Top seeds Smyrna, CR advance to Division I semifinals

Nick Nartarcola of Smyrna in control over Delcastle’s Dan O’Connor in the 145-pound match. Nartarcola won by fall in 3:35. (Special to the Delaware State News)

SMYRNA — Smyrna High coach Aaron Harris doesn’t feel as though the expanded dual meet state tournament is going to keep his wrestlers from accomplishing what they set out to accomplish this weekend.

The top-seeded Eagles and the second-seeded Caesar Rodney High squads each earned decisive victories in Friday night’s quarterfinal round of the DIAA dual meet state championships.

The host Eagles defeated Delcastle High, 52-20, to move on to Saturday’s semifinal round, which is slated to begin at 2 p.m. The finals will begin at promptly 4 p.m.

“It’s a big adjustment, but I feel like we’re going to do what we came here to do,” Harris said.

The defending champion Riders used seven pins to pick up a 66-11 win over St. George’s Tech.

Smyrna’s Amir Pierce pinned Delcastle’s Isaiah Marshall in 3:27 in the 132-pound match. (Special to the Delaware State News)

Without a first-round bye for the top two seeds in this year’s tournament, the Eagles and Riders will need to win three dual meets instead of two if they’d like to grab the state title Saturday afternoon.

“Last week, we really tried to peak as a team and get into our optimal level and then in the postseason we try to peak as individuals,” Harris said.

“We had a lot of conditioning this week to make sure we are where we’re supposed to be so that when we get into those tough overtime matches, we feel like we can get them because we’re the better in shape team.”

The Riders grabbed individual wins in 12 of the 14 matches, setting them up in a Saturday semifinal showdown with third-seeded Salesianum.

“You can’t overlook anybody at this point in the season, every match has to be treated the same,” said Caesar Rodney coach Dan Rigby. “I challenged our guys to start early and get after them early and most of our guys did that, some of our guys need to get a little better about that tomorrow.”

Fourth-seed Sussex Central High defeated fifth-seed Cape Henlopen High, 43-23, to set the Golden Knights up with a semifinal showdown with Harris’ Eagles.

“They put it on us pretty good the first time, so we better be ready,” Central coach Shane Miller said of Smyrna.

Jackson Handlin of Cape tries to get loose from Sussex Central’s Jaden Savage in the 160-pound match. Handlin won by decision 10-6. (Special to the Delaware State News/Gary Emeigh)

The Eagles, searching for its first Div. I wrestling crown since 2016, grabbed individual wins in 10 of the 14 weight classes, including six pins and a major decision.

Amir Pierce (132), Easley Pierson (138), Nick Natarcola (145), J.T. Davis (195), Gabe Giampietro (106) and Jaxson Al-Chokhachy (126) recorded the pins for the Eagles.

After building a quick 18-0 lead, the Eagles dropped three straight matches and allowed Delcastle to pull to within 18-17.

From there, Tyler Downward (182) earned a 6-4 sudden victory and Davis earned his 100th career victory with a second period pin of Delcastle’s David Balbach.

“They kept telling me it was tomorrow, so I knew it was going to happen sometime, I just didn’t know it was going to be today,” he said of win No. 100. “It feels pretty good, because a lot of hard work was put into that.”

Tarryl Sturgis of the Golden Knights tries to escape Cape’s Royuan Jones in the 170-pound match. Sturgis won by decision 7-6. Special to the Delaware State News/Gary Emeigh)

Following his pin, the Eagles earned wins in five of the last six matches to cement the quarterfinal win.

Benedict Anderson (138), Jackson Dean (145), Gabriel Degraffinreed (152), Brock Conner (170), Ryan Rigby (182), Jacob Garrett (195) and Colton Bowie (120) grabbed the pins for the Riders.

The Riders pulled out ahead 44-0 through the first eight matches before St. George’s finally got on the board with a technical fall in the 220-pound bout.

Michael Primo finished the deal with a 14-3 major decision in the 126-pound bout.

Cape’s Chris Handlin put the Vikings ahead, 23-18, with a pin in the 220-pound match.

Central’s Tyler Karr (285) regained the lead for the Golden Knights by pinning his opponent with just 15 seconds remaining in the second period of his bout, putting Central ahead 24-23.

“That definitely helped,” Miller said. “We knew we had to get bonus points and we were going to have tough match-ups. Some kids stepped up for us in a big way.”

From there, Central earned back-to-back forfeits in the 106 and 113 bouts to build a 36-23 lead. Mason Ankrom (120) all but sealed it with a 10-0 major decision.

Reach staff writer Ben Heck at bheck@newszap.com

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