By Kevin Eickman
The Milford wrestling program has been on a roll this decade – winning six consecutive Division II titles; however, there will not be a seventh D-II title this year. With Milford moving up to D-I, the Bucs will be embarking on a new journey, but one they feel that they are prepared for according to head coach Don Parsley.
“We have not been scheduling soft competition these last few seasons. As a matter of fact, we have made it a point to try and schedule some tough opponents,” Parsley said. “The schedule in the Henlopen South offered us a lot of soft matches at times, so we made it a point to test ourselves.”
Taking a look at the Bucs schedule over the last two seasons reinforces Parsley’s statement. Facing off against teams like Caesar Rodney, Cape Henlopen, Dover, Sussex Central, and even perennial state power Smyrna, Milford has shown that it is not afraid of competition.
One advantage that Parsley seems to enjoy is the way that this season’s schedule lines up, Mother Nature permitting.
“The way the schedule is laid out is that we have one conference dual meet a week. That is a big advantage when it comes to preparing for an opponent,” he said. “When you look at our schedule, we have only one match a week except the last week of the season.”
That final week, though, will be a challenging one as the Buccaneers will face two road tests – first against Caesar Rodney and then at Smyrna. “It’s not the ideal situation that last week, but that is what this sport is about. It’s about building character and challenges like that build character,” Parsley said.
Along with the challenging conference schedule, Milford has set itself up for some challenging dual-meet tournaments as well as some tough invitational meets. Milford’s first time on the mat this season will be December 7 at the Polytech Invitational.
“We are really excited about our non-conference schedule as well. With a great deal of tournaments on the weekends, we will get our wrestlers the opportunity to face different types and styles of wrestlers. I think that is very important to get where we want to be,” Parsley said.
One of the questions we asked Parsley was about the almost inherent contradiction in the sport of wrestling. While it’s scored as a team sport, it is also an individual sport when it comes to the individual matches.
“That’s one of the things that makes this sport so challenging, you have to set the best lineup in order for your team to win. You have to know what your wrestlers are capable of and make sure that you put them in a position to help the team,” Parsley said. “For some wrestlers, it may mean taking a loss but not getting pinned in order for your team to win. It’s not easy to ask a wrestler to do that, but we are a team that understands it takes all kinds of sacrifice to win.”
The squad should shape up nicely, with four wrestlers returