CLINTON — Taking over the head coaching job from family may have added a little pressure, but Clinton Coach Eric Lueders is officially done with his first season.
He definitely saw success from his athletes with 11 of 14 weight classes finishing at .500 or above overall. He also saw two state qualifiers in Isaac Larkin and Ethan Barry.
“Isaac had a shoulder injury during the middle part of the season but bounced back and earned a district championship,” Lueders said. “I know he wanted to earn a medal this year and it didn’t work out the way he wanted, but he has put himself in a great position to be one of the top guys in the state at his weight class next year.”
Both Larkin and Barry will return for the River Kings next year. Barry earned hardware at this years’ state meet, bringing home 7th.
“Ethan really made leaps and bounds this season,” Lueders said. “As a MAC champion and a state qualifier, he gained a tremendous amount of confidence and he should have. He beat multiple state place winners, a finalist and did not back down from anyone. He excelled under pressure.”
A big blow to the River Kings next year will be losing seniors Ben and Jess Chapman. Both found themselves in the state rankings throughout the year and just narrowly missed qualifying for the state meet.
“Ben had a great senior season,” Lueders said. “He was hard working and you could really witness someone who would go out and compete every time on the mat.
“Jess has always been one of those silent leaders in the room, but this season his vocal leadership was key to our team’s success. One of the hardest things I’ve had to witness as a coach was him missing out on the state meet.”
Jess Chapman ended as a two-time state qualifier and a senior record of 31-9. Ben Chapman finished the year with a record of 28-12.
The Kings will also be losing seniors Darrin Bethard, Clem Butler, Dawson Troxel, and Elijah Robinson.
“Darrin didn’t start wrestling until his freshman year but by his senior year you would have never known,” Lueders said. “He is explosive, innovative on the mat, and tough. He was instrumental in winning two dual meets for us this season.
“Clem started the season at 152 and won the Sterling Invite and the Outstanding Wrestler. He moved up in weight and earned All-MAC honors and had one of the best cradles in the state.”
That doesn’t mean the River Kings are going to lose it all next year. Along with state qualifiers Isaac Larkin and Ethan Barry, sophomore Hunter Randall and junior Kyle Guilliams also had winning seasons for the River Kings and will be back next year.
“Hunter showed a tremendous amount of growth this year,” Lueders said. “Kyle showed a lot of tenacity. He was up four weight classes from where he started the season, fought through injury and could compete with everyone.
“He’s one of our most dedicated off-season wrestlers, he showed the work he put in.”
With a successful first year, the roster already has potential to give way to an exciting second year for Lueders.