Bucs finish six-year Div. II reign with four second-place state finishes

Corey Messick of Milford won by decision 3-0 over Matthew Meadows of St. George’s in the 106-pound quarterfinal match. (Special to the Delaware State News/Gary Emeigh)

LEWES – Don Parsley is about to do something he’s never done in his nearly three decades at the helm of the Milford High wrestling program.

He’s going to take the week off.

His Bucs squad just wrapped up the 2018-19 wrestling campaign Saturday night with four wrestlers earning second-place finishes at the DIAA individual state championships hosted by Cape Henlopen High.

While he and his team typically get right back to work the Monday following the individual championships, this year he’s trying something different.

“How about that? I’m taking Monday off, and actually I’m going to stay out of the room for a week,” said Parsley. “I need a break, we’ve had a great run here and the kids need a break. We’ll get back that first week of March and we’ll be in there a couple days a week.

“I know what I’m going to do,” he continued, with a smile. “I’m just going to go home after school and make dinner, play with my dog and wait for my wife to come home.”

Sophomore Corey Messick, freshman Jack Thode and juniors Gaij Copes and Anthony Diaz each placed second in their respective weight classes, falling just short in Saturday night’s finals.

Milford’s Gaij Copes, left, and Caesar Rodney’s Riley Tracy wrestle in the 160-pound title match on Feb. 16.

“You put four guys in the state finals, that’s a pretty good weekend,” Parsley said. “We had six guys in the top six overall. I’m just real pleased with the effort all weekend. Certainly, you’d like to have a champion or two, or three or four, but the competition’s real stiff and all our guys left it all out there on the mat, which is what we’re here for.”

Sophomore Rafael Mejia (170) placed sixth and junior Bevensky Augustin (182) placed fourth to round out Milford’s top six finishes.

Messick lost by 12-0 major decision to Smyrna High freshman Gabe Giampietro in the 106-pound weight class finals, but it was a big step up from his freshman campaign.

“Last year I didn’t place, so being a state finalist is a really big step this year. I’m proud of myself for that,” Messick said.

It marked the third time the two wrestlers faced each other this season, with the first showdown coming at the Milford Invitational in December and the second time happening at the conference meet last weekend. Giampietro won all three matches.

“I knew he is really tough,” he said. “When we wrestled at conferences, he wrestled really well and I wasn’t really on my A-game that match. Again, today, he came out really tough so hat’s off to him.”

Thode capped his first high school wrestling season with a second-place finish in the 113 class, getting pinned by three-time state champion Zach Spence of Salesianum in the finals match.

Third-seeded Copes battled the top-seeded Liam O’Connor from Delcastle in the 160 finals match, falling by 3-1 decision.

“It feels good,” Copes said. “I came up a little bit short of my goals, but I’m coming back next year and I’m coming hard. It’s going to make me work harder than ever.”

Copes was able to close the gap a bit after dropping a 10-5 loss to O’Connor earlier in the season.

“I wrestled him at Battle at the Beach, and it was 10-5 I believe, so I just wanted to close it down a little bit and stop some of the low shots he took, which I did, but he just came out on top,” he said.

Diaz, the top seed in the 220 class, dropped a 15-4 major decision to Dover High’s back-to-back state champion Hugo Harp.

Diaz reached the state semifinals last year as a sophomore, but had to drop out of the tournament due to an injury.

“We all got out there and wrestled hard,” Messick said. “It’s not like any of us didn’t give it our all, and to be a state finalist is a really big accomplishment. I’m proud of our guys for that.”

“All of our finalists are returning, so I’m really excited about that,” Parsley said.

After earning the team’s sixth straight Division II dual meet title Feb. 9, taking second at the Henlopen Conference championships Feb. 16 and placing six in the top six at states Saturday, the Bucs are ready to move up to Div. I next season.

“We’re small-town Milford. We’ve had a great season, we’ve done some things that people in Delaware sport don’t do,” said Parsley.

“Six consecutive state titles, the division championships, having guys regularly earn All-State recognition, put four guys in the finals. It shows that we can compete with the toughest in Delaware and that we really are among the best, even though we’re a Division II school.”

When the Bucs get back to work in early March, they’ll be preparing for next season’s Div. I competition against schools such as Smyrna, Caesar Rodney, Sussex Central and Cape Henlopen.

“We’ll continue to progress towards that ultimate goal of now being a Div. I state champion,” Parsley said. “Certainly, if that’s not what’s going to be in the cards for us, we’re going to make everyone feel like we’re a threat to them.”

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