Smyrna’s Harp, CR’s Dean win title No. 3, Henlopen crowns 8 state champs

LEWES — The three-time state championship club gained two new members on Saturday night.

Smyrna High’s Hugo Harp and Caesar Rodney High’s Jackson Dean each won the third state title of their career to highlight the final day of the DIAA individual state wrestling meet at Cape Henlopen High. They are the 34th and 35th wrestlers to accomplish such a feat in the tournament’s history.

Henlopen Conference wrestlers claimed eight of the 14 championships. Smyrna and Caravel tied with the most winners with four.

Smyrna’s winners included Harp at 220 pounds, Gabe Giampietro at 106, Joey Natarcola at 145 and J.T. Davis at 182. Dean (152 pounds) and Kevin Hudson (285 pounds) won titles representing Caesar Rodney while Milford’s Jack Thode (120) and Cape Henlopen’s Andre Currie (170) rounded out the downstate champions.

Harp earned his third state title in the fifth match of the night thanks to an 8-3 decision. He celebrated by kissing the center of the mat and before doing a lap with a Smyrna flag draped across his shoulders.

Harp ended his celebration with a bear hug for his coach Aaron Harris. Harp, who said he went through some troubled times as a youth, credited Harris for all his success.

“Without him I’d be locked up or dead somewhere,” Harp said. “He knows what I’ve been through and he changed my life for the better.”

“This a dream come true,” Harp added. “It’s about success. I’ve always been in a negative environment with a negative state of mind. This right here is home. This is where my road to success started.”

Harris coached Harp at Dover High when he won his first state title as a sophomore. When Harris accepted the Smyrna coaching job, Harp transferred for his senior season.

Harris recalled the struggles Harp first faced early in his wrestling career, going 9-17 as a freshman at Dover.

“He was the only kid on the team with a losing record,” Harris said. “But he kept coming back, taking the punishment and the lessons I gave him. It was a long, hard road, but we’re here now.”

“That’s the reason I do this,” Harris added. “Even talking about it right now, an hour after it happened, is bringing a tear to my eye. We’ve come a long way and I’m really proud of him and the rest of the guys and the whole Smyrna family.”

Dean had to wait for his third championship longer than anyone as his 152-pound bout was the finale.

He said he had to relax in a hallway to get in the right mindset to claim No. 3. Dean won with an 18-7 major-decision.

“It was nerve-wracking seeing all my friends go, wins and losses, then the crowd, I had to get myself away,” said Dean, who will wrestle at the University of Pennsylvania next year. “I went in the hallway. It was hard, but it kind of made it better because it prolonged my career that much longer.”

“I don’t think it’s sunk in yet to be honest,” Dean said. “I’ll probably wake up tomorrow and it’ll hit me a little harder.”

Hudson claimed his second title of his career and the first of the night for Caesar Rodney with a thriller in the 285-pound contest. The win was also the 100th all-time individual state championship for the Caesar Rodney program, with Dean adding No. 101 about an hour later.

“It’s very special because Caesar Rodney is a great program,” Hudson said. “I wrestled with a lot of those guys, guys like Zack Parker (a former heavyweight state champion) who have taught me a lot. Thanks so much to everyone at Caesar Rodney, the coaches and just the whole community.”

Hudson avenged a conference championship defeat to Milford’s Anthony Diaz, this time winning the state title in overtime 4-2.

“It shows if you do everything right, work hard and battle through adversity you can achieve anything,” Hudson said. “Last week I felt like I didn’t keep my composure so that was a big thing I wanted to worry about.”

Giampietro was the defending champion at 106 pounds and defended his title with a technical-fall in 4:37. Giampietro did not give up a single point in the bout, winning 15-0.

If Giampietro wins two more state championships, he’ll become the 11th four-time state champion in Delaware history. The state has not seen a four-time winner since Smyrna’s Brent Fleetwood from 2011-2014.

But Giampietro blocked out all the talk of his possible four titles this season.

“I basically ignored everyone that said, ‘Oh my God, four time’ I was just focused on this one time,” Giampietro said. “Everyone talks about four times when you win that first one, but when you start looking ahead, that’s when you can slip up and get caught.”

Davis’ title at 182 pounds was his second in as many seasons. He won via an 18-3 technical-fall in 4:47.

“It feels really good,” said Davis, who will wrestle at Lehigh University next year. “It lets me know I’m doing the right things and moving onto the next level I can keep doing that.”

Natarcola claimed the last championship of the night for Smyrna with a 3-0 decision in the 145-pound championship. It was the second state championship of the junior’s career.

Milford’s Thode won his first ever state title thanks to a 3-2 win in the 120-pound finals.

The Blue Hen Conference had a pair of winners. A.I. du Pont’s Azeem Bell won the 195-pound title while Middletown’s Willem Carl earned the crown at 132 pounds. Carl won the meet’s Outstanding Wrestler award.

Caravel’s four champions were Nick Hall (160), Luke Poore (113), Ethan Gray (126) and Alex Poore (138). Both Alex Poore and Hall, who is a former Fifer Middle School wrestler, are sophomores who have gone two-for-two on their state title attempts.

Perhaps the loudest the crowd got was when Currie won on his home mat at 170 pounds in the second contest of the night. Currie led the whole match and held off a late charge for an 11-8 decision.

“I looked up at all my friends in the stands and they all stood up and were encouraging me to keep going,” Currie said. “It feels great to make everybody proud.”