For all the frustrations during the day, the big picture turned out pretty good for the Clinton High School wrestling team.
Five River Kings qualified for the Iowa Class 3A wrestling state tournament by earning top-two finishes Saturday at the Iowa Class 3A North Scott District tournament. All 14 Clinton wrestlers finished in the top five at their respective weights and Clinton placed fourth in the team standings.
“There were so many damn highs and lows — geez,” Clinton coach J.D. Lueders said. “There were so many ups and downs.”
Dustin Caldwell earned the lone title for the River Kings, beating Joe Pancratz of North Scott 5-1 in the final at 152 pounds. Hunter Genco (120) and Alex Caldwell (145) — both state placewinners last year — lost in the finals, as did freshman Justin Guilliams (195). Genco and Dillion Chase (160) earned their trips to state by winning matches for true second place, while neither Alex Caldwell nor Guilliams had to endure the extra match since they had beaten the third-place finisher in the semifinals.
“You think of all the ones we could have brought and it would have been a super day,” Lueders said.
It was a super day for Dustin Caldwell.
“It was a good feeling to be the only district champ, but obviously we want more,” he said. “I’m just excited to head out there with everybody. Getting the win really helped my confidence for the state tournament.”
Caldwell used a first-period takedown to establish a lead in the final, then clinched it with another takedown with 37 seconds left in the match.
“I just tried to stay relaxed,” Caldwell said. “I beat him two weeks before at the conference 5-0, so I knew I could beat him.”
Caldwell is much happier heading to the state meet, which starts Thursday in Des Moines, as a wrestler instead of a spectator.
“Getting third twice the past two seasons, it wasn’t fun because I’d have to go watch (the state tournament),” he said. “Then, when Alex made it, it was definitely worse because he could always hold it over me. I was on a mission this year, and I’m finally reaching my goals.”
For Alex Caldwell, the final was a repeat of the Mississippi Athletic Conference meet, with Bettendorf’s Bubba Hernandez handing him an 18-8 loss at 145 pounds. Guilliams also lost for the second time (8-1 to North Scott’s Colin Kreiter) in a MAC tournament rematch at 195.
Genco earned his third trip to Des Moines, but his route wasn’t easy.
The top seed at 120 pounds, Genco was caught for a five-point move early in the final against Pleasant Valley’s Spencer Nevills and spent almost a minute bridging with his elbows planted on the mat and his hands supporting his back to fight off a pin. Nevills kept the lead the rest of the way, using another 3-point near fall late in the mat as he won 13-7.
“It was just a scramble situation. “He’s a good wrestler, and I think I just took him for granted,” Genco said of the five-point first-period move.
“That’s where I lost all my energy. I haven’t been pinned yet this year, and I didn’t feel like today should have been the day. I did end up fighting off my back, but the next two periods were a lot harder than I thought they were going to be.”
Genco then had to wrestle for true second place against Austin Claussen of Davenport North, winning 11-6.
“I was really disappointed, and it took me awhile to get over it, but I think in the last 10 minutes before my match, I really did get over it,” Genco said, referring to the loss to Nevills. “Coach said something that really stuck out there. He said (referring to Genco’s first opponent at the state meet), ‘How are you going to feel wrestling Hunter Genco first round?’ Thinking you’ve got it easy because you won your district and you have to wrestled me, that’s just something for anyone out there. I’m not scared to wrestle anyone.”
Chase, a sophomore, came the other route to win in the match for true second. He lost to top-seeded Grant Rosenboom of Pleasant Valley in the semifinals, then beat second seed Bret McKinney of North Scott in the third-place match. He got the chance to wrestle for second after Rosenboom beat Bettendorf’s Eli Preisser in the finals.
Chase, who transferred from Bettendorf to Clinton this year, built a 9-0 lead before pinning Preisser in 4:49.
“It was a helluva fight back to get second,” Chase said. “I knew going into it I was going to win with the momentum I had from beating the North Scott kid. I know him (Preisser) pretty well; we were teammates last year. It felt so good beating a Bettendorf kid. They’re our rivals and where I came from, and it was just a great win.”
Bettendorf still had a lot to celebrate. The Bulldogs crowned six champions, qualified one other for the state tournament and won the team title with 227 points. North Scott edged Pleasant Valley 198-196.5 for second.
The River Kings finished with 181 points, knowing they left a lot of potential points on the mat.
“It’s tough to swallow because we know we’re a lot better than what we wrestled today,” Dustin Caldwell said.
There was sadness, too, as none of Clinton’s seniors qualified for state.
The toughest of those came at 285, where returning state qualifier Jake Oldaker lost 2-1 on an escape by Bettendorf’s Raekwon Jefferson in the ultimate tiebreaker in the semifinals. Oldaker then won his third-place match but watched as Jefferson came close to a takedown on the edge of the mat late in a 2-1 loss to North Scott’s Cegan Long in the championship match.
In addition to Oldaker and Ramirez, senior Nick Hatheway took third at 170 and senior Josiah Molina was fourth at 182, getting pinned twice after starting strong and leading both matches early.
But the frustrations started much earlier for the River Kings.
In the opening round, Amani Larson (105) and Riley Chapman (132) each lost leads in the third period, then lost their matches in overtime. That meant the best they could finish was fifth, which they did. Later in the round, Rafael Ramirez built a 9-2 lead against Devon Clark of Davenport North at 220 pounds but got too high on a cradle, was reversed to his back and was pinned at a weight where he might have had a shot at making it to state.
Those matches, and others that didn’t go ideally, prompted Lueders to say after the first round, “We’ll wait till the end of the day to see if I’m totally frowning.”
As it turned out, he had something to smile about at the end.
IOWA CLASS 3A NORTH SCOTT DISTRICT
1. Bettendorf 227; 2. North Scott 198; 3. Pleasant Valley 196.5; 4. Clinton 181; 5. Davenport West 88; 6. Muscatine 66.5; 7. Davenport Central 55; 8. Davenport North 38.
(Top two advance to state meet)
Championship — Jacob Schwarm (Bet) pinned Tony Nunez (Mus) 1:36. Third place — Travis Pulse (DW) pinned Jacob Lamantia (DC) 5:25. Fifth place — Amani Larson (Clin) pinned Jake Schmidt (NS) :33.
Championship — Paul Glynn (Bet) m. dec. Zach Blizzard (DW) 9-0. Third place — Scott Kraft (PV) dec. Ryan Renken (NS) 3-1. True second place — Blizzard pinned Kraft 5:30. Fifth place – Craig Harlock (Clin) dec. Colton Vogel (Mus) 3-0.
Championship — Spencer Nevills (PV) dec. Hunter Genco (Clin) 13-7. Third place — Austin Claussen (DN) pinned Jackson Gallagher (Bet) :40. True second place — Genco dec. Claussen 11-6.
Championship — Fredy Stroker (Bet) m. dec. Travis Willers (PV) 11-0. Third place — Curtis Ilg (Clin) pinned Tyler Yates (Mus) 3:29.
Championship — Logan Ryan (Bet) pinned Christian Foote (PV) 1:40. Third place — Jacob Ridgeway (NS) pinned Tim Chapman (DC) 5:17. Fifth place — Riley Chapman (Clin) dec. Tyler Hoth (DW) 6-1.
Championship — Jacob Woodard (Bet) dec. Randy McPhee (PV) 9-7. Third place — Colton Paustian (DW) pinned Eli Kuglar (DC) 4:23. Fifth place — Mike Peters (Clin) pinned Kohl Nylin (NS) 2:34.
Championship — Bubba Hernandez (Bet) m. dec. Alex Caldwell (Clin) 18-8. Third place — Jakubb Fahrenkrug (NS) m. dec. Matt Nowak (PV) 9-0.
Championship — Dustin Caldwell (Clin) dec. Joe Pancratz (NS) 5-1. Third place — Khamani McQueen (DW) wbf over Malique Hudson (Bet).
Championship — Grant Rosenboom (PV) dec. Eli Preisser (Bet) 6-1. Third place — Dillion Chase (Clin) dec. Bret McKinney (NS) 6-0. True second place — Chase pinned Preisser 4:49.
Championship — Mitch Bowman (NS) dec. Brady Letney (V) 7-2. Third place — Nick Hatheway (Clin) dec. Michael Belanger (Bet) 13-11.
Championship — Justin Kreiter (NS) dec. Seth Skahill (PV) 8-3. Third place — Austin Snow (Bet) pinned Josiah Molina (Clin) 2:47. True second place — Skahill m. dec. Snow 15-5.
Championship — Colin Kreiter (NS) dec. Justin Guilliams (Clin) 8-1. Third place — Joe Picchiotti (PV) pinned AJ Dougherty (Bet) 5:48.
Championship — Cordell Eaton (NS) dec. Logan Burke (DC) 8-4. Third place — Savion Coleman (Bet) pinned Devon Clark (DN). True second place — Burke dec. Coleman 5-1. Fifth place — Rafael Ramirez (Clin) pinned Connor Moroney (PV) 1:54.
Championship — Cegan Long (NS) dec. Raekwon Jefferson (Bet) 2-1. Third place — Jake Oldaker (Clin) dec. Landon Carney (PV) 3-2.