By Kurt Ritzman
Assistant Sports Editor
Clinton junior Hunter Genco knew it all came down to him.
The River Kings, ranked 12th in Class 3A wrestling, trailed Davenport Assumption, No. 2 in 2A, 33-28, and Genco’s match at 120 pounds against Kirk Mommsen was all that was left.
“The kid who I wrestled knew his only job was not to get pinned,” Genco said. “The only thing he did was stall the whole time. I couldn’t pin him.”
While Genco, ranked in Class 3A by The Predicament, didn’t get a pin and six points, he got a five-point technical fall that tied the match at 33.
“When I got the five, there was a lot running through my mind,” Genco said. “I was like, ‘What’s going to happen now?’ The only thing I could was hope for the best.”
Genco, his teammates, Assumption and all the fans in a packed W.J. Yourd Gymnasium had to wait while the winning criteria was determined.
“I had my headphones on,” Genco said. “I was kind of disappointed. I thought it was going to end as a tie or them winning. Once I saw everyone freaking, I looked around and I was like, ‘What the heck is going on?’ All my teammates ran over to me and then started cheering and yelling. I was like, ‘What the heck happened?’”
What happened was Genco’s technical fall gave Clinton the win on the third criterion and a 34-33 victory over Assumption. The teams were tied with seven match wins and three pins each on the first two criteria.
“It’s probably the biggest win of my career so far,” Clinton junior Alex Caldwell said. “We’ve had some tough duals in the past and haven’t come out on top. But this year, we’re here. We’re finally on the map whether people think so or not. Beating the No. 2 team in 2A is a big accomplishment for a team that’s ranked 12th.”
Clinton senior Nick Hatheway said: “I just wanted to hug all of my teammates because I know how hard we worked for this.”
Through the first six matches, things were not looking great for the River Kings. Assumption led 23-6 and had three more ranked wrestlers still to come to the mat.
“We were definitely the underdogs in this match,” Hatheway said. “Our coach kept telling us we had nothing to lose and to go out there and wrestle tough and see how the cards fell.”
Hatheway got the cards falling more in Clinton’s direction at 170 pounds against Clint Harland.
Hatheway got a big takedown late in the first period to take the lead.
“When I got my first takedown, it was probably the coolest takedown I’ve ever had,” Hatheway said. “The fans just stood up and went nuts. It made me want to take him down 100 more times.”
From there he went on to a victory by 7-1 decision and started a run for the River Kings.
Josiah Molina won by pin in 43 seconds, followed by a pin in 4:47 for Justian Guilliams. At 220 pounds, Raf Ramirez won by major decision 8-2 and gave Clinton its first lead of the night at 25-23.
At 285, Clinton’s Jake Oldaker faced fourth-ranked Sean Easler. Oldaker got a takedown late in the first period to go ahead 2-0. Easler chose top position to start the second period and earned two near-fall points to even the match. Oldaker chose to start the third period neutral and got a second takedown but allowed an escape.
As time was running out, Oldaker was clinging to a 4-3 lead and no one was sitting on Clinton’s bench. The coaches, wrestlers and managers were all cheering Oldaker on. Easler was cautioned for starting too early on a restart and then did it again with less than 5 seconds remaining to give Oldaker a 5-3 lead, which he maintained for a 28-23 lead.
The next two matches were critical as Clinton’s Amani Larson faced No. 7 Darien Collins at 106 and Clinton’s Craig Harlock wrestled No. 4 Brendan Gould. With Genco waiting, the River Kings could not give up more than 11 points to have any hope of a win.
Larson came through. By dropping a 13-1 major decision, he ensured Genco could have a say in who won the dual meet.
“Amani helped us win, not getting tech falled or pinned,” Caldwell said. “It was a team effort. It wasn’t just one person. It was everybody.”
Caldwell, ranked third in 3A, provided the other Clinton win, pinning Class 2A No. 9 Tionte Parks.
“First I had to take care of myself, and that was the big thing,” Caldwell said. “We started off kind of slow, but once I got us on the board it was like the domino effect. It kept going and going.
“Dustin (Caldwell) had a good match. That kid is ranked No. 1 and won state last year. Dillion (Chase) wrestled a kid ranked sixth; Dillion’s a sophomore and not even ranked, but he took his kid into overtime. It was nuts. Then Nick, Josiah, Raf, Justin Guilliams, Jake, those were the biggest matches. Everybody was performing.”
After his pin, Alex Caldwell yelled, “Let’s go” to his teammates, and they seemed energized by his display.
“It jumpstarted us,” he said. “It’s kind of hard to control your emotions sometimes and they got the best of me. Fortunately, it was positive. That’s what got us going.”
With that team effort, the River Kings picked up a dual victory over one of the big-name programs in the state.
“Usually that talk in Iowa is Bettendorf and Assumption,” Genco said. “Now it’s going to be Clinton. This is what our coach initially set out to do. People said he couldn’t do it. He turned our whole program around. ... It’s crazy.”
CLINTON 34, DAVENPORT ASSUMPTION 33
126 — Tony DeVriese (DA) m. dec. Curtis Ilg, 12-1; 132 — Kyle Springer (DA) pinned Jared Redman, 1:57; 138 — Robby Washam pinned Riley Chapman, 2:16; 145 — Alex Caldwell (C) pinned Tionte Parks, 1:45; 152 — Nick Georgean (DA) m. dec. Dustin Caldwell, 11-3; 160 — Danny Busch (DA) dec. Dillion Chase, 6-1 (OT); 170 — Nick Hatheway (C) dec. Clint Harland, 7-1; 182 — Josiah Molina pinned Chris Patricio, 0:43; 195 — Justin Guilliams (C) pinned Chase Hager, 4:47; 220 — Raf Ramirez (C) m. dec. Zach Adrian, 10-2; 285 — Jake Oldaker (C) dec. Sean Esler, 5-3; 106 — Darien Collins (DA) m. dec. Amani Larson, 13-1; 113 — Brendan Gould (DA) pinned Craig Harlock, 1:22; 120 — Hunter Genco (C) tech. fall Kirk Mommsen, 15-0, 5:16.