Smyrna repeats as Division I wrestling champ: Mullen’s OT win lifts Eagles by Bucs 36-34

Smyrna head coach Aaron Harris is swarmed by his team and fans after the Eagles came from behind to win the Division I title. Special to the Delaware State News/Gary Emeigh

SMYRNA — Bryce Mullen is the first to admit, he was having a hard time catching his breath.

But with a state title on the line, Mullen was going to do all he could to push through.

Mullen earned a sudden victory in the first period of overtime to lift Smyrna High to a 36-34 win over Milford High to claim the Division I dual meet wrestling state championship on Saturday. Mullen won 4-2 after a takedown in the overtime period at 152 pounds to complete a late Smyrna comeback.

“I was getting a little gassed, not going to lie I was pretty tired,” Mullen said. “But I had the whole wrestling community behind me, which gave me another wind and I was ready to go after that.”

Bryce Mullen of the Eagles is congratulated after he won the 152-match in overtime to give his team the Division I championship.

It is the second title in a row for the Eagles, who have won six of the last eight Division I championships. Smyrna has now won a combined 11 state dual titles across Division I and Division II since the tournament started in 1994.

Milford was the seven-time defending Division II champion and was competing in the Division I title round for the first time. The Buccaneers fell to Smyrna 45-25 in the regular season finale but nearly reversed the result on Saturday.

The Buccaneers were on top 34-27 with two matches left before Joey Natarcola recorded a pin for Smyrna at 145 pounds and Mullen won it for the Eagles at 152.

“My kids gave everything they had,” said Milford coach Don Parsley. “I couldn’t be more proud of the group. I think we’ve shown that we can be competitive at any level. Smyrna is a great team. Some things went our way in some respects. And honestly he could have called that near-fall at the end of regulation which would have given us the victory. We didn’t get the call and we get taken down in overtime to our demise. But it wasn’t for lack of effort.”

Smyrna finished the season unbeaten against Delaware opponents.

J.T. Davis of Smyrna won by pin over Milford’s Rafael Mejia in the 182-pound match..

The top-seeded Eagles rolled through their regular season schedule. Their closest result against an instate team was a 10-point victory against Cape Henlopen.

But Smyrna had to work extra hard to take home the title once again. It won the final three matches against Sussex Central to rally for a 39-31 victory in the semifinals before the comeback against Milford in the finals.

“We could come out here and blow everyone out and walk away feeling good about it but it feels a lot better to overcome some adversity,” said Smyrna coach Aaron Harris. “Milford came out with everything they had and there was a lot of adversity. We dug down deep and overcame it.”

The biggest point of adversity for Smyrna came in the 138-pound contest.

Milford was already winning 28-27 when Smyrna’s Isaiah Jenkins suffered an ankle injury. Milford’s Tim O’Hara was winning by a point as Jenkins tried to continue but after he took his second injury timeout Harris decided the match should not go on.

It mean an injury default and six team points to Milford.

Gage Copes of Milford lifts Smyrna’s 170-pound Gavin Sembly on his way to a 9-1 major decision.

“When I see he’s hurt and he can’t continue, I don’t even hesitate to make that call,” Harris said. “Forget about the score. I just want to make sure my kids are safe. Sometimes your kids get extra motivated by something like that and I think our next two guys were.”

Natarcola quickly pulled momentum back to Smyrna with a pin in 2:57.

Mullen’s bout against Dom Feightner was scoreless until a Mullen reversal earned him a 2-0 lead in the second period. Feightner picked up two points thanks to a reversal of his own with less than 15 seconds left in the contest to tie.

The break in between the third period and overtime allowed Mullen to reset himself.

“I wasn’t expecting him to get the reversal so I was a bit discombobulated,” Mullen said. “But after that break, I was able to collect myself and get calm.”

J.T. Davis added a pin at 182 for the Eagles while Amir Pierce recorded a tech-fall at 132 pounds and Drew Mayhall had a major-decision in the opener at 160. Smyrna also won by forfeit at 220 with Hugo Harp and another at 106 with Gabe Giampietro.

Jack Thode of Milford won by major decision over Smyrna’s Jack Thode in the 120-pound match.

Milford was led by an Anthony Diaz tech-fall in the 285-pound match plus major-decisions from Gage Copes (170) and Jack Thode (120) plus a decision by Bevensky Augustine (195). Corey Messick claimed a full six points for Milford at 113 after Smyrna was disqualified for stalling.

“As things unfolded it just kept going back and forth,” Parsley said. “This match had everything. It had three forfeits, a disqualification for stalling and an injury default. Then a sudden victory in the final match of the night to bring home the victory.

At the end of the day, it was a great high school match. You don’t like to lose them but I can wrestle a 100 matches like that no matter what the result.”

Smyrna fans erupt in celebration after the Eagles won the final match in overtime to clinch the Division I championship.

And to top it all off, Harris was celebrating his birthday and the Eagle crowd was able to serenade its coach with a rendition of “Happy Birthday” as he collected the championship trophy.

“All I asked for my birthday was for them to get me another state title,” Harris said. “It feels good. It will feel better when we graduate a bunch of seniors and I’ll have the new guys next year to coach up and hopefully next year we’ll be right back in this position.”