CLINTON — They’ve seen enough of each other in the wrestling room, and coach J.D. Lueders has seen enough of his kids knocking heads against one another.
Tonight the Clinton High wrestling team opens its season for real, and Lueders can’t wait to see what transpires.
“They get tired of practicing,” Lueders said Wednesday night. “The kids are excited. We had a great practice tonight.”
The River Kings get things going with a 5 p.m. dual against East Moline United Township on the center mat at Yourd Gym. At the same time, North Scott will take on Moline on the mat near the stage while a third mat will feature junior varsity matches. The two Iowa teams then switch Illinois opponents for a second varsity dual for each.
“I think it’s a great way to start,” Lueders said. “I actually enjoy it. I think it will be an interesting dual for us. We see what we need to work on.”
The duals give Clinton a chance to wrestle big schools that they won’t see again, as well as scout North Scott ahead of a dual against the Lancers next week.
“They bring in some tough kids,” Lueders said Moline at UTHS. “It’s great competition for our kids early.”
Moline comes in ranked 12th in the Illinoismatmen.com Class 3A ratings and has a 5-1 record. The Maroons are led by senior 285-pounder Adarios Jones, who recently committed to wrestle in college for Northern Iowa. Jones placed third in the 3A state meet at 285 last season and is ranked No. 2 by Illinoismatmen.com.
United Township has one ranked wrestler, No. 10 Jeronnie Steward at 113.
The River Kings feature four returning state placewinners and another state qualifier. All five are ranked in the top 10 of their Class 3A weight divisions by thepredicament.com.
Senior Hunter Genco begins his quest to become a four-time state placewinner, and he moves up a weight to 126 pounds this season. Genco placed third at 120 last year, was sixth at 113 in 2012 and took seventh at 106 as a freshman.
Clinton’s other three placewinners also are moving up one weight each: Alex Caldwell (sixth in the state at 138 in 2012 and a 2013 state qualifier at 145) to 152, Dustin Caldwell (fourth at 152 last season) to 160 and Dillion Chase (fifth at 160 last season) to 170. The other returning state qualifier is sophomore Justin Guilliams at 195.
Two other senior starters, Riley Chapman at 132 and Curtis Ilg at 138, return after recording 20 wins apiece last season, although Ilg might miss tonight’s meet as he recovers from a shoulder injury (freshman Mitch Dann is the other possibility there). Senior Jared Redman will start at 145, although he might be pushed by freshman Walker Chapman when the latter returns from a broken jaw in the second part of the season.
Sophomore Sam Cruthis, who saw limited duty as a freshman, will get the call at 106, and junior Amani Larson (12-12 last year) will start at 113
The Kings lost several starters through graduation and have several untested wrestlers.
Newcomers in the lineup are junior Damon Dann at 120, senior Darean Witt at 182, senior Evan Gerdes at 220 and freshman Tyler Clark at 285.
“We have quite a few unknowns; we have several weights where we have no idea of how we’ll perform,” Lueders said. “We were probably more balanced last year.”
The opening double dual kicks off a tough first half of the season for the Kings. They travel to the Dubuque Senior Invitational on Saturday, have a double dual against seventh-ranked North Scott and Pleasant Valley next Thursday, head to the Sterling (Ill.) Invitational on Dec. 14, take on Davenport Assumption (ranked second in Class 2A) and Bettendorf (No. 1 in 3A) in a double dual on Dec. 19 and finish the pre-holiday portion of the schedule at the Fort Madison Invitational on Dec. 21.
“I love the toughness of the first half,” Lueders said.