Dover grapplers shine at Polytech tournament

Dover head coach Aaron Harris.

DOVER — In a lot of ways, simply teaching wrestling technique is the easy part of all this.

It’s the other stuff — changing his wrestlers’ mindset and the culture of a program — that is difficult, says Dover High coach Aaron Harris.

Harris is starting his fourth season of trying to build the Senators wrestling program back into a contender.

“I’ve been doing this for a long time,” said Harris, who coached high school wrestling in Florida before coming to Dover. “And I’m very familiar with teaching the techniques and training wrestlers.

“But, in Florida, we had to change the culture. It’s tough because it’s not just changing the people in front of your face. It’s changing what they go home to and the types of things they do when they leave here. Wrestling isn’t always important to people other than wrestlers.”

Harris, though, likes where Dover is right now.

Despite having nine new wrestlers out of the 14 weight classes, the Senators opened the season by repeating as the team champion at the Polytech Invitational on Saturday. Dover accomplished the feat without having any individual champions, either.

Senators senior Tykwan Joyner (126 pounds) placed second at Polytech.

Instead, the Senators collected three second-place finishes and four thirds to total 195.5 points. Laurel was second with 159 while Sussex Tech took third in the 13-team event with 149.

Harris said his expectations for this year’s Polytech tourney were a little different than last year when he had a more veteran roster.

“Last year, I just wanted to see where my studs stood and where we stood with the rest of the state,” said Harris. “This year was all about my new guys stepping in the lineup and making a name for themselves.

“You watch guys progress in the room. But you never know what happens when it’s a stranger and the lights are on. The young guys really responded well and wrestled the way we thought they would.”

Dover’s second-place finishers included senior Tykwan Joyner (126 pounds), junior Raeshawn Alexander (138) and sophomore Gabe Evans (170).

Last season was a good one for the Senators. Not only did they go 13-6 and earn a spot in the DIAA Division I dual-meet tournament but they knocked off rival Caesar Rodney, 39-24, in the quarterfinals.

That was Dover’s first dual-meet victory over the Riders since 1995.

“I feel like we’ve caught most of the teams and we’re right there,” said Harris. “We just need to do some of the little things better so we can turn the corner. I don’t feel anyone’s far above us like they were before.

“We want to go in there with a chip on our shoulder and be as confident as we work. We work hard in here (in the wrestling room). Our confidence level needs to match it.”

After starting out with around 10 wrestlers when he first came to Dover, Harris has approximately 40 in the program now.

The Senators have to jump right into their Henlopen Conference Northern Division schedule with a match at Smyrna on Dec. 13. They’ll compete in the Scorpion Duals at Oakland Mills, Md. this Friday and Saturday.

Dover went 7-1 in the event a year ago.

“Last year we went in there and kind of questioned whether we matched up with everyone,” said Harris. “But we matched up well. We’ll see what happens this year.”

Laurel also shines at Polytech

Second-place Laurel actually had the most first-place finishers at Polytech with four.

The Bulldogs’ weight-class winners included Isaiah Jenkins (120), Gabe Gegraffinreed (132), Rae’Mier DeShields (182) and Mike Handy (220).

Jesse Glanden, a former CR teammate of Harris, is in his third season as Laurel’s coach. Glanden and Harris have their wrestlers travel together during the summer and sit together in the bleachers at events.
“We’ve both done similar things to change the culture,” said Harris. “It helps build comaradarie outside the room in wrestling. You really learn to respect your opponent. You’re in a gym all day with them in a tournament. You don’t walk around (together) and not like each other. They get to know each other and respect each other.”

Notes

The other Henlopen Conference winners at Polytech were Indian River’s Will Rayne (113) and Zachery Schultz (195), Milford’s Robbie Rosser (126) and Polytech’s Avery Mayan (160). … Sanford had three winners. … James Demko is in his first year at Polytech’s head coach. … The Milford Invitational is on tap for this Friday and Saturday. … Woodbridge’s Jerome Cannon won the 126-pound bracket at Brandywine’s Bulldog Invitational on Saturday.

Reach sports editor Andy Walter at walter@newszap.com

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