The Western Dubuque wrestling team won the first seven bouts in the County Clash team dual at Dubuque Jan. 2, but Hempstead turned the table to win the final seven and pull out a 35-29 victory.

“It’s always good to compete in the County Clash. You can always count on that one to be a good battle. It was a hard loss because Hempstead is a rival, but when you lose you pick yourself up, look in the mirror and keep going,” said Paul Cleary, head coach of the Bobcats. “It was a good match. We just came out on the losing end. Sometimes you get beat, but you just have to keep moving forward.”

Nevin Pins’ 4-0 decision at 138 pounds got things rolling for the Bobcats as they reeled off wins in the opening seven matches. Kyle Schirmer followed with a solid 11-7 win at 145 to make it 6-0 Bobcats. Trayton Kurimski handled things at 152 earning an 11-3 major decision and Dakota Lau battled his way to a 3-1 victory at 160 to push the lead to 13-0.

The Bobcats posted wins via pin when Greyson Gardner stuck his opponent in 2:50 at 170 and Evan Surface pulled off a shocker pinning Aidan Dunne, the fourth-ranked wrestler in Class 3A at 182 pounds, just 15 seconds into a sudden-death period to make it 25-0.

Sawyer Nauman, the Bobcats’ only ranked wrestler at sixth in Class 3A at 195, added a 12-4 major decision to the scoreboard to give Western Dubuque a 29-0 advantage.

“We got off to a good start, but when it’s a tight match bonus points are critical. You’re always hoping to get more bonus points and not get beat by bonus points,” said Cleary. “We lost a couple of tight matches and won a couple of good matches. Evan Surface beat a ranked opponent, so that was a big win. Emerson Lux-Morales was in a battle. He’s pinned the number three and number five guy and was locked in another battle with Cayden Lovett, a talented kid who’s a three-year varsity wrestler and state qualifier. He’s learning. This is his first year wrestling varsity so he’s still learning how to compete, but he’s a brawler. There is no quit in that kid.”

Hempstead drew the line in the sand at 220 pounds and started their comeback with Adam Ward pinning Mitchell Ashline 1:09. Lovett’s pin over Lux-Morales quickly made it 29-12. Lohman Duffy’s major decision over Maddox Bries at 106 cut the lead to 13, 29-16. The Bobcats forfeited matches at 113 and 120, but still clung onto a 29-28 lead.

With two matches left, Cleary sent Jagger McCool to face off with Gable Brooks at 126 pounds. After six exciting minutes of wrestling, their match was still tied at six. Neither wrestler was able to get a hold of the other in the first 30 seconds of overtime until Brooks worked a take-down move on McCool to earn an 8-6 win for Hempstead’s first lead of the dual at 31-29. They closed out the win when two-time state qualifier Adler Kramer, Class 3A’s fourth-ranked wrestler at 126 pounds, moved up to 132 and earned a major decision win over Ben Schueller.

“We’re getting better. It’s just a process. There’s still six or seven more weeks left in the season and every week we need to jump levels in practice in preparation for the end of the year,” said Cleary about his Bobcats who are now 5-5 for the season in duals. “Now we go back to practice. We keep working on getting better and focus on having fun and working hard.”