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The Gazette KCRG
Posted January 15, 2014
Bobcats try to claw way to top-tier team

The focus is on breaking through and moving up.

Western Dubuque Coach Paul Cleary has a vision for the Bobcats’ inclusion with the upper echelon of Class 3A teams.

“We’ve been a top 10 to 15 team for the last few years,” said Cleary, trying to lead Western Dubuque to the State Duals tournament for the first time since 2009. “We’re trying to break into the top 10. It’s easier said than done.”

Western Dubuque makes a case, improving to 16-4 with a runner-up finish at the Linn-Mar Duals last weekend. The Bobcats went 4-1, beating 3A No. 5 Linn-Mar, 43-30, before a 40-28 loss to 2A title contender Mediapolis in the championship.

Cleary said he was pleased with the effort, rebounding from a loss two days earlier to Wamac foe, Mount Vernon. The Bobcats, ranked 13th in the Iowa Wrestling Coaches and Officials Association 3A dual rankings, beat the Lions for only the second time in more than a decade.

“Anytime you can beat Linn-Mar you’re doing something right,” Cleary said. “They are a really well-coached team. That was a good accomplishment.”

Balance has been a regular trait of Western Dubuque teams. The Bobcats, who have more than 50 wrestlers on the roster, can field a competitive wrestler at every weight. They have depth as well, including junior varsity wrestlers with undefeated records and reserves with success in varsity competition.

Cleary said that has been a source of pride, stemming from his time as a Bobcats assistant under former head coach Tom Danner. Two straight regional dual appearances support the “team-first” mentality.

“Everyone is important,” Cleary said. “It’s a team effort.”

Western Dubuque has individual talent. Six wrestlers are ranked, including fifth-ranked senior Austin Hosch at 132 pounds. The two-time state qualifier and Wamac champion leads the team with a 23-0. He is looking to make his third trip to the conference finals and his first state medal.

“Austin has been awesome,” Cleary said. “He has been working his tail off.”

Dylan Gansen (152) and Brennan Koerperich (220) are both ranked sixth for the Bobcats. Andy Dougherty (138), 170-pound freshman Max Lyon and Ryan Kluesner at 182 are ranked in the top-10 of their respective weights.

Seven Bobcats have at least 19 varsity wins. Koerperich and Lyon have matching 21-3 marks, while Gansen and Collin Koerperich are 20-4. They will need to continue their contribution as Western Dubuque faces ranked Wamac foes Independence and Solon tonight and host West Delaware next week.

“We have a lot of guys to rely on,” Cleary said. “We have a few that are right there, too.”

LIGHT SURPASSES 300 WINS

Mount Vernon head coach Vance Light joined a prestigious group of prep wrestling coaches last week. With the Mustangs 40-24 win over Class 3A 13th-ranked Western Dubuque, Light recorded his 300th dual victory in 20 seasons as head coach.

Light became the 37th prep coach in Iowa history to record 300 dual wins. He is 306-123 in his career, guiding the Mustangs to a 12-5 mark so far this season. Light is tied with former Belle Plaine Coach Bob Yilek for 35th on the state’s all-time dual wins list.

Light was a two-time state champion for Lisbon in 1986 (112) and 1987 (119) and competed for Drake University, which dropped its wrestling program after the 1992-93 season. His son, Justin, is a freshman for the Mustangs and owns a 17-4 record at 113 pound.

He has the most wins in the history of Mount Vernon wrestling, which includes dual state championship coach Bill Thomsen. Light led the Mustangs to the 2A state duals semifinals in 1997, qualifying again in 2004 and 2005. In 2004, Mount Vernon finished third in the traditional state tournament.

Light has coached three state champions, including two-time champion Jacob Craig and Matt Kroul. Seventy-five Mustangs have reached the state tournament, including 27 medalists, during Light’s tenure.

BEST IN THE WESTS

Highland freshmen Drew and Bryce West have quickly made a name for themselves at the varsity level.

The twin brothers have combined for 47 wins and are rated first in Class 1A in the latest installment of rankings by The Predicament.

Drew is 24-0 at 106 pounds, while Bryce is 23-1 at 113.

“They are very experienced wrestlers with a lot of versatility and natural mat savvy,” Highland Coach Clint Jones said in an email to The Gazette. “Technically they are very sound and recognize opportunities instinctively.”

They are both versatile on their feet with Bryce West being more wide open, according to Jones.

“They are similar as to if you see each one hit a double leg, they resemble each other in technique when hitting it,” Jones said. “They differ though in that each one uses specific maneuvers that the other one typically does not use.”

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