Photos special to the Delaware State News/Gary Emeigh
DOVER — Anthony Fisher had held on to the sticky-note for a full year.
It reads, “If you believe in yourself as much as I believe in you, you’ll win.”
His Dover High coach Aaron Harris hid it in Fisher’s pocket at the 2016 Henlopen Conference championship meet, which Fisher won.
It was, at the time, the biggest victory of Fisher’s career — until Saturday.
Fisher won the 138-pound state championship to become Dover’s first individual state champion since Jamelle Jones in 2005. Fisher recorded a 5-2 decision in the title bout in front of his home crowd.
As he took the mat for the championship round, Fisher slipped on his ankle bracelet, crouched down in front of his coach and gave the note back to Harris.
“I held on to that because it meant a lot to me,” Fisher, a senior, said. “It’s why I knew I was going to win.”
“To be honest it almost brought a tear to my eye,” Harris said. “He’s a very sentimental kid and works as hard as anyone out there. He deserves this as much as anyone in the world.”
Fisher was tied 2-2 in his match but earned a point for an escape in the third period followed by a two-point takedown. After having his hand raised, he jumped into Harris’ arms and then did a victory lap around the mat with a Dover High flag draped over his shoulders.
“Twelve years is a long time,” Fisher said. “I have a lot of pride in my school and I came in believing in myself.”
Fisher’s victory highlighted another dominant performance by the Henlopen Conference at the state meet. For the fifth year in a row, 10 of the 14 state champions were from the Henlopen Conference — a meet record.
Smyrna High had the most champions with three. The Eagles were led by title-winners Nick Natarcola (120), Chase Archangelo (145) and Tony Wuest (195). Milford High had a pair of winners in Robbie Rosser (113) and Bryan Wynes (285) while Sussex Central also had two, Rashad Stratton (126) and Blake Chambers (170). Caesar Rodney’s Jackson Dean (132) and Cape Henlopen’s Cory Lawson (160) rounded out the downstate winners.
Archangelo capped his high school career with his third state title thanks to a pin in the title bout. He became the 30th wrestler in state history to win three individual championships and was named the Outstanding Wrestler of the meet.
Archangelo, who is headed to wrestle at Cleveland State University, was able to share his title with his father, Joe Archangelo, who also was a Delaware high school champion.
“I’ve been on a mission and I’m so blessed to even have this opportunity,” Archangelo “My dad won his state title in Dover too, so just to get it done here, all my hard work paid off.”
Wuest and Natarcola each bounced back from disappointment in 2016 to win their title Saturday.
Wuest won a championship in 2015 as a freshman but suffered a dislocated elbow and torn tendons during last season’s state semifinal match.
“It was a big revenge thing I didn’t want it to happen again,” Wuest said. “Mostly this year I worked on not letting people in that close.”
Wuest pinned his way through the tournament and needed less than 1:30 to earn the pin in the final.
“My goal is dominating the whole time I’m on the mat,” Wuest said. “How I look at wrestling is the better wrestler is who is most dominant.”
Natarcola did not place at states a year ago despite being seeded third after he was upset in the first round. He was tied 1-1 in the championship match and used a two-point takedown with five seconds to go in the final period for the championship.
“That gave me a lot of motivation to come back from that,” Natarcola said. “It’s an awesome feeling to put all this work in and be a state champ which as been my goal since my first year wrestling.”
Dean used a 7-5 decision to earn the state title in his first attempt as a high schooler, setting him up for a possible four career championships if he keeps this pace.
“CR hasn’t had a four-time state champ yet so I’m on the road to that,” Dean said. “That’s definitely one of my goals.”
Rosser used a technical fall at 113 for his first career state title. Wynes avenged a defeat from last week’s Henlopen Conference tournament finals with an overtime win on Saturday, preventing an escape point in the extra period to win 2-1.
“I was just thinking to keep wrist control and hold on for dear life,” Wynes said. “This feels wonderful. I’ve never felt anything better.”
Lawson’s championship win was also the 100th victory of his career, coming on his birthday no less. It was the second title for the senior and it came against a former state champion, Sussex Central’s Brandon Bautista.
Bautista defeated Lawson in a narrow decision in the deciding match of the state dual meet semifinals two weeks ago as Sussex Central went on to win the team title. But Lawson got him back with a 6-4 win in overtime in the individual state tournament.
“All the respect in the world goes to Brandon Bautista,” Lawson said. “He’s a great competitor and friend. He has the same competitive mindset as me and I think that’s what makes these matches so tight. He beat me in the big one and that one still hurts a lot. But I love wrestling him. This is what high school sports are all about.”
The four non-downstate winners were Zach Spence of Salesianum at 106, Timmy Griffith of Sanford (152), Austin Clayton of St. Georges (182) and Keith Medley of Caravel (220).
Reach staff writer Tim Mastro at firstname.lastname@example.org