By Jon Gremmels
Herald Sports Editor
One look at Clinton’s 1-4 record in wrestling dual meets doesn’t seem too impressive. A look beyond the numbers reveals much more, however.
One week after falling to seventh-ranked North Scott by one point, the River Kings held a seven-point lead with two matches left against top-rated Bettendorf on Thursday night.
Unfortunately for the Kings, the two wrestlers left for the Bulldogs were a pair of individual state champions. A pin by Fredy Stroker at 138 pounds and a technical fall by Logan Ryan at 145 let the Bulldogs escape with a 38-34 victory, but it was another confidence-building dual for the Kings.
For the second Thursday in a row the second dual of the night wasn’t so successful for Clinton, but coach J.D. Lueders left Assumption High School in pretty good spirits after a 49-15 loss to Assumption, the second-ranked team in Iowa Class 2A.
“We didn’t match up as good (against Assumption), that was evident, but we fought,” Lueders said after the Mississippi Athletic Conference double dual that also included Assumption and Bettendorf victories against Davenport West by 68-6 and 72-0 scores, respectively. “We’re not the ones rated No. 1 in the state.”
Taking on two of the best teams in the state back-to-back took a toll on the Kings.
“When the other two (rated teams) don’t have to wrestle each other it’s a tough night,” Lueders said. “Our kids showed fatigue. It’s like going with two championship boxers twice in one night.”
The final bout also claimed one of Clinton’s top wrestlers.
Senior Alex Caldwell injured a knee late in the first period against Assumption’s Danny Bush, the second-ranked wrestler in Class 2A at 152 pounds.
“Hopefully Alex is OK,” Lueders said of the 2012 state placewinner who is ranked fourth in Class 3A. “He wanted to go, but we’re a week away from break.”
It was a tough night all around for Caldwell.
Bettendorf’s Jacob Woodard, last year’s Class 3A state champion at 138 pounds, opened the first dual by beating the Clinton senior 10-1. But, if that’s the kind of night the Bulldogs expected the rest of the way, they were in for a big surprise.
“I thought they wrestled very well,” Bettendorf coach Dan Knight said of the River Kings, for whom he won four state titles during an unbeaten high school career in the 1980s. “They got pins when they needed pins, and they came to wrestle.”
Dustin Caldwell, Alex’s twin brother, picked up the first Clinton pin when he stuck Philip Kranovich in 1:32 at 160 pounds. Michael Belanger got those points right back for Bettendorf with a pin at 170, but Dillion Chase started a string of four consecutive wins for Clinton when he pinned Raul Lopez in 1:10 at 182.
“I was excited for that dual,” said Chase, who competed for Bettendorf as a freshman before transferring to Clinton last year. “It was a fun dual.”
It was the first time the two schools had competed against each other in a dual format in several years, dating back to when Chase’s older brothers, Dominic and Drake, wrestled for Clinton before transferring to Bettendorf.
“They’re our rivals,” Dillion Chase said of the Bulldogs. “It was a big match, and I wrestled as hard as I could. We did everything we could.”
Chase’s pin put Clinton on top 12-10, and the lead increased to 27-10 after a decision by Justin Guilliams at 195 and pins from Evan Gerdes at 220 and Tyler Clark at 285.
“Wrestling behind Dillion and Justin was a big lift,” Gerdes said. “It definitely helped me. I just wanted to do my job and help my team. Luckily, I came out with a pin.”
Bettendorf won the next three matches to knot the team score at 27-27, getting pins from Jack Wagner (106) and Jacob Schwarm (113), each ranked second in the state, and a technical fall from No. 4 Paul Glynn at 120.
But three-time state placewinner Hunter Genco put Clinton back on top as he battled a stomach ailment and scored a major decision at 126. And, when fellow senior Riley Chapman followed with a 6-0 win at 132, it gave the Kings a 34-27 lead and meant the Bulldogs had to win the final two matches and get bonus points in at least one to keep Bettendorf from falling victim to Clinton.
Stroker and Ryan, ranked No. 1 respectively at 132 and 138, were up to the task, with Stroker’s pin at 138 pulling Bettendorf within 34-33 and Ryan’s technical fall at 145 bringing the final five points.
