For each one of the 14 wrestlers that suit up to compete for Western Dubuque’s varsity squad, there are a great many working to someday earn their spot on that roster. These athletes occupy the “Next Man In” group of the team, and a chosen few of them may be called up to help the team when a need may arise.

Carter Kluesner got his nod last week at 182 pounds, when the Bobcats hosted Dual Team Regionals, Feb. 6. He delivered his team a massive 45 second fall over Iowa City, City High’s Joe Ring, a moment that marked the point where the Bobcats had all but locked up their bid to compete at the Class 3A Dual Team State Championships.

“Coach always tells us to wrestle like a champion, be a champion, and you’ll win. I just kept going over it in my head, over and over, and I knew I could win that match,” Kluesner said of his victory.

The 3A, No. 8 ranked Bobcats had earned a first round bye in the three-team competition, drawing City High after the Little Hawks had defeated (3A, No. 10) Cedar Falls, 39-30, in the first round.

Kluesner took up the reins at 182 as Devin Ludwig (ranked No. 2 at 182) made the temporary move up to 195 in a series of roster shake-ups designed to counter the opposition.

The decision paid dividends for the Bobcats, with Ludwig earning a first-period fall over Drake Patterson at 195. City High also made a move in bumping up Brandon Lalla, ranked No. 7 at 160, to take on No. 5 at 170, Jake Hosch. The latter won via 12-4 major decision, putting the Bobcats ahead, 22-21.

“I actually thought they were going to try and avoid Hosch with (Joe) Ring,” WD head coach Paul Cleary said of the finalized matchups. “(Hosch) came through and beat a tough competitor in Lalla, and Kluesner got a huge pin for us.”

Cleary said Kluesner’s win served as a big momentum boost for his team, that won the dual 40-21, over the No. 22 ranked City High. The win eased any lingering memories of the year prior, when the Little Hawks had triumphed over the Bobcats in the same meet on their own turf.

“Kluesner could really be undefeated on varsity. He’s got just three losses, and all of them he could’ve won. He’s a stud. Some people don’t know about him. If you do the homework you know our JV is tough, maybe one of the best in the state,” Cleary said. “We treat our program like a college football program. If you stick around long enough, we’ll try and have everybody be competitive.”

Another big moment came at 138, where Western Dubuque’s Jared Cordes locked Ryan Ceynar in a cradle for the fall on the tail end of the second period.

“He got on my leg. His knee was a bit too close to his head. I saw that I had about 30 seconds left, and I thought, ‘what else could I do wrong? I can’t do anything wrong. I have nothing to lose.’ I locked it up, I got myself in better position and got him to his back,” Cordes said of his win, which would bring a packed home crowd to its feet.

Western Dubuque saw two more early wins from Dawson Biermann at 113 and Trent Busch at 126. Cordes’ fall was the first of the night, and was followed by Ryker Kurimski’s 48-second pin of Kevin Berg at 160, Kluesner and Demmer’s aforementioned wins, and Jason Simon-Ressler’s 3:36 fall over Davrun Stewart at 220. Both teams forfeited at 285.

Afterward, the Bobcat faithful swarmed the gymnasium floor for photos and celebratory remarks. The feat is just another example of a winning culture that has long been forged inside the Western Dubuque wrestling room.

“Those are some great programs. They’ve had numerous NCAA Champions come out of Prairie, City High is always a battle. But, you know what? Western Dubuque is a pretty tough program, too,” Cleary said.