Wrestling notebook: Expanded dual-meet state tournament opens today

The DIAA dual meet state wrestling tournament begins today with a twist.

An extra day has been added to the Division I and Division II tournament schedule. The first-round bye for the top two seeds has also been eliminated.

Instead the tournaments have been expanded to eight teams for the first time. The quarterfinals are tonight at 6 p.m. while the semifinals and finals are 2 p.m. and 4 p.m. respectively on Saturday.

Smyrna High is hosting the Division I quarterfinals while A.I. du Pont High is the site of the Division II quarterfinals. The semifinals and finals of both divisions will be contested at Smyrna.

While the main difference is the elimination of the first-round bye, it’s worth noting the last two Division I champions came from the No. 3 seed (Sussex Central in 2017 and Caesar Rodney in 2018). Milford won the Division II title a year ago also without a bye.

“Last year, coming in as a third-seed, we had to wrestle three matches anyway,” said Milford sophomore Corey Messick. “It’s just another match for us. We’re going to go out there and wrestle.”

The possibility of three matches in one day is no more but another challenge has been added.

Teams will have to go through two different weigh-ins. One Friday afternoon and another Saturday morning.

“I think time will tell,” said CR coach Dan Rigby about the new format.

Milford coach Don Parsley doesn’t believe the extended format will have much of an impact on his team.

“It’s two weigh-ins. None of my guys have trouble making weight, so it’s really not a big deal,” he said. “It’s going to be a long trip up to A.I. du Pont, but we don’t have to be at Smyrna until late morning, early afternoon on Saturday, so they’ll have plenty of rest. They’ll be ready.”

Milford eyes sixth title before move

When top-seeded Milford hits the wrestling mats this weekend in the Division II dual meet state championships, it will mark the last time the Bucs will compete in the Henlopen South as a Division II team.

Next year, the five-time defending champions will be moving to the Henlopen North and competing as a Division I school.
It’s a division switch that the Bucs are well-prepared to make.

“At the end of the day, we’re going to be Division I and there’s nothing we can do about it,” Parsley said. “I do think we’re going to be prepared, we have a nice nucleus — I’m going to have 11 of 14 starters back from this team.”

To ensure his team is prepared for the postseason and for the individual state championships, Parsley has already been regularly scheduling Henlopen North teams for years.

“We beat Caesar Rodney, we beat Cape Henlopen, we lost a heartbreaker to Sussex Central, so we’re right there in the mix with the big boys and that’s where we want to be,” he said. “Next year when we move up, there will be more fans in the stands, the matches will be more competitive and hopefully that’ll bring us up to another level.”

“We won’t be here next year, but we want to wreak havoc up north when we go Division I,” said Milford junior Anthony Diaz.

Before the move is made official, the Bucs have one last task as this year’s Henlopen South champions — complete the Division II six-peat.

Tonight at A.I. du Pont High in Wilmington, the Bucs will take on eighth-seeded Mount Pleasant in the dual meet state championship quarterfinal round. The match is set to begin at 6 p.m.

A win over the eight-seed would set the Bucs up in Saturday afternoon’s semifinals against either fifth-seeded Lake Forest or fourth-seeded Woodbridge.

CR hoping for a repeat

Caesar Rodney enters the Division I tournament as the defending champions for the first time since the 2013 edition.

Last year CR rebounded from some late season defeats in the regular season. It fell to Salesianum and Smyrna in the regular season before knocking off both teams in the tournament including a victory over Smyrna in the championship round which came down to the final match.

CR is seeded second and will face St. Georges in the first round. Smyrna is seeded first and squares off against Delcastle.

Smyrna defeated Caesar Rodney 33-30 on Jan. 23 in another battle which came down to the final match.

The hope for the Riders is just like last year, they’re peaking at the right time. They’ve won four contests since the Smyrna defeat.

“That’s always the name of the game,” Rigby said. “It’s always who can peak, who can wrestle well at the right time of the year. That’s what we were able to do last year. We’ve been working hard strategically to get to that peak this year. Hopefully we can get to it and we’ll wrestle the best we’ve wrestled all year. There’s still a little bit of work to do but I think we’re close.”

Smyrna and Caesar Rodney have met in the final round four of the last seven years.

Bonus points

• Tickets for the quarterfinals are $5 while tickets for Saturday’s event are $7. Doors open at 5 p.m. on Friday and at 1 p.m. on Saturday.

• Quarterfinal matches start at the 132-pound weight class, the semifinals begin at 138 pounds and the finals at 145.

• The finals of the Division I dual meet has featured two teams from the Henlopen North for seven years in a row. The last non-Henlopen North team to make it was when St. Mark’s fell to Caesar Rodney in the 2011 championship round.

• Seaford coach Dave Rogers was recently honored for winning his 300th career match.

Reach staff writer Ben Heck at bheck@newszap.com

Reach staff writer Tim Mastro at tmastro@newszap.com

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