“If you’re going to end a dual (needing two wins), you love ending it with those two any time you can,” Knight said.
“When you know the last two kids you’re going to wrestle are state champions, it’s tough,” Lueders said.
But he saw a lot to be happy with in the dual.
“They’re number one; we’ve got nothing to lose. I said, ‘Make sure they know they have a fight on their hands,’ “ he said he told his team. “Nobody likes to lose, but we can hold our heads high. I think we needed to prove to ourselves we can go with a team like this.”
Although the second dual didn’t go as well, Lueders wasn’t discouraged the way he was after Pleasant Valley beat the Kings in the second dual of last Thursday’s double dual at North Scott.
“We had a much better effort,” he said.
Clinton suffered an upset in the opening match, when unranked Trace Timmons beat No. 6 Dustin Caldwell 7-4 at 160 pounds.
Once again, though, the upper weights went well for Clinton as Chase, ranked third in 3A, beat Gabriel Rangel, No. 6 in 2A, 6-2 at 182 pounds, followed by a decision by Guilliams at 195 and Clark’s pin at 285 that evened the team score at 12-12. The only Clinton loss in that stretch came when Assumption’s Zach Adrian beat Gerdes 3-1 in overtime.
The Knights pulled away, however, when the meet swung to the lower weights. They won seven of the final eight matches, with the winners including fifth-ranked Jacob Fenske at 113, No. 3 Brendan Gould at 120, No. 1 Eric Clarke at 132, No. 6 Tionte Parks at 138, No. 4 Tristen Finch at 145 and No. 2 Bush at 152.
Clinton’s only win in the light weights was a 7-1 win by Genco.
Even though the losses left Clinton at 1-4, Chase and Gerdes joined Lueders in speaking positively about the team.
“I think we’re in a good situation now,” Chase said.
“We definitely battled hard,” Gerdes said. “We’re showing we’re not going to go away.”
BETTENDORF 38, CLINTON 34
152 -- Jacob Woodard (B) m. dec. Alex Caldwell 10-1; 160 -- Dustin Caldwell (C) pinned Philip Kranovich 1:32; 170 -- Michael Belanger (B) pinned Luke Larkin 2:58; 182 -- Dillion Chase (C) pinned Raul Lopez 1:10; 195 -- Justin Guilliams (C) dec. Zachary Moffitt 9-7; 220 -- Evan Gerdes (C) pinned Max Erpelding 1:30; 113 -- Jacob Schwarm (B) pinned Amani Larson 2:31; 120 -- Paul Glynn (B) tech. fall Damon Dann 17-0, 3:47; 126 -- Hunter Genco (C) m. dec. Jackson Gallagher 13-2; 132 -- Riley Chapman (C) dec. Elijah Salas 6-0; 138 -- Fredy Stroker (B) pinned Jared Redman :23; 145 -- Logan Ryan (B) tech. fall Curtis Ilg 27-11, 4:00.
DAVENPORT ASSUMPTION 49, CLINTON 15
160 -- Trace Timmons (A) dec. D. Caldwell 7-4; 170 -- Joe Argo (A) pinned Larkin 1:35; 182 -- Chase (C) dec. Gabriel Rangel 6-2; 195 -- Guilliams (C) dec. Alex Kilfoy 5-3; 220 -- Zach Adrian (A) dec. Gerdes 3-1 sv-1; 285 -- Clark (C) pinned Jacob Odean 2:48; 106 -- Sean Casey (A) dec. Cruthis 7-3; 113 -- Jacob Fenske (A) tech. fall Larson 16-1, 3:09; 120 -- Brendan Gould (A) pinned Dann 3:45; 126 -- Genco (C) dec. Kirk Mommsen 7-1; 132 -- Eric Clarke (A) pinned Chapman 1:04; 138 -- Tionte Parks (A) tech. fall Jared Redman 17-2, 4:16; 145 -- Tristen Finch (A) pinned Ilg :46; 152 -- Danny Bush (A) inj. def. A. Caldwell 1:49.