CR’s Jackson Dean looks to rebound for another state title

CAMDEN — Jackson Dean was on pace to do something no Caesar Rodney High wrestler had done before.

Until he was thrown off course last year.

But that setback has fueled Dean to a dominant junior season.

Dean is seeded first in the 145-pound weight class at the DIAA individual wrestling state tournament which begins Friday afternoon at Cape Henlopen High. Dean is fresh off a Henlopen Conference individual title that he won last weekend.

Dean won the 132-pound state championship as a freshman in 2017. After the match, he stated his ambition to win a state title every year of his high school career.

He fell in the semifinals of the 138-pound bracket a year ago though and had to settle for third place. Despite all of Caesar Rodney’s wrestling success, the Riders still have yet to have a wrestler win four state titles.

“That’s what tore me up the most,” Dean said. “They call it the CR curse.

Only 10 wrestlers have won four championships in their high schools careers — the most recent was Brent Fleetwood who graduated Smyrna High in 2014.

So while Dean can’t join that group, he can still be a three-time state champion if he wins the next two years. Just 32 wrestlers have accomplished that feat including eight from Caesar Rodney — Randy Smith (1983, 1984, 1985), Ian Moser (2004, 2005, 2006), Matt Cathell (2004, 2005, 2006), Alex Meade (2005, 2007, 2008), Issah Meade (2009, 2010, 2011), Kaleb LeMaire (2010, 2011, 2012), Micah High (2011, 2012, 2013) and Cam Hayes (2015 at Milford High, 2017, 2018).

That is now Dean’s goal as he’s moved on from last year’s disappointment. He said he’s also shooting to win the tournament’s Outstanding Wrestler Award, which he did at the Henlopen Conference tournament last Saturday.

Upon reflecting on the 2018 semifinal defeat, Dean said he thinks it helped him in the long run.

“I had to put it behind me,” Dean said. “The past is the past. Things happen and you got to get over them. I got back to work last summer and I think I’m leagues ahead of where I was last year.”

Dean’s revenge tour this year has taken him to a 33-5 record in the high school season. He finished seventh at 138 pounds at the prestigious Beast of the East tournament in December before bumping up to wrestle at 145 pounds for most of the dual meet season.

Dean’s summer was highlighted by a 7-1 performance for a third-place finish at the US Marine Corps/USAW Junior Nationals in Fargo, N.D., regarded as the toughest tournament in the country. That gave Dean All-American honors.

“Last year was a letdown at states,” Dean said. “I’ve really been trying to battle back from that to prove, maybe that shouldn’t have happened.” All-American three times this summer.

Dean isn’t the only Rider who is seeded first at states.

Kevin Hudson is the top seed at heavyweight. Hudson just won his second-straight Henlopen Conference title on Saturday. He finished second at states a year ago.

Gabe Degraffinreed is the second seed at 152 pounds. Degraffinreed is in his first year with the Caesar Rodney program after wrestling the first three years of his high school career at Laurel High.

Degraffinreed earned his first every conference title last week at the Henlopen Conference tournament.

“I’m happy I won the conference championship but I’m not done yet,” Degraffinreed said. “I want to keep on going and finish off the season strong.”

Staff writer Tim Mastro can be reached at or 741-8224.
Follow @TimMastroDSN on Twitter.

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