SIOUX CITY | There was probably a time or two over the years Matt Pugh wondered what it would take to turn Bishop Heelan wrestling back into a serious contender for a Missouri River Activities Conference wrestling title.
Tuesday he sat a few feet off the mat at East High and watched it happen.
In a matchup of teams that sported their biggest strengths at opposite ends of the lineup, it was Heelan that scored the needed bonus points to secure the 35-31 MRAC victory. In the process the Crusaders moved two more conference victories away from winning the MRAC dual crown and ending SB-L's hopes for three straight.
“This was part of our goal this year was to knock these guys off,” said Pugh, Heelan’s co-head coach who was the team’s top assistant the previous two seasons. “We worked hard for it but we are not done yet. We still have a lot of work to do but my hat is off to Sergeant Bluff they did a hell of job.”
The Warriors took a 16-15 lead when Alex Freiberg worked a 5-0 decision over Isiah Gilmore at 170 pounds. That is the last lead the Warriors would enjoy.
Heelan's Caleb Engel would pin Danny Dillavou in 2:40 at 182 and the Warriors forfeited at 195 after Tristian Navrkal injured himself in his team's first dual against East. Leading 27-16, Heelan's Diego Samaniego scored a reversal with four seconds left to down Casey Holsinger 6-5.
“He is a kid that always hangs around and always finds a way to win and it just shows his experience on the mat,” said Pugh of Damaniego.
Heelan's 10th-ranked heavyweight Kobe Clayborne clinched the dual when he pinned Nick Wieseler in 1:34. Clayborne celebrated with his team which erupted out of its chairs after the six points. Heelan was docked one point after Clayborne threw his headgear in celebration but it did not matter.
“Those guys battled,” Pugh said. “We had a lot a lot of guys step up and we didn’t know where those matches were going to go. Hats off to the seniors, everyone on our team stepped up and battled.”
SB-L would win the final three matches, ending with consecutive falls from Nate Curry at 113 and Isaac Bryan at 120.
Both teams won seven matches but Heelan claimed bonus points in five compared to four for the Warriors.
Jack Gaukel opened the dual with three near-fall points late for SB-L to score a 10-6 major decision at 126. After Heelan's Ethan Emmick scored an impressive 8-4 win over Cory Bates, the Warriors got wins from (2A) No. 4 Easton Graff and a pin from Blake Liebe.
Heelan began to turn the tide thanks to first-period pins from Frank Vondrak and Luke Martin at 152 and 160, respectively.
"We are just opposites," Sergeant Bluff-Luton Coach Clint Koedam said. "They are tough up top and we are tough down below. It was going to boil down to who got the most pins and there needed to be one upset and this time it ended in their favor. Kudos to them.
"Conference titles are a nice little bonus to put on your season and you would be a fool to say you didn't want to win one, but on the same hand that can't be the end measurement of success for your program."
“This is not the last time we will see these guys this year,” Pugh said. “We will see them in our conference, we will see them at sectionals, and we will see them at districts and possibly a regional dual. We have to get better every day.”
The Warriors were easy winners in their first dual of the night 57-9 over East. SB-L won the first four matches to build a 21-0 lead before East scored a 9-7 decision from Alex Kleider over Liebe at 145 and Eric Steele pinned Drew Mathison in 4:36.
SB-L got back on a roll after that winning the final eight matches highlighted by pins from Freiberg (170), Holsinger (220), Wieseler (285) and Jherek Dillavou (106).
The match of the dual was the last one on the mat as Curry downed junior Sean Heeney 8-2 at 113. Curry got a takedown and then put Heeney to his back to go up 4-0 with two back points. The Black Raider would score a reverse to close the gap to 4-2, but Curry used a slick reverse of his own to score two and go on for the win.
"Nate is a quiet kid and he doesn't say a whole lot, but one thing about him is he is constantly thinking how do I improve, how do I get better?" Koedam said. "Last year the first time he lost to (Heeney) it hurt, the second time he lost I think it left a mark. He was going to work hard to erase that from his memory."
The Crusaders closed out the night with another bonus-point filled victory over East 54-21 to improve to 4-0 in MRAC dual action.