MARION — A strong start. Successful strategy. The clutch finish. Everything added up to a Linn-Mar victory.
Abass Kemokai provided an early spark and Reece Seery closed with a decision to secure the eighth-ranked Lions’ 37-31 tactical victory over No. 10 Dubuque Hempstead in a Class 3A regional wrestling dual Wednesday night at Linn-Mar.
“We’ll take it,” Linn-Mar Coach Doug Streicher said. “Tough matches this time of year. They’re a good team. I’m proud of our kids.”
The Lions advance to the state duals tournament for the first time since 2014. They will wrestle in the quarterfinals next Wednesday at Wells Fargo Arena in Des Moines.
“We were hosting so we had to bring everything that we have,” Kemokai said. “We were going to do whatever it takes to get to state duals this year. It’s been a goal since my freshman year.”
The dual promised to be a tight contest and it delivered. Linn-Mar trailed 31-25 with three matches remaining. Senior Bryce Parke evened the score with a second-period fall at 138. Grant Kress gave the Lions a 34-31 lead with a decision at 145, leaving the dual in the hands of Seery and Hempstead’s Jackson Vanderheyden.
“I was getting excited the whole match,” Seery said. “I knew it was going to be a close one. I was getting prepared the whole time.”
Seery had never been in that position. He handled it well, scoring two takedowns for a 4-0 decision.
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“It was pretty awesome,” Seery said. “I was thinking get to my stuff. I knew I could beat this kid. Don’t do anything stupid.”
The dual started with a strange delay. Hempstead coaches questioned reporting procedures, causing about a 15-minute delay as officials discussed the rule and even made a phone call for clarification.
During that time, Kemokai paced on the mat. He drank some water and put his warmup top back on to stay loose. Streicher urged him to stay calm and relax.
“I didn’t know what was going on out there,” Kemokai said. “I just took my time and took it all in.
“I was getting prepared. I was ready for what was coming my way.”
Once the matter was settled, Kemokai took control from the start, building an 8-3 lead over Jack Smith before getting a fall in 2:49.
“I was hoping to set the tone,” Kemokai said. “That’s we’ve been working on for the past weeks. Being the first guy to wrestle out there, I feel like a chip was on my shoulder. I had to go out there and do what I had to do to get the team going.”
It propelled Linn-Mar to an 18-0 lead with pins from Kain Wempen (170) and Tate Naaktgeboren (182). Luke Gaffney’s major decision at 220 made it 22-6.
Streicher’s lineup moves worked perfectly. Kemokai, Wempen, Naaktgeboren, Parke, Kress and Seery all wrestled up at least one weight. Naaktgeboren, a state finalist last season, bumped two weights.
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“I bumped a lot of guys up in weight today,” Streicher said. “That’s a lot to ask in a regional dual. I’m proud of them.
“It really saved us this year because we didn’t have all the good competitions we normally have. Having that type of room where you have two or three guys that can make you work hard. The only reason we’re here is because of the depth of our room.”
Linn-Mar 37, Dubuque Hempstead 31*
(Individual takedowns in parentheses)
160 pounds – Abass Kemokai (LM) pinned Jack Smith, 2:49 (3,0); 170 – Kain Wempen (LM) pinned Cole Thill, 3:12 (2,0); 182 – Tate Naaktgeboren (LM) pinned Jack Hanson, :58 (2,0); 195 – Joseph Lewis (DH) pinned Dylan Page, 2:40 (2,0); 220 – Luke Gaffney (LM) major dec. Adam Ward, 14-6 (5,1); Hwt. – Cayden Lovett (DH) pinned Gavin Howk-Erwin, 1:55 (1,0); 106 – Lohman Duffy (DH) pinned Keaton Williams, :42 (1,0); 113 – Dawson Fish (DH) pinned Jeanluc Bitonganya, 2:55 (1,1); 120 – Chad Bellis (DH) tech. fall Kane Naaktgeboren, 18-3 (4,1); 126 – Brayden Parke (LM) dec. Adler Kramer, 7-2 (2,1); 132 – Gable Brooks (DH) dec. Austin Vandersee, 7-4 (2,2); 138 – Bryce Parke (LM) pinned Cole Rettenmaier, 2:35 (4,0); 145 – Grant Kress (LM) dec. Josiah Schaetzle, 10-4 (5,0); 152 – Reece Seery (LM) dec. Jackson Vanderheyden, 4-0 (2,0).
*-Team point deducted after 132 match.
Takedowns – Linn-Mar 29, Dub. Hempstead 13. Reversals – Linn-Mar 1, Dub. Hempstead 0. Escapes – Linn-Mar 3, Dub. Hempstead 19. Nearfall points – Linn-Mar 13, Dub. Hempstead 10. Penalty points (awarded) – Linn-Mar 0, Dub. Hempstead 1. Total match points – Linn-Mar 76, Dub. Hempstead 56.
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