DENVER — At 1:46 a.m. on Oct. 17, 2000, Cael Krueger was born in Waterloo. Five hours and nine minutes later, Riley Wright was born in a Des Moines hospital.
Flash forward 18 years, Krueger and Wright shared another monumental moment, registering their 150th career victories as wrestlers for Denver High School less than 24 hours apart last week.
Wright picked his up his 150th win Thursday in a double-dual with Sumner-Fredericksburg and West Marshall, before Krueger joined him in the first round of the Battle of Waterloo.
If the connection between Krueger and Wright isn’t already deep there is more.
Heading into a dual with BCLUW and Wapsie Valley last night, both wrestlers had a season record of 18-1. Both, with Wright’s announcement today, are going to wrestle at NCAA Division III Coe College in Cedar Rapids.
“Off the mat they couldn’t be any more different,” Denver head coach Chris Krueger said. “Cael is quiet and reserved. Riley can walk into a room and have a new best friend in minutes.
“They are good friends, but like brothers, drive each other crazy at times.”
Krueger is ranked No. 1 at 170 pounds, and Wright No. 2 at 138 for a Cyclones team that when completely healthy will contend for trophies at the Class 1A state tournaments — both traditional and dual — in February.
Wright, who moved to Denver before his freshman year, remembers one of his first encounters with Krueger when through conversation they discovered they had the same birthday.
“I thought he was mocking me by telling me my birthday,” recalled Wright, who has played football and soccer also for the Cyclones.
The give-and-take has been non-stop the past four years.
“Yeah, we have our ups and downs together, but it has always been that we just want to see the best for each other,” said Cael, who has quarterbacked the football team and played baseball. “When I’m tired or down, he is there helping me out and when he is tired or down, I’m there helping him out.”
Krueger and Wright have also had similar high school career paths with both dealing with major injuries.
Kreuger, has fifth and fourth-place finishes at the state tournament, and like Wright, probably would be a three-time state place winner had he not suffered a collar bone fracture his freshman season.
The injury came early in the season, and with rest and stubbornness, Krueger fought and earned a district qualifying spot at sectionals. But in doing so, he re-injured the collar bone. Fearing the long-term risk over the reward, his dad/coach withdrew him from the district competition with a 25-2 record.
“The risk was far too great,” Chris Krueger said. “There was too much inflammation and stress around the collar bone. It was a big disappointment for him, because he had a lot going, had majored Bryce West, a three-time state champion, earlier in the season.”
Wright was among the favorites last year at 138 only to suffer a compression fracture to his right elbow in his first competition after the holiday break in January. Wright sat out of competition until sectionals.
“I couldn’t use that arm. But I love the sport too much to not even try,” said Wright who added he was limited on top, couldn’t get to his shots on his feet.
In what Chris Krueger describes as a gutsy performance, Wright earned his third state medal finishing fifth at 138. He placed third and fourth the previous two season.
“Most kids would’ve said, ‘Hey, I’m, done for the year,’ but he decided to toughen it out,” Chris Krueger said. “He’s no longer a dodge ball threat in our room, but it was pretty miraculous what he did down there basically wrestling with one arm.”
In the minds of Cael Krueger and Wright, making the podium was nice, but not finishing on top of it is hard to take.
“I’m focusing and paying more attention to the little details,” Cael Krueger said. “By doing that, hopefully I will see myself at the top at the end of this season.”
“I just want to see myself enjoy it,” Wright said of his senior season. “Every time I go out I want to have fun, have fun with it all. Hopefully our team will keep getting better and better and hopefully at the end we all we be at the top.”
Chris Krueger agrees saying what he’s heard and seen in the wrestling room resonates that train of thought.
“You can see they have more focus, more drive to win state championships,” Chris Krueger said.