Wrestling notebook: Eagles aim to shine in individual competition

Smyrna High put everything into trying to win a dual meet state championship after back-to-back years of finishing second.

And while the Eagles were able to celebrate that title last Saturday, their focus is quickly shifting.

The individual championship portion of the wrestling season is upon them.

The Henlopen Conference tournament will get underway today at Sussex Central High. The two-day event starts at 5 p.m. and the quarterfinals following.

The semifinals are scheduled for 11 a.m. Saturday and the finals will take place at 5 p.m., also at Sussex Central. Doors open Friday at 4 p.m. and Saturday at 9 a.m.

The brackets will not be released to the public until after weigh-ins today.

Smyrna figures to have numerous contenders for the conference titles after earning the Division I dual meet state championship on Saturday. The Eagles had six of the 14 Henlopen Conference winners a year ago.

But the individual awards took a backseat during the regular season.

Smyrna was looking for its fifth Division I dual meet title. The Eagles had lost in the 2017 finals to Sussex Central and the 2018 championship round to Caesar Rodney.

The Eagles avenged that defeat with a 35-33 victory over CR in the title match Saturday.

“We were so focused,” said Smyrna 106-pounder Gabe Giampietro. “We are all nonstop, working six days a week. We just went at it, went at it and became state champions. It’s a great feeling.”

Giampietro, a freshman, will be favored at 106 pounds this weekend. While he is not a defending champion since he was not in high school last year, he is unbeaten against Delaware opposition this year.

Joey Natarcola and Nick Natarcola are Smyrna’s two defending conference champions.

Caesar Rodney also has a pair of defending title-winners in Jackson Dean and Kevin Hudson. Milford’s Anthony Diaz and Indian River Will Rayne also won championships at conferences last year.

Harris celebrates a title

While winning state championships for Smyrna is nothing new, it was a first for coach Aaron Harris.

He earned his first state title in his inaugural season for the Eagles. Harris moved to Smyrna from Dover High this past offseason when legendary coach Kurt Howell retired.

The Eagles quickly took to Harris, who was a Caesar Rodney graduate.

“He’s a great mentor and a great coach,” Nick Natarcola said. “It’s so easy to connect with him because he’s so young. He’s a great dude and I look up to him so much.”

Harris never won a dual meet championship while he was a wrestler at Caesar Rodney. He helped turn around a Dover program over the past couple of years but never made it past the semifinals.

Howell had led Smyrna to the last seven championship rounds before his retirement, which included four-straight titles from 2013-2016. Harris picked up right where Howell left off.

“I’m just happy to continue the tradition,” Harris said.

Bonus points

A couple of more notes from the dual meet tournament

• Smyrna has now won 10 total dual meet championships. The Eagles have five Division I title and five from when they were in Division II since the tournament began in 1993,

• The championship in Division I was an all Henlopen Conference Northern Division affair for the eighth year in a row. The last non-Henlopen North team to reach the final was St. Mark’s in 2011.

• Smyrna’s eight-straight final round appearances is the second most of all time as the Eagles passed Caesar Rodney who reached seven finals from 2001-2007. Smyrna still has a ways to go to get the record which is 13 by St. Mark’s from 1995-2007.

• Milford became the second team to win six Division II championships in a row, joining Hodgson (1997-2002). The Buccaneers won’t get a chance to beat that record though as they are moving up to Division I next year.

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