Muddy Water Duals

Bettendorf wrestling coach Dan Knight talks during a Wednesday news conference to announce the initial Rock Valley Muddy Water Duals at Sancho's Mexican Restaurant in Davenport.

TODD MIZENER, Lee News Network

Boys basketball has the annual Genesis Shootout. Girls basketball features the IHMVCU Shootout.

Former Davenport Community Schools athletic director Jon Flynn, now the principal at Davenport Central, felt wrestling needed its own border battle.

After two years of planning, the inaugural Rock Valley Muddy Water Duals will take place Saturday, Dec. 23, at Davenport North High School.

"This could not be coming at a better time for our sport," Central activities director and former wrestling coach Brian Ehlinger said Wednesday during a news conference to launch the event at Sancho's Mexican Restaurant in Davenport.

"For wrestling to be on the front page for at least one day in December may spark some interest in some kids. That's important."

Bettendorf, Davenport Central, Davenport North, Davenport West and Pleasant Valley will compete for Iowa.

Alleman, Moline, Rock Island, Sterling and United Township will represent Illinois.

It'll be a round-robin format starting at 9 a.m. with each team wrestling five duals. The state with the highest points per dual average will be crowned the winner.

"There is great tradition in the sport of wrestling in the Quad-Cities, and there's always been talk about what side is better," Moline coach Jacob Ruettiger said. "Finally, we're able to shed some light on that this year with what state is going to go out and produce."

The event is being organized by the Davenport schools.

Ehlinger said a traveling trophy has been created. The trophy will reside in the winning state's Quad-City Rock Valley clinic for a year. An outstanding wrestler award also will be given to an individual from each state, voted on by the coaches.

"It is fun we actually get to extend our rivalries across the river," United Township coach Lambros Fotos said. "Right now, Bettendorf has its own rivalry with Assumption, and us, Moline and Rock Island have our own rivalries.

"Now, we get to start something new, branch out and wrestle guys on the other side."

Coaches admit wrestling needs a shot in the arm. Participation is dwindling.

Fotos had 50 wrestlers in his program at the outset of the season. It lost almost 20 of those individuals after three days of practice.

Rock Island coach Joel Stockwell said his "numbers are terrible" right now.

"Through my lens, it is a dying sport unfortunately," Stockwell said. "The elite kids are going to keep going, but your average kid is dropping their ability and willingness to put in the work.

"Any kind of light we can throw on wrestling is a positive thing."

Pleasant Valley coach Jake Larsen believes the dual meets are what can help invigorate the sport for spectators, much like what has happened at the collegiate level.

Bettendorf wrestled only 11 dual meets last season. Thanks to this event, it'll have 14 duals before Christmas break.

"Every kid is going to get five matches, a good kid or bad kid," Bettendorf coach Dan Knight said. "Sometimes, you go to these tournaments, and young kids go 0-2, and then they sit for five or six hours.

"It is all about getting better and having experience."

Ehlinger said the event will take place the weekend before Christmas the next couple of years. Beyond that, a date change likely will be required.

"The hope is, there is enough community support and the schools involved enjoy it if we have to bump to a different date," Ehlinger said. "In that case, they would be willing to give up whatever they're in to stay in the dual."

A long-term vision is to expand the event to more teams and possibly use multiple locations.

"We've been dreaming to someday have 10 Illinois teams, 10 Iowa teams and go multiple sites," Ehlinger said. "We're excited as heck to get a foot in the door with this thing.

"It has been a good thing for boys basketball and girls basketball. We think wrestling can be right there with it."

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Sports Editor

Prep sports editor, with emphasis on covering the Mississippi Athletic Conference and Iowa area high schools. I've been in sports journalism for 17 years, the last five at the Quad-City Times.