CR’s Dean top Henlopen wrestler: Smyrna claims team title, Bucs crown 3

Caesar Rodney’s Jackson Dean won the 152-championship with a fall in the first period over Finbar Rishko of Cape Henlopen. Special to the Delaware State News/Gary Emeigh

MILFORD — Saturday was a day for first-timers at the Henlopen Conference wrestling championships.

Eight different wrestlers celebrated the first conference title of their career as the championship meet wrapped up on Saturday at Milford High. Smyrna led the way with five champions as the Eagles also won the team title while host Milford followed with three individual winners.

Smyrna had two of the first-time winners with Amir Pierce at 132 pounds and Hugo Harp at 220. Harp, a senior, is a two-time defending state champion but had to wait until Saturday to claim his first conference title.

Other first-time winners included Dylan King of Sussex Central, Trenton Grant of Milford, Pat Wisniewski of Caesar Rodney, Kenel Jean Pierre of Polytech, Andre Currie of Cape Henlopen and Taeshaun Ford-Jackson of Woodbridge.

Gabe Giampietro of Smyrna maneuvers to get in position to pin Tyler Ratledge of Lake Forest in the 106-pound championship match.

Of course there were several repeat winners.

Jackson Dean of Caesar Rodney celebrated his fourth career conference championship and also was awarded the tournament’s Outstanding Wrestler. Anthony Diaz of Milford and Smyrna’s Joey Natarcola each won their third conference title while Smyrna’s Gabe Giampietro and J.T. Davis, plus Jack Thode of Milford recorded the second conference championship of their careers.

King, Wisniewski and Ford-Jackson all upset their bracket’s top seed in the final round.

King fell to his opponent in the 113-pound finals Corey Messick 7-0 in the regular season. But the Sussex Central junior turned it around for a 3-2 decision on Saturday thanks to a cradle in the third period.

“I saw the cradle opportunity and just went for it,” King said. “It means a lot and it’s a lot of hard work with a whole year of wrestling.”

Caesar Rodney’s Wisniewski claimed the 138-pound championship with a 3-2 decision of his own. The senior had one runner-up finish in his career and was able to get over the hump Saturday.

“It feels great to finally get there,” Wisniewski said. “I was able to come back and win one for the first time.”

Milford’s Jack Thode defeated Jamar Wells in the 120-pound bout with a 13-5 decision.

Ford-Jackson posted one of the most emotional moments of the night.

He rallied from an early deficit in his 195-pound matchup and won with a pin 1:53 into the match. Ford-Jackson dedicated the win to his former football teammate, Troy Haynes who died from cancer last fall. Ford Jackson held up four fingers after his match for Haynes’ jersey number and pointed to the sky.

“I did it for No. 4,” he said. “It means a lot for me to win something for him and know he’s with me at all times. It feels so great to know I can do something for him.”

The host Buccaneers won their three championships behind Grant’s first title at 126 after an overtime win plus Thode’s 13-5 major-decision at 120 pounds and an overtime victory by Diaz at 285.

Smyrna’s championships from its repeat winners came from Giampietro at 106, Natarcola at 145 and J.T. Davis at 182. Davis won his bout with a major-decision but Giampietro and Natarcola each had to come from behind.

Giampietro fell down 2-0 within the first 15 seconds but made sure his match didn’t see the second period after a pin in 1:23 for the sophomore’s second championship.

“When I got up I was like, ‘Alright, I got to do something,’” Giampietro said. “It was only 2-0 in the first period, so I knew I could get it. No worries, I could get it back. I felt good with my performance all in all, just got to tweak up a little bit and get a little bit better.”

Natarcola faced a 4-1 deficit in the first period but ended up with an 11-6 victory.

“You just got to stay calm and collected,” Natarcola said. “Good things happen when you listen to your coaches. So sticking to the gameplan, knowing that he would gas out. This win is important to make sure you get a good seed at states.”

The first-time Smyrna champions won with Pierce’s 7-4 decision at 132 and Harp’s 6-4 decision at 220.

Jean Pierre gave Polytech its lone victory of the night with another overtime win in the 160-pound contest. He earned an 11-9 win thanks to a sudden victory after a takedown in the fourth period.

Currie won his title for Cape Henlopen at 170 after a 5-4 decision.

Dean’s win came via pin at 152 pounds. The Caesar Rodney senior is eying a third career state title next week as states will be hosted by Cape Henlopen this upcoming Friday and Saturday.

“The year is running out so it’s nice to go out on top for the first part at conferences,” Dean said. “It’s been a long four years so it’s nice to go 4-for-4 at conferences. I really want to go out on top next week too.”