By Kevin Eickman
Prior to the DIAA Dual Meet Championships this past Tuesday, coach Dan Rigby was concerned about how the schedule changes would impact the team. Early into their semi-final match against Lake Forest, those concerns looked quiet justified. The best way to describe the Milford team was flat and in need of a wake up call. Starting at 145 pounds the Bucs suffered a pin and a loss at 152. While the losses were not necessarily unexpected, the general lethargy was a cause for concern. So much so that the team was gathered together and it was explained that this was simply not the focus that a championship team should have.
“There was no doubt about us being flat, I know it was a quick turnaround from the conference tournament, but there was much more to it than that,” coach Rigby said. “We were able to find a rhythm, but just never really seemed at our best.”
The Buccaneers had a clear advantage over Lake and as the match wore on began to take control of the Spartans as they set their sites on the final. When Milford had earned enough points to guarantee advancement, instead of forfeiting the rest of the matches, Rigby felt it was necessary to keep on wrestling. “We needed to snap up of whatever was happening, the best way to do that was to wrestle,” Rigby stated. “Plus we wanted to make sure Jarek got his 100th.”
The 100th that Rigby was referring to was to be the 100th career win for senior Jarek Lugo. It came courtesy of a a technical fall. “Winning number 100 was nice,” Lugo said. “But this wasn’t about me, this was about winning a championship tonight.”
If you have watched Milford wrestle this year, it is obvious that the strength of the Buccaneer lineup is in the lower weight classes. Drawing Sanford in the finals did Milford no favors as the strength of the Warriors team were in those same lower weight classes. Milford wrestlers like freshman Robby Rouser and even Lugo would be going up against what many consider to be the top wrestlers in the state. Prior to the match, Rigby addressed the team regarding what it would take to win.
“We have been winning from the bottom of the lineup all season, we have been living off our little guys this year,” Rigby stated. “It’s going to be up to our bigger guys for a change, we are counting on you to be the difference makers tonight.”
Following a loss by Milford junior Chase Taylor and then having senior Ben Mitzel getting pinned at 170 pounds, it looked as if the match could get away from the Buccaneers as they trailed 9-0. Next on the mat would be senior captain Matt Groce, a wrestler who always seems to rise to the occasion. Groce did just that, getting a crucial pin that seemed to spark the Buccaneers. “I saw where we were at and knew we needed a pin, I looked at coach Rigby and he told me to go for it,” Groce stated.
Sophomore Bryan Wynes would get a crucial win at 220 and by the time Milford got to the 106 pound match, they held at 24-9 lead. Just as Rigby had predicted, the tide began to turn. Sanford would win some key matches and by the time the 132 pound match got started, Milford’s 27-18 lead looked anything but secure. Buccaneer junior Adam Funkhouser was called upon to stop the bleeding, if he were to be pinned, Milford’s title hopes would be in real jeopardy. The match between Funkhouser and Logan Carter was a back and forth affair, with each wrestler having a chance to pin the other. With time running down in the match, Funkhouser scored a reversal and locked up the match by a 11-9 score. The victory gave Milford a 30-18 lead with two matches left.
Milford would forfeit the next match, leaving the outcome of the meet in the hands of junior Bart Dalious, Henlopen Conference Champion. As long as Dalious was not pin, Milford would retain the title. Dalious made relatively quick work of Timmy Griffith, pinning him midway through the second round. With the pin, Milford had retained their crown 36-24.
“It was definitely not easy tonight, we knew going in that this was a very tough team for us to match up against,” Rigby stated. While not the prettiest of wins, Milford had to dig deep, deeper than they probably thought they would have to. “We really didn’t seem like we were at our best tonight, but we were able to get it done,” Rigby said. “That’s why this is a team sport, guys that normally aren’t counted on really had to come through tonight.”