Indian River wrestlers eye success at Henlopen tourney

Ta’Jon Knight tries to escape the grasp of Milford High freshman Tim O’Hara during IR’s dual meet against the Bucs this season. Special to the Delaware State News/Gary Emeigh

DAGSBORO — Ta’Jon Knight has been wrestling since he was five years old.

He’s been wrestling alongside current teammate Will Rayne since middle school.

The Indian River High pair have spent the last three seasons anchoring the top of coach Jeff Windish’s wrestling team, which finished as Division II’s state dual meet runner-up in 2017 and as a semifinalist in both 2018 and 2019.

“We’ve been wrestling together since middle school,” Knight said. “We’re real close. We practice together every day in the room.”

The juniors each earned the 100th victory of their respective high school careers a week apart this season.

Knight earned his 100th victory at the Dundalk (Md.) Duals on Jan. 12 and was honored by the team prior to IR’s dual meet against Milford High four days later.

Rayne recorded win No. 100 a week later at the Franklin Invitational tournament in Reisterstown, Md.

Will Rayne battles Salesianum’s Zach Spence during last year’s finals round of the individual state championships. Delaware State News/Ben Heck

The pair still have two tournaments and all senior season to add to their win totals, and perhaps even break the current school record of 133 held by 2017 IR graduate Zeke Marcozzi.

“Those guys are good, they’re special,” said senior teammate Zach Schultz. “They’ve been in the lineup for a while. If you look up there (at the gym banners), Will and Ta’Jon are both going to be up there soon. I’m pretty good friends with them both and it’s just so fun to watch how they grew.”

Rayne wrestled in the 106-pound weight class as a freshman before moving up to 113 as a sophomore last year and 120 this season.

After placing second in the state as a freshman, Rayne finished first in his class at last year’s Henlopen Conference championships and second in the state after losing to Salesianum’s Zach Spence in the finals.

Knight finished third in the conference tournament last year and was the state’s 10th seed before finishing as a state semifinalist in the 120-pound class.

Will Rayne looks over at his coaches during the finals match at last year’s DIAA individual state championships at Cape Henlopen. Delaware State News/Ben Heck

The now-graduated Robbie Rosser from Milford and the now senior Michael Primo from Caesar Rodney finished ahead of Knight at conferences last year, but this year Knight has his sights set on first place at 126 — not only at conferences this weekend, but at next weekend’s individual state championships as well.

“This week we’re just working on being more aggressive and we’re doing a lot of conditioning to get ready for the weekend,” said Knight. “Hopefully I can win states, that’s my goal.”

The duo’s teammate Schultz is also looking to improve upon last year’s Henlopen Conference championship finish.

In the 195-pound class, Schultz finished fourth in the conference tournament and was a quarterfinalist in the individual state championships at Cape Henlopen.

Zach Schultz picks up a hard-fought 12-6 decision over Milford’s Eric Bennett on Jan. 16. Special to the Delaware State News/Gary Emeigh

“I’m just trying to keep focused and get ready for these guys,” he said. “It’s a big tournament with a lot of guys in there. I’m looking at Billy Ott [from Cape] and Mike Wright [from Sussex Central], those are two of the guys. Everyone is kind of jumping around in this tournament, so it’s just whoever comes out on top.”

Knight and Schultz both credited Windish with a lot of their individual success, as well as the IR program’s team success over the last few years.

“I’ve gotten way better. I’ve gotten smarter and I have new moves,” Knight said of his progression. “He’s real tough, but he keeps us going.”

“Windish is just pushing us, that’s what it is,” added Schultz. “He’s making us all work and he’s getting the kids from the school who want to wrestle, not just who want to be on the team. Everyone in this room right now wants to be on the mat.”

The seedings for this weekend’s two-day Henlopen Conference championships, set to begin Friday at Sussex Central High, will be released today.

Reach staff writer Ben Heck at bheck@newszap.com

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