EPWORTH — Western Dubuque seniors opted for a “Rocky” theme for their season poster.
The Bobcats decked out in gray sweats and stocking caps with giant slabs of meat in the background. Former Western Dubuque head coach Tom Danner stood in as a suitable Mickey, the trainer played by Burgess Meredith.
The message was every champion was a contender that refused to quit, reflecting the Bobcats’ goal.
“They said they were going to be contenders and they’ve contended all year long,” Western Dubuque Coach Paul Cleary said. “We’re looking forward to contend for the state duals.”
Eighth-ranked Western Dubuque will host Cedar Rapids Prairie and Iowa City High in Class 3A regional duals Wednesday night. The Bobcats will face the winner of the semifinal between 10th-ranked Prairie and No. 22 City High.
The Bobcats reached the state duals in 2009 and 2017.
“It should be a great environment,” Cleary said. “We’re incredibly excited to host. We’ve only done it one other time in school history.”
Western Dubuque (18-5) has that “Rocky” feel. The Bobcats are hardworking, tough and always prepared for a brawl.
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They have a balanced lineup with five ranked wrestlers, but the success is a product of effort from the entire team. About 45 Bobcats were in practice this week, helping push the starters and being ready if they have to step in the lineup.
“The team is a family,” Cleary said. “I can’t even tell you how close they are. They break on that all the time.”
Western Dubuque beat Prairie 42-33 on Saturday, creating a three-way tie for the Mississippi Valley Conference Mississippi Division dual title. The Bobcats received a little confidence from that victory.
“We had a good day there, so we’re building off that momentum,” Cleary said. “We’re looking forward to competing.”
The regional is one of the strongest overall. All three teams finished second, third and fourth in the MVC Super Meet. Prairie (12-2) is looking for its 18th state duals berth, while City High (11-11) is vying for a 12th.
“It’s really good,” Prairie Coach Kane Thompson said. “We’re all pretty solid teams.”
Thompson said the Hawks were upbeat after Saturday’s setback. They realized improvements could be made to reverse the results.
“It’s about taking care of round one, so we aren’t fixated on we’re on going to wrestle Western Dubuque,” Thompson said. “We’re focused on our business against City High.”
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Cedar Rapids Kennedy hits the road, joining Iowa City West at Waukee. The 11th-ranked Cougars (10-2) open with No. 20 Iowa City West (10-2) in the semifinal. Kennedy topped the Trojans 49-24 in the regular season and is in search of its fifth state duals berth and first since 2004.
“We like our opportunity,” Kennedy Coach Dennis Hynek said. “Obviously, they are extremely tough teams but we looked at the matchups and I think we match up well enough to where we have an opportunity to win.
“I know the kids and the coaching staff are all pretty excited about it.”
Fourth-ranked Waukee received the semifinal bye and awaits the winner of Kennedy and West. The Cougars will need to match the effort that produced their first conference tournament title.
“It’s the exact same thing as the MVC Super Meet,” Hynek said. “We’re going to have to score bonus points, preferably pins.
“I could see it potentially coming down to seven matches to seven matches, if we wrestle well, so it will come down to pins and things like that.”
No. 21 Linn-Mar (9-2) travels to Waverly to face No. 15 Dubuque Hempstead (10-4) in a semifinal. Second-ranked Waverly-Shell Rock awaits the winner in the final.
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