Improving Dover glad to end dual meet tourney drought

DOVER — At 12-5, Dover High’s wrestlers knew they still had a solid chance of making the state tournament.

But the Senators’ 41-23 loss to Caesar Rodney on Friday night created just enough doubt as they waited for the DIAA Division I dual-meet pairings to be announced on Sunday.

Coach Aaron Harris could sympathize with his wrestlers. On the other hand, he also knew they could have made it easier on themselves.

“To be honest, we deserved to be nervous on Saturday night,” said Harris. “We could have gotten through the front door on Friday.”

Dover, though, got its reprieve on Sunday when it found out it was the fifth seed in the Division I field. And not only that, but the Senators will get their second shot at the rival Riders in four days to boot.

The rematch between the No. 5 Senators (12-5) and fourth-seeded CR (7-4) will take place in the Division I quarterfinals today at 3:30 p.m. as both the Division I and II dual-meet tourneys are held at Smyrna.

In Division I, No. 3 Sussex Central (9-2) will face No. 6 William Penn (10-3) in the other 3:30 p.m. quarterfinal.

In the Division II quarterfinals, which also start at 3:30 p.m., No. 5 Laurel (9-5) faces No. 4 Sanford (3-3) with No. 3 St. Georges (8-4) taking on No. 6 Caravel (9-2).

The Division I semifinals, slated for 5:30 p.m., feature top-seeded Smyrna (13-1) taking on the lowest-remaining seed with No. 2 Cape Henlopen (15-1) squaring off with the highest-remaining seed. In Division II, No. 1 Milford (12-3) gets the lowest-remaining seed while second-seeded Indian River (15-2) faces the highest-remaining seed.

The finals are then slated for 7:30 p.m.

Smyrna has won the last four Division I state crowns with Milford winning three straight in Division II.

Dover, on the other hand, is making its first appearance in the Division I tournament since losing in the 1994 state finals.

“It’s the first time in a long time that we’ve been in something like this,” said senior Anthony Fisher. “So it means a lot to the school and us that we made it.

“I was nervous sitting home Saturday night thinking about it. But when we found it we were in, it was big.”

“It means that we’re improving,” said senior Nick Lee. “The first year we weren’t even in contention. Last year we were in contention, now we’re in there.

“He (Harris) said we needed to beat CR to definitely be in there. So it was maybe-maybe not. I’m glad we got in there. It’s my senior year — my last chance to do it — and we got there.”

Facing CR again just four says after losing to the Riders makes it an interesting situation.

Dover hasn’t beaten CR since 1995. The Riders won nine of the individual bouts on Friday night but only two were by pin.

Of course both squads now have a much better idea of how they match up against each other, leaving room for different strategies.

“We get the opportunity to go back to the drawing board and maybe fix the errors that we had Friday night,” said Fisher. “Hopefully this time we can come out on top.

“I think everyone has to wrestle like a senior. Everyone has to treat it like it’s their last time — because if they don’t, we may never get this opportunity to be in the duals again. We need to believe in each other.”

“You don’t get this opportunity often,” said Harris. “You have a bitter taste in your mouth and it could possibly only last for three days. We get the opportunity to redeem ourselves.”

In one sense, the Senators have nothing to lose going into today’s tournament. Since they’ve already lost to the four teams ahead of them in the bracket, nobody’s expecting them to go far.

“We can just go in there and wrestle as hard we can,” said Lee. “That is fun. It’s a lot better than having pressure on your shoulders.”

“We’ve worked as hard — if not harder — than anyone in the tournament,” said Harris. “So we want to win.”

Notes

At least one Henlopen team has been in the Division I state finals every year since 2000. … Tickets, which are $8, are available at https://statechamps.com/clients/diaa/ and at the door, beginning at 2:30 p.m. for $8. Anyone leaving the venue will need a new ticket to re-enter. … Quarterfinal matches will start at 160 pounds, the semifinals start at 170 and the finals being at 182.

Reach sports editor Andy Walter at walter@newszap.com

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