Shultie goes out on top as Sussex Central nips Smyrna in Division I wrestling

SMYRNA — Phil Shultie will never coach another dual meet after Tuesday night.

And this was the best way for the longtime coach to go out.

Shultie, who will be retiring at the conclusion of the season, ended a 41-year career with a state championship as third-seeded Sussex Central High upset top seed Smyrna High 32-30 in the finals of the Division I wrestling state dual meet tournament.

It is the first time Smyrna lost to a Delaware opponent since the state title match of 2012 — a streak of 57 matches. Smyrna had won four consecutive team state titles.

Sussex Central had to rebound from a 39-27 defeat to Smyrna on Friday in the final match of the regular season. It required different results from wrestlers like 138-pounder Drew Morris who lost on Friday but earned a decision victory in the championship round.

Anthony Wuest of Smyrna in control of Sussex Central’s Mario Santizo I the Division 1 220 pound match. Wuest scored a fall in 1:51. (Special to the Delaware State News/Gary Emeigh)

“I trained extra hard all weekend knowing it was Shultie’s last ride and I had to give it my all for him,” Morris said. “He’s the best coach I’ve ever had in my life hands down. He’s not just an awesome coach but he’s an awesome mentor.”

Sussex Central almost didn’t even make it to the final. After a 60-15 defeat of No. 6 William Penn in the first round, Sussex Central’s semifinal match against second seed Cape Henlopen came down to the final match.

With the Golden Knights trailing 26-25, Brandon Bautista had to face off against Cory Lawson in a bout of two individual state champions from a year ago. Bautista recorded a two-point takedown in the first period to gain control and was able to hang on for a 4-3 decision.

“It’s surreal really,” Bautista said. “We really wanted to win it for him because it’s his last year. Wrestling Cape when I knew I had to finish the match off with a win, I did it for him and it turned all the momentum and it took us to the state championship.”

Shultie thought there was a chance the close semifinal match could have taken too much energy out of his wrestlers.

But Lucas Hudson started the finals against Smyrna with a decision thanks to a takedown in the final 15 seconds at 182 pounds. Javon Saffold (106) and Yony Garcia (113) earned critical pins to help Central build a lead.

Then at 126 pounds, Rashad Stratton, who missed Friday’s match with an illness recorded another pin for the Golden Knights. Smyrna took the lead back at 30-26 with two matches left but Bautista and Blake Chambers each won their matches with decisions and the Central wrestled mobbed Shultie and attempted to carry him around the mat.

“To be honest I didn’t know what was going to happen because we did everything we had to do to beat Cape,” Shultie said. “Cape was a strong team. I thought we might have lost everything that we had. But the kids, they went back and regrouped. Things went our way tonight.”

“I’m losing my voice I’m so emotional,” Stratton said. “Shultie deserves it. He deserves to go out with a bang. He made me the person I am today.”

In 2014, Shultie and the Golden Knights were left out of the six-team field for the Division I tournament. It was a rare occurrence considering Sussex Central had made the semifinals 15 of the last 21 tournaments at that point.

The freshmen on that team are now seniors and they were one of the main reasons Shultie wanted to stay to 2017 to stay to the end of their development.

“There’s no better way to go out than having a state championship team,” Shultie said. “This is it. We knew we had a talent bunch of wrestlers and they were getting better and better. We knew it was either this year or it was going to be a while. The guys came through for us.”

Tony Wuest (220), Nick Natarcola (120),, Greg Baum (132) and Chase Archangelo led the Eagles with pins but it wasn’t enough to overcome Central who had an 8-6 edge in matches compared to Friday when Smyrna won 39-27 and the Eagles won eight matches to Central’s six.

“They turned around a couple of matches,” said Smyrna coach Kurth Howell. “You look at 126, that’s a 12-point swing from Friday and that’s the 12 points we beat them by. We had opportunities in the close matches tonight, we just couldn’t lock in and get wins.”

“It’s hard to think about those four state championships right now,” added Howell. “I’m really disappointed for my seniors that they didn’t get their final win.”

Smyrna reached the finals with a 45-22 victory over fifth-seeded Dover. The Senators were participating in the state tournament for the first time since 1994 and they made some history of their own.

Dover upset Caesar Rodney in the first round — its first victory over CR since 1995. Like Sussex Central, the Senators also avenged a defeat from Friday.

“To be perfectly honest we wanted to redeem ourselves from Friday night,” said Dover coach Aaron Harris. “That was a bitter taste and I didn’t want to go through the whole summer like that. We were happy to make it to the semifinals and hopefully next year we’ll be in the finals.”

Reach staff writer Tim Mastro at tmastro@newszap.com

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