The congratulations couldn’t have been more intense, or sincere, had the dedicated Bettendorf team won first place.
More than 100 fans of the Bettendorf Bulldogs wrestling team gathered Sunday evening in the Bettendorf High School gymnasium to honor the team that earned second in the state tournament and second in the state duals meet.
The team members sat in the middle of the gym floor while fans applauded from the bleachers. Kevin Skillett, first-year athletic director, led the celebration.
“We were runner-up in both of these events,” he said, adding that he “couldn’t be more proud” of the way the team represented the school.
He thanked the managers, the trainers, the fans and the parents. “Iowa high school wrestling is the best of the best,” Skillett said.
Seven team members, he said, scored a total of 134.5 points. He led rounds of applause for various supportive groups, starting with the parents and then moving to fans, cheerleaders and students.
Four Bulldogs brought home individual state championships: Fredy Stroker, Logan Ryan, Jacob Woodard and Bubba Hernandez.
Bettendorf Mayor Bob Gallagher, who is a proud BHS wrestler, was on hand to congratulate the team.
He said the team went through some tough days, adding that it takes courage, perseverance and strength to succeed at wrestling. “You should be proud to be Bulldogs today!” he said.
Board members, coaches and trainers also received applause and recognition.
Coach Dan Knight thanked the parents and the fans.
“I know the people in this room know what it takes from the coaches’ standpoint,” he said. He also thanked the wrestlers for their hard work.
“Their work ethic, their attitude, had been really, really good this year,” he said. “They’re a great group of young men” who are a great group of wrestlers, he said.
“For this team to come in there and do what they did, that was impressive,” he said.
He said it’s a first for BHS to have five state finalists and to have two sophomores who are state champions. He also congratulated Stroker, who was named the Class 3 A Outstanding Wrestler, and Hernandez, the first wrestler to be a four-time state place winner.