LENA, Ill. — Star power has been the strength of the Clinton High wrestling team much of the season. On Thursday night, though, the team’s depth was the key to victory when some of its biggest names went down to defeat.
The River Kings overcame losses to a pair of returning state placewinners and their standout freshman heavyweight to beat Lena-Winslow, the No. 14-ranked Class 1A school in Illinois, 36-23.
“I thought our kids pulled together as a team and gutted this one out,” Clinton coach J.D. Lueders said. “After starting our season 1-5, to now be at 7-7 is a tribute to our entire team for not quitting when things were not going our way.
“Le-Win is a good program coached by former River King Kevin Milder. I knew we were going to have a fight on our hands, and our kids responded well.”
The Panthers’ lineup includes 2013 Illinois Class 1A state champions Quincy Kalkbrenner and Ty Harmston, and both of them beat two of Clinton’s better wrestlers. Lena-Winslow also got a key win from Gunner Wenger, who placed third in the state at 106 in 2012.
Harmston, the No. 1-ranked 220-pounder who won the 1A championship at 195 last year after taking second at 220 the previous year, pinned Clinton freshman Tyler Clark in 1:20. That win tied the match at 6-6.
Le-Win won the next two matches, but a pin by Damon Dann at 120 pulled Clinton within 13-12, and Hunter Genco added another pin at 126 that put Clinton ahead to stay. Back-to-back wins by Riley Chapman (132 pounds) and Curtis Ilg (145) stretched the Clinton lead to 24-13.
Wenger cut into the lead when he beat Clinton’s Alex Caldwell, a 2012 state placewinner who is ranked fourth in Iowa Class 3A, 8-1 at 145. But Jared Redman got those points, and more, back with a pin at 152.