Wrestling notebook: Henlopen North title within reach for Cape wrestlers

“Overall, we’re exceeding expectations and we’re relatively young,” Cape Henlopen coach Chris Mattioni said. “We’re beating people and we don’t back down. I think that win against Smyrna just propelled them mentally.” Delaware State News file photo

A lot of things have gone Cape Henlopen High’s way on the wrestling mat this season.

With just over a week until the DIAA state dual meet championships Feb. 9, the Vikings sit at 15-3 and find themselves in position to solidify their spot in the Division I bracket.

There’s also a chance the Vikings could win the Henlopen Conference Northern Division title.

Smyrna High has won the last six Henlopen North titles, but after earning the school’s first-ever win over the Eagles with a thrilling 34-33 win on Jan. 9, coach Chris Mattioni’s Vikings have a shot at snapping that title streak.

“Overall, we’re exceeding expectations and we’re relatively young,” Mattioni said. “We’re beating people and we don’t back down. I think that win against Smyrna just propelled them mentally.”

With just one Henlopen North loss heading into today’s nonconference dual meet against St. George’s Tech, the Vikings can clinch the North with a season-finale dual meet win over Caesar Rodney High Feb. 6.

But if Caesar Rodney, the defending Division I state champions, win, Smyrna would claim its seventh-straight Henlopen North crown.

“If we can pull that off, it’ll be interesting at the state duals,” Mattioni said. “The nice thing about this year is in Division I there’s a number of schools that can win it. It’s going to be more fun than usual. Some years there’s a dominant team that no one’s beaten, but this year is going to be fun because there’s a lot of schools in the mix.”

Mattioni credits Cape’s success this season to the scrappy, edgy competitiveness of his young squad.

“They’ve got attitude,” he said. “We’re probably not winning a sportsmanship award, because they’re edgy, they’re rough, but I can rein that in and we can work with that.

“It’s hard to take that kid that just has talent to get that fire and emotion. Sometimes you want those rough kids. In a dog fight, those are the ones you want to rely on. They’re very scrappy and that’s how we’ve been progressing.”

While the Vikings are led by a strong senior group that includes Anthony Caruso, Billy Ott, Chris Handlin, Royuan Jones and Eduardo Saez, Mattioni has seen plenty of contributions from his group of freshmen and sophomores late in the season.

In Cape’s 42-19 loss to Milford High Wednesday night, six of the 13 wrestlers Mattioni used were either freshmen or sophomores.

Freshmen Lucas Ruppert, Joseph McLean and Michael Frederick and sophomores Juan Lares, Jackson Handlin and Darryl Sykes were in Cape’s starting lineup against the Bucs.

Freshmen Carson Kammerer and Daniel Saez have also earned wins in the starting lineup this month.

It was the younger Handlin who earned the crucial 5-2 decision at 160 pounds in the deciding match against Smyrna a few weeks ago.

With such a young core, and a talented group of wrestlers at the middle school level, Mattioni is excited to see what his program can do not only this season but in seasons to come.

“It’s taken a long time to build so that we are consistent,” he said. “We haven’t been consistent the last 10 years, so it’s a good feeling.”

“We have a couple of real talented kids in our middle school, so yeah we’re losing Caruso, and Handlin, and Ott, but I think we have a nice group of young guys. And our lightweights are going to be much-improved, because that’s where we’re really lacking [in numbers]. I’m very optimistic with this group.”

Smyrna going through the gauntlet

Aaron Harris couldn’t have picked a better ending to Smyrna’s season.

The Eagles just beat Caesar Rodney and Sussex Central in their last two matches — the two most recent state champions. Up next is a trip to Wilmington tonight at 7 p.m. to face Salesianum, one of the main contenders for the Division I state championship.

Safe to say, the Eagles will be prepared for the state tournament. They also faced nationally-ranked McDonogh in Maryland in the last two weeks.

“It’s great, you couldn’t ask for better,” Harris, Smyrna’s first-year coach, said. “We’ve faced a nationally-ranked program then three of the five best teams in Delaware, can’t ask for more than that. This is what we need, it’s like swinging a weighted bat before going into the playoffs.”

Smyrna finished its Henlopen North portion of the schedule at 5-1. The Eagles just need Caesar Rodney to beat Cape Henlopen on Wednesday to ensure they win their seventh Henlopen North title in a row.

Caesar Rodney beat Cape Henlopen 45-15 a season ago.

Bonus points

• Cape Henlopen’s Jan. 23 win over Sussex Tech marked Chris Mattioni’s 200th career win as a coach.

• Sussex Tech’s Andrew Hawkins won the 100th match of his career during a dual meet against William Penn a week ago.

• Woodbridge’s Jerome Cannon also earned his 100th career victory last week.

Facebook Comment