By Kevin Eickman
When setting their goals for the start of the season, one item at the top of the list was winning the Henlopen South Title. To do that Milford knew that they would have to beat a very strong Lake Forest team. That is just what they did last Wednesday night, in front of an enthusiastic home crowd, as they defeated the Spartans 42-22 to earn the Division Title and the automatic State tournament birth that goes with it.
With weather causing havoc with the sports schedule, the wrestling match came directly after Milford defeated Woodbridge in basketball just an hour earlier. The match got started at 170 pounds, and gave Milford fans a glimpse of what was to come the rest of the night. Sophomore Kenny VanVrost had his hands full in the match, before producing a dramatic pin with just 12 seconds remaining to spot Milford a 6-0 advantage. “That pin by Kenny in the first match was huge for us, it was something we really needed,” Coach Dan Rigby said. “He fought right down to the end and that is what this team is all about.”
While the first match ended well, things immediately started to get tough for the Buccaneers. Lake forest held a distinct advantage at the higher weights and quickly took advantage of it, posting three consecutive victories at 182, 195 and 220 pounds respectively. With one of those decisions being of the major variety, Milford found themselves trailing 13-6 as they reached the 280 pound match.
With Milford now trailing by seven points, the crowd went from boisterous to pensive, as senior John Harmon found himself down 3-2 as the 280 pound match reached the final period. In that third period, Harmon came alive, recording a reversal and take-down as he emerged with an exhilarating 7-4 triumph. “That win by Harmon was big, it got us where we needed to be,” Rigby stated.
While trailing a match 13-10 might not be viewed as having an opponent just where you want them, in this year’s edition of Buccaneer wrestling, that is indeed the case. What followed was total domination by the lower weight classes of Milford, starting with the 106 pound match of freshman Alex Creasey. The crowd got to their feet as Creasey (21-1 this season) was announced. The first year grappler wasted little time getting to work as he electrified the crowd with a wrestling clinic. Creasey was in control of the match the entire way, before pinning Lake’s Darren McGray with just two seconds remaining in the second period.
The route was on now, as match after match Milford demonstrated their dominance. Freshman Jace Darling kept it going with a decision over Lake sophomore Ryan Sipple. With the crowd reaching a fever pitch, match by match the Buccaneers put the clamps on the Spartans with three consecutive pins. As junior Jarek Lugo, Justin Johnson and Bart Dalious all but settled the matter of who would be crowned Henlopen South Champion, pushing out their lead to 36-13.
Perhaps most fitting of all was the next match which saw senior John Badger seal the title with a 7-0 victory. The fact that Badger and Rigby both started at Milford together four years ago made the fact that Badger was on the mat all the more fitting. “John is a real leader on this team, he always leaves everything out there,” stated Rigby.
While it would be easy to assume that winning the Championship would set off a celebration, the end of the match was fairly subdued. “Winning the South was just one of our goals, we want to gain a good seed and take aim at the State Championship,” Rigby said.
The Buccaneers would take a big step to securing a top seed less then twenty-four hours later, as they hosted Division I William Penn. Going into the match, Rigby knew that a victory against Penn would go a long way to helping to secure a top seed. “With Penn coming here tomorrow, we can demonstrate just how good a team we are,” he said.
Milford made their case with a 31-26 victory, that should go a long way as seeds are determined. With such a short turnaround between matches, there was a concern that the Bucs could come out flat. “I was worried we might have a letdown, but like they have all season long the guys responded,” Rigby stated.
While their division part of their schedule is concluded, there is a huge week of wrestling ahead, as Milford will face three straight Division I opponents. On Wednesday they will host 9-1 Cape Henlopen at 7 pm. Before concluding their season with a Friday tri-meet, as they host Polytech and Sussex Tech who sport identical 7-2 records. Matches start at 4 pm.