Wrestling notebook: Eagles’ Wuest set to compete for 3rd state championship this weekend

Smyrna’s Tony Wuest keeps control over Eric Bennett of Milford to win the 195-pound Henlopen championship with a fall in the first period. Special To The Delaware State News/Gary Emeigh

SMYRNA — Tony Wuest’s first state championship gave everyone a sneak preview of what was to come.

Back in 2015 as a freshman, Wuest pinned his way through the state tournament as a No. 6 seed to win the 182-pound championship.

Wuest never stopped pinning people.

Now a senior, Wuest enters this year’s state tournament with 104 pins in his career at Smyrna High. That is believed to be the state record.

Wuest will attempt to be the 31st three-time individual state champion when the two-day meet kicks off at Cape Henlopen High on Friday afternoon.

Wuest could very easily be searching for his fourth state championship if not for an injury he suffered as a sophomore. In the semifinals of the state tournament, Wuest dislocated his elbow and tore tendons in his arm.

Only 10 wrestlers in Delaware history have won four state titles. But Wuest, who will wrestle for North Carolina State next year, didn’t want to dwell on his injury, instead choosing to use it as motivation.

“At first I kind of had a negative mindset but my junior year I started looking at it as a positive,” Wuest said. “Maybe it helped me. Maybe it changed my game. When I got out of physical therapy I had to learn how to wrestle around it and I think that turned me into a better wrestler. I learned more attacks and more options for moves.”

Wuest came back his junior year and, just like he did as a freshman, pinned everyone he faced in the state tournament for his second championship.

He’s coming off a 195-pound Henlopen Conference championship last weekend. He recorded pins in all three of his matches there for his third conference title.

The injury has firmly been in the rear-view mirror for Wuest since he returned to the mat as a junior.

“When I did my first wrestling tournament back I didn’t feel anything,” Wuest said. “So after that, why think of it was a negative? I used it to fuel me. That’s just how I looked at it.”

Intrigue at 132 pounds

Only one of the 14 weight classes at states will have two former state champions in it.

Smyrna’s Nick Natarcola is the top seed at 132 while Sussex Central’s Rashad Stratton is also in the bracket. Natarcola won the 120-pound title a year ago while Stratton was the 126-pound champion.

The two faced off a week ago at the Henlopen Conference tournament with Stratton as the top seed. Natarcola earned a late two points for the victory.

Natarcola said afterwards Stratton’s intensity on the mat makes him such a tough competitor.

“It’s the way he goes at you, he never stops coming at you,” Natarcola said. “He’s a great wrestler, I give him all I can give him.”

But Natarcola isn’t shying away from having one of the toughest weight classes.

“I think it’s awesome how I have another state champion in my bracket,” Natarcola said. “That makes me want to work even harder to be a state champion again.”

Bonus points

• Caesar Rodney’s Cam Hayes can also become a three-time champion this weekend. Hayes won a title as a freshman and a sophomore. The current senior is the top seed at 126 pounds.

• The Henlopen Conference has won 10 of the 14 weight classes the last five years which is a meet record. The conference has nine of the 14 No. 1 seeds in this year’s tournament.

Reach staff writer Tim Mastro at tmastro@newszap.com

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