J.D. Lueders was pleased with the gains made by his team in his first year as Clinton High School wrestling coach. He’s excited to see what’s next.
A trip to Colorado to work on their craft has the wrestlers energized, too.
“I think it will do wonders for us,” Lueders said of the week of wrestling in the Rocky Mountains. “The difference I saw in the kids from the productive season, I saw another jump in attitude and work ethic. That’s the big thing I look for.”
He also saw a great deal of success for his wrestlers who attended Steve Knight’s 16-team Excel Camp in Estes Park, Colo.
The River Kings returned with a third-place trophy, not too mention a bunch of wrestlers with more skill and experience.
“They bonded as a team” Lueders said. “They had success. We should have been champs of the tournament. We beat the state champion from South Dakota, lost to a Texas team and then beat the Kansas team for third place.”
Ronald Genco III, a state placewinner last winter for the River Kings, was one of the wrestlers who made the trip. He was impressed by what he saw from his former teammates.
“Actually, just about every wrestler improved from the end of the season to the wrestling camp,” he said. “A lot of kids who were less than .500 won a lot of matches or wrestled tough, close matches.”
Clinton sent enough wrestlers to have two teams — the second unit placed eighth — giving even more wrestlers valuable experience.
Helped by fundraising efforts spearheaded by Ken Kroemer, Tim Hartsock and the Clinton High Booster Club, a traveling party of 29 started the 940-mile, 13 1⁄2-hour journey in a five-vehicle caravan on Sunday, June 19. The gas alone cost about $2,500, Lueders said. They spent the first night as Knight’s guests in a cabin in the Rockies, then headed to Estes Park Y for the rest of the week.
Before the wrestling started, though, they went whitewater rafting on Monday. Once the wrestling started Monday night, however, they were on the mat nearly non-stop.
“It’s a whole bunch of wrestling — six duals for three days, then an individual tournament,” Lueders said. “The kids got between 15 and 20 matches in the four-day period. The experience gives them a whole another season in four days.”
The River Kings put up some impressive numbers, too. Lueders said Krys Broadenaux went 17-1. So did Nick Hatheway, who weighed 171 pounds but wrestled at 195 and won the individual tournament by avenging his lone loss. Twins Alex and Dustin Caldwell went 17-2 each, with Alex taking second in his weight class and Dustin third. Hunter Genco wrestled up a weight but went 15-3.
Lueders also cited the performances of Jake Oldaker, John Mumm, Brett Larkin, Jon Oldaker and Jordan Strunk.
The camp also gave Lueders a chance to see some of his future wrestlers, including incoming freshmen Nick Beckwith, Collin McDonald and Nate Linville, and seventh-grader Walker Chapman, who compiled a 14-5 record against high school competition.
Besides the wrestling, a portion of each day was set aside for learning technique. Knight, a former state champion for Clinton and teammate of Lueders, ran the camp. His son Evan served as a clinician, as did Evan Knight’s college coach, Rob Koll of Cornell University in New York.
But the trip was far more than wrestling.
“We made a couple of trips when I was (coach) at Northeast,” said Lueders, who added he’d like to be able to take his wrestlers back to the camp about every four years. “It seemed like the right thing for team chemistry.”