Smyrna wins Henlopen wrestling title: Eagles crown 5 champs, Milford finishes 2nd

Smyrna High wrestlers celebrate with the trophy after winning the team title at the Henlopen Conference Wrestling Championship Saturday night at Sussex Central High School. Special to the Delaware State News/Jason Minto

GEORGETOWN — Gabe Evans says people think of him as just a football player.

And yes, Evans is quite good at football. He was an All-State wide receiver for Dover High in the fall.

But that doesn’t mean Evans is limited to what sports he can excel at.

Evans captured the 170-pound championship at the Henlopen Conference wrestling championships on Saturday. He was the only Senator to win a title. Smyrna had the most with five while Caesar Rodney and Milford each earned three.

Dover’s Gabe Evans, left, and Sussex Tech’s Trey Hatfield wrestle in the 170-pound match.

Evans, a junior at Dover, has only been wrestling since the eighth grade, way shorter than his football career.

“I got something to prove,” Evans said. “Everyone says I’m just a football player but I want to show I’m more than that.”

Gabe Giampietro (106 pounds), Joey Natarcola (120), Jaxson Al-Chokhachy (126), Nick Natarcola (138) and J.T. Davis (182) were Smyrna’s individual winners. The Eagles also won the team portion of the meet with 223.5 combined points.

Smyrna has been winning a lot recently. Just a week ago, the Eagles celebrated their fifth Division I dual meet state championship
since 2013.

“We went back to the lab and grinded,” Giampietro said. “Now we got to do the exact same thing this week for states.”

Smyrna’s Nicholas Natarcola, left, and Laurel’s Isaiah Jenkins wrestle in the 138-pound championship match.

All of those champions now have a chance be seeded No. 1 at the individual state tournament next week at Cape Henlopen High.

“It puts me in a good position to get the one seed at states,” Davis said. “I was able to get in a good position on top to score some points. I feel good about it.”

Milford, who won its sixth-straight Division II dual meet championship last Saturday, finished second in the team standings with 208 points. The Buccaneers were led by champions Jack Thode (113), Gaij Copes (160) and Anthony Diaz (220).

Milford’s Gaij Copes celebrates after defeating Caesar Rodney’s Riley Tracy in the 160-pound championship match.

It was Milford’s best showing as a team in coach Don Parlsey’s career.

“I’ve been here for a lot of years, we finished second behind Smyrna, it’s our best place finish since I’ve been around, so in 34 years, 29 at the helm,” Parlsey said. “Outstanding performance, 13 guys earned top six place finishes. I didn’t have a heavyweight, so all 13 guys finished top six.”

Diaz repeated as a conference champion. He finished first last year but could not compete at states due to an injury.

Cape Henlopen’s Anthony Caruso, top, and Smyrna’s Amir Pierce wrestle in the 132-pound bout.

Diaz was able to edge out a decision thanks to a two-point take down with seconds remaining.

“When he tied it up late, I was like ‘you know what? I’m tired of going to overtime, let me finish it right now,” Diaz said. “We don’t have to go to overtime.’”

Thode, a freshman, and Copes, a junior, celebrated their first conference titles for the Buccaneers.

“It feels great,” Copes said. “I knew my freshman Jack was going to step up pretty big and I have more than enough faith in Diaz to step it up and get some big wins.”

Caesar Rodney’s Jackson Dean (145) and Kevin Hudson (285) also repeated as champions. Gabe Degraffinreed (152) won his weight class for the Riders too.

Dean earned a first-period technical fall. Degraffinreed and Hudson each went into the third period in tight matchups.

Smyrna’s Jaxson Al-Chokhachy, left, and Indian River’s Ta’Jon Knight wrestle in the 126-pound championship match.

Degraffinreed held a four-point lead and was able to make it stand up.

“I just kept telling myself, ‘Two more minutes, two more minutes,” he said. “This feels great. I’m happy I won the conference championship but I’m not done yet. I want to finish off the season strong.”

Hudson reversed a result from the regular season against Sussex Tech’s Jamie Schirmer. He lost to Schirmer 1-0 in a dual meet when he could not earn an escape point.

This time, Hudson elected to go neutral in the third period and wound up pinning Schirmer.

“I wanted to try something different,” he said. “I had to do something. I had to try it.”

Anthony Caruso (132) of Cape Henlopen and Sussex Central’s Mike Wright each won via decisions to capture the other championships.

Wright’s victory came in on his home mat. He was able to celebrate in front of his hometown crowd for the final time.

“I was like, ‘this is my last match under these lights ever, I’d rather die then lose, so I’m going to go out here and put on a show for everybody.’” he said “It was amazing. I’ve never been a showboater ever, but it was my last time in this gym, so I thought why not? Hearing everyone chanting Mike Wright, oh my God, it was amazing.”

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