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The Western Dubuque team and coaching staff reacts as Emerson Lux-Morales pins fourth-ranked Gavin Bascom, of Cedar Rapids Kennedy.

The Western Dubuque wrestling team faced off with a couple of the best squads in the state, and even though they might have claimed just one team dual win, they gained a lot of confidence after battling them on the mat.

The one win the Bobcats earned was a punishing 57-18 victory over Mississippi Valley Conference rival Cedar Rapids Kennedy in Cedar Rapids, Dec. 17.

Jagger McCool (120) got things going for Western Dubuque when he pinned Maxx Novak 3:17 into their match.

A barrage of wins resumed when Ben Schueller (132) pinned Tyler Bartels in 1:06 and Nevin Pins (138) needed just 41 seconds, the fastest pin of the meet, when he took care of Colin Falck.

Kyle Schirmer (145) had to work for his 6-4 decision win over Ashtin Falck, the sixth-ranked wrestler at 138 in Class 3A, but wrestled up a weight class in a move by his coach who was trying to earn some team points at 138 and 145.

The pins kept coming from the Bobcats as Logan Massey (160), Evan Surface (182), Sawyer Nauman (195), and Owen Hatcher (220) all ended their matches early, but it might have been the battle between the two heavyweights that everyone was looking forward to.

“We’re just grateful to compete. We had really good competition against (Cedar Rapids) Kennedy. They have a real good program and are well-coached. Our guys just got after it and we ended up making it a loop-sided victory for us. A lot of it just came down to grit and toughness,” said Paul Cleary, the Bobcats’ head coach. “The night was capped off when Emerson Lux-Morales (The Tank) pinned Gavin Bascom, who was a place winner last year at state and is currently ranked fourth. He just won on guts. He just never quit. He’s tough. It was a Rocky Balboa style wrestling match is what it was. That just made everyone go crazy at the end. It was really fun.”

With that win in hand, the Bobcats traveled to Lisbon, Dec. 19 where they battled with two top-five programs. First up was Davenport Assumption, the fourth-ranked team in Class 2A, a dual that went to the final match but came up short, 45-33.

Winning their matches by pin were Schirmer (145), Trayton Kurimski (152) and Lux-Morales (285).

Surface (182) pulled off a tough 3-1 win and Nauman (195) held on for a 2-1 decision.

Massey (160) and Hatcher (220) both won by forfeit.

The Bobcats had a lot rougher match with Lisbon, the second-ranked team in Class 1A, and struggled to get points on the board. It wasn’t until Massey (160) pinned his opponent just before the end of the first period that they earned their first points of the match and trailed 28-6. Surface (182) pinned his opponent and Nauman (195) worked his way to a 4-3 win for back-to-back wins, but the only other points Western Dubuque would earn came on a pin by Maddox Bries (106).

That closed out a week of very competitive wrestling by the Bobcats where it seemed like everyone battled with a state-ranked caliber wrestler.

“We’ve seen the best competition in the state over the past few weeks,” said Cleary. “It was elite-level competition for our guys and now they know they can compete with anybody. I don’t think they quite believed that before battling Kennedy, and then they beat Kennedy the way they did. I think they are starting to believe in themselves and many of those guys are young, their first year in the lineup. It’s just exciting to coach them.”

The Bobcats now enter the holiday break with a team dual record of 3-2. Their next chance to improve that is Jan. 2 when they travel to Hempstead.