"I don't think he's a bad kid; I think he's competitive," Dylan said. They spoke briefly after the match, "and I don't harbor any resentment toward him."
Dylan was a marvel on the mat for Stevenson as both a junior and senior, compiling a combined 86-8 record. He was 43-3 this seasonand he's finished fourth in the state tournament each of the past two seasons. He's a three-time conference finalist ( champion once ), three-time regional finalist ( champion twice ), and a sectional champ. He was a USAW All-American in 2015 and three-time Illinois Freestyle National Team member.
Mower attended many of Dylan's matches, and even drove Johnna, 15, a sophomore at Stevenson, to the state tournament.
Dylan has attended Mower's singing performances, as Mower is an aspiring musician who was admitted to Berklee School of Music in Boston as well as other highly-competitive music schools, though he opted for NYU.
Homecoming last fall "was awesomeit just felt normal," Dylan said.