Bucs, Eagles start strong at Henlopen Conference championship tournament

Smyrna’s Amir Pierce in control over Averi Copes of Milford in the 132-pound match. Pierce won by fall in the 3rd period. (Special to the Delaware State News/Gary Emeigh)

GEORGETOWN — Just six days removed from earning state dual meet titles, the Smyrna High and Milford High wrestling programs picked right up where they left off at Friday night’s quarterfinal round of the Henlopen Conference championship tournament.

With 85.0 points through Day 1 preliminary and quarterfinal action, the Division II champion Milford Bucs sit atop the team standings heading into today’s semifinal round.

“It’s always the same, I know we say this a lot, but you have to be focused and you have to move forward,” Milford junior Gaij Copes said of the team’s approach. “You have to keep your mind focused, every match counts.”

The Bucs sent a tournament-high nine wrestlers to today’s semifinals, which will begin at 11 a.m. at Sussex Central High. The finals will begin at approximately 4:30 p.m.

The Division I champion Smyrna Eagles currently sit in second place, scoring 83.0 points and sending eight wrestlers to the semifinal round.

“We’re still on that high [from last weekend], with the understanding that we have to move forward and not have a letdown,” said Smyrna coach Aaron Harris. “The biggest time to have a letdown is after a big accomplishment.

Joseph Natarcola of Smyrna escapes from Dover’s Marquis Machado and won by fall in 44 seconds in the 120-pound bout. (Special to the Delaware State News/Gary Emeigh)

“Us coaches, we’re constantly preaching to the team that there’s no letdown. Stay on your high, but let’s continue to push.”

The host Sussex Central currently sit in third place with 69.0 team points, sending five wrestlers to the semis.

Milford’s Corey Messick (106-pound weight class), Jack Thode (113), Trent Grant (120), Dalton Deevey (152), Copes (160), Rafael Mejia (170), Bevensky Augustin (182), Eric Bennett (195) and Anthony Diaz (220) each earned wins in the quarterfinals to remain in contention for an individual conference title Saturday.

Messick, Thode, Copes, Mejia and Diaz each registered wins by pin.

“I’m really excited for these guys,” said Copes. “Everybody says we have a lot of freshmen, we have a lot of sophomores on our team, and just everyone’s stepping up.”

n the 152-pound DIAA quarterfinal match Devin Pearsall of Sussex Central scored a fall over Smyrna’s Logan Kosky. (Special to the Delaware State News/Gary Emeigh)

Smyrna’s Gabe Giampietro (106), Joe Natarcola (120), Jaxson Al-Chokhachy (126), Amir Pierce (132), Nick Natarcola (138), Gavin Sembly (160). J.T. Davis (182) and Masen Wilson (195) each picked up quarterfinal wins for the Eagles.

“Our 195 stepped it up real big,” said Harris. “He’s been wrestling quite differently in the last month and for him to go out and dominate in the quarterfinals the way he did, Masen did a good job.”

Giampietro, Al-Chokhachy, Pierce, Davis, Wilson and both Natarcolas registered pins in their individual victories.

“It was exciting, especially after going and winning the state title, you get back into practice and come out here pumped for individuals,” said Pierce. “You just want to get back out there and keep punching and fighting.”

CR’s Mike Primo keeps pressure on Tyler Hudson of Sussex Central in the 126-pound quarterfinal match. Primo won by fall in the 3rd period. (Special to the Delaware State News/Gary Emeigh)

For the host Golden Knights, three of the team’s five individual quarterfinal wins were by pin.

“I thought we looked tough,” Central coach Shane Miller said. “Some of our guys had the opportunity and didn’t take advantage of it, but it is what it is. They have to come back and wrestle tomorrow.”

Jevon Saffold (132), Devin Pearsall (152) and Mike Wright (195) registered the pins.

“It feels good to have everybody out here in our home gym to finish out the season strong in front of our fans,” said Pearsall. “I’m just going to stay focused, get some sleep tonight because I know I have two tough matches if I’m going to make it in the finals.”

“You want to see growth at the end of the year, and we saw that from our guys today,” said Miller.

Caesar Rodney High, the Division I dual meet runner-up after falling 35-33 to the Eagles last Saturday, sits just a few points back from third place.

The Riders earned 64.5 points and had seven wrestlers advance to the semifinals.

Dover High (54.0) and Cape Henlopen High (53.5) round out the top six in team standings.

Reach staff writer Ben Heck at bheck@newszap.com

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