Rigby returns to Milford tonight

CAMDEN — Dan Rigby looks at his Caesar Rodney High wrestling team compared to Milford’s and sees no reason why the Buccaneers shouldn’t be favored.

“They have a killer team,” he said about Milford. “They had a great showing at Milford, they had a great showing at Beast of the East.”

Of course, Rigby knows the current Bucs about as well as anyone.Dan Rigby Wrestling by .

The 28-year-old spent the last five seasons as Milford’s coach, leading them to back-to-back Division II state titles.

That’s a storyline that’s difficult to miss with the Bucs hosting Rigby and the Riders today at 6:30 p.m in an interesting nonconference dual meet.

But while acknowledging “the elephant in the room,” Rigby said going up against his former squad really isn’t as big a deal as it sounds.

“It’s exciting,” said Rigby, who was hired at CR in May. “Most of those kids wrestled for me. I’m friendly with everybody down there.

“I think it’s the outsider’s perspective of what the dynamics really are. I’m looking forward to a fun, exciting environment. It’ll be fun for these guys to get in there and mix it up.”

Certainly tonight’s match will be another opportunity for CR to regain some respectability as it tries to build itself back into a Division I state-championship contender again.

A year ago, the Riders made the DIAA Division I dual-meet state tourney. But they also finished just 8-12.

One of CR’s losses was a 36-28 setback to Milford.

A Caesar Rodney grad, Rigby doesn’t mind using the underdog angle for motivation with his wrestlers.

The Riders opened their dual-meet schedule with a 38-30 win over Cape Henlopen last Wednesday. CR had lost to the Vikings two years in a row.

“We were beat up in the match, we’re beat up now,” said Rigby. “But these guys embrace that ‘us-versus-the-world,’ ‘bring-it-on’ kind of thing.

“It was a little bit of a monkey off my back. To say I wasn’t feeling a little bit of pressure going into that match would be a lie.”

Senior Mike Clavier said the Riders have adjusted to Rigby’s personality. The fact that he’s a former CR wrestler isn’t lost on them, either.

“I really like Coach Rigby,” said Clavier. “He brings a different tone to the wrestling room. He’s part of the program and he knows what CR wrestling is and what it takes to be the best.”

Rigby, on the other hand, says Clavier is a pretty good wrestler to build around.

A 195-pounder, Clavier was the top-finishing Delaware wrestler at the Beast of the East on Sunday, taking seventh in his weight class. The Riders tied for 51st in the 112-team national event held in Newark.

“It was very exciting,” said Clavier, who has finished third in the state two years in a row. “That’s always been a goal of mine. Last year I made a run and made it to the round of 16. I said, next year when I come back, I want to place.

“I worked hard last year and this year. It’s nice to be able to say you’re an All-American. It doesn’t get much better than that.”

“That tournament is just made for him,” said Rigby. “It’s the grind-them-out, blue-collar wins that he’s come to know. He didn’t get nervous. He was just cool, calm and collected.

“That was three years in the making. That wasn’t overnight success. His work ethic. … anybody in this room he touches is instantly better because they’re working with Mike. He pulls everybody with him.”

Clavier is one of only seven seniors on the Riders’ roster. The other six are Ryan Bones (219 pounds), Isaac Elkins (157), Thomas Gallucci (149), Chase Mounts (155), Andrew Sudler (177) and Dante Walker (191).

Rigby looks at the district’s junior high programs and said he sees a bright future ahead for the program. It’s just a question of when CR gets there.

“I don’t think we’re going to turn this back to where it was four or five years ago overnight.” said Rigby. “But I think all the pieces are in place. Our youth program is firing on all cylinders.

“I think, more than anything, these guys just need to get better every day. I think we’re going to be a significantly better team late in the year. We’re still kind of rough around the edges but I think we’ll smooth things out as the year goes on.”

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