Young Bucs begin quest for sixth straight dual-meet title

Milford head coach Don Parsley

MILFORD — When the Milford High wrestlers stepped onto the mat at the Polytech Invitational last Saturday morning, the past was left in the past.

Longtime Bucs coach Don Parsley wasn’t focused on the five previous Division II dual-meet state titles his Milford wrestling squad had won from 2014-18.

“To me it’s just, for lack of a better word, business,” Parsley said. “I tell my guys, ‘all business, all the time.’ The season ended in February and March 1 we started open mats and we started our postseason training, then we went to camp in the summer and we wrestled all fall.”

“I’ve definitely reflected on last year, but you try not to reflect too much,” said junior Dominic Feightner. “It’s kind of like, ‘good job, you won last year, but it’s a new year.’ We have to work even harder.”

The defending champions picked up where they left off last February, taking home first place at the season-opening invitational tournament Dec. 1, which included 10 other Delaware schools.

“Had we not won the tournament, obviously it’s a stepping stone and a point to pass judgement and evaluate where we are. And even though we won, the same thing is true,” Parsley said.

“It really allowed us to see where our weaknesses are, see where we need to improve and to get a feel for how our conditioning is,” said Feightner. “It’s good to get those early-season jitters out of the way.”

In addition to its first-place overall team finish, the Bucs had three wrestlers place first in their respective weight classes.

Sophomore Corey Messick (106-pound weight class), freshman Jack Thode (113) and junior Gaij Copes (170) each earned first-place finishes at Polytech.

Junior Bevensky Augustin (182), senior Eric Bennett (195) and junior Anthony Diaz (220) each had runner-up finishes.

“We had six in the finals, we only had three champs, and we made a series of early-season mistakes we have to work on,” said Parsley. “I saw a lot of excitement. I’m really pleased with what I’ve seen, but at the end of the day if it were the end of the season we’d be in trouble.”

The Bucs hope to continue to shake off the early-season jitters when they host the annual Milford Invitational this weekend.
The two-day event will feature 12 other schools, four from the Henlopen Conference.

After losing a trio of key members — now graduated Robbie Rosser, Khiry Hovington and Oscar Rosario — this year’s Milford squad is seeing a wave of young wrestlers.

“We are really young down low. I’ve got a sophomore, a freshman, a sophomore, a freshman and a freshman in my first five weights,” explained Parsley. “They’re young, but they’re going to be competitive. I think they’re going to have a nice year for us.”

Messick, one of those sophomores, made an impact as a freshman in the 106-pound class. He’ll be anchoring that spot at the top of the lineup again this season.

Messick has already been impressed with some of the incoming freshmen.

“I’m really happy to see the freshmen stepping up,” he said. “We have a lot of freshmen on the team this year, and they’re all working hard in practice.”

Rosser, Milford’s lone individual state champion last season, is gone, meaning sophomore Trenton Grant will be moving up from the 113-pound to the 120-pound weight class.

“I don’t think anyone can really fill in for a Robbie Rosser, but that’s a good goal for us to all strive for.” Feightner said. “I think he’s understood where he’s at right now and the shoes he has to fill. He’s doing a good job.”

After those first five weight classes — 106, 113, 120, 126, 132 — Milford will begin to hit its more veteran and experienced portion of the lineup.

“You look up top and we’ve got Gaij Copes, Rafael Mejia, we’ve got newcomer Rob Marsh, we’ve got Bevensky, Diaz, Bennett and Jacob Bryant,” Parsley said. “The idea is we’re going to go out there and be competitive on a daily basis and have as much success as we can.”

After earning the No. 1 seed in the DIAA Division II dual-meet bracket for four consecutive seasons, the Bucs suffered surprising Henlopen South defeats to Laurel and Indian River last season that dropped the Bucs to the No. 3 seed in the D-II bracket.

The seeding didn’t matter, as they bounced back to defeat both IR and Laurel in the tournament to capture their fifth title in a row.
“I think those losses benefited us last year,” said Feightner, who will be wrestling at 138 this year.

“I think if we had won those, we would have gone into the tournament thinking, ‘hey, we’ve got them.’ But that was kind of our little lesson that nothing is going to be given to us, everything has to be earned.”

For both Messick and Feightner, faring well at states is one of the big goals for this season. In addition to the six-peat, of course.

“Conferences and states, of course, are always on my mind,” said Messick. “I want to be a state champ, that’s my big goal for this year, and I want to win another team title.”

Feightner says the “nothing is going to be given to us, everything has to be earned” mindset has carried over to this year’s team as well.

Even as five-time defending champions, nothing will be handed to the Milford Bucs in 2018-19.

“I’m excited about what we have this year and I’m certainly excited about the future.” Parsley said. “Honestly, if you were to look at our team, we don’t have any weak links. Everybody’s a quality kid, they’re going to fight hard for you, they’re going to do the best they can.”

Reach staff writer Ben Heck at bheck@newszap.com

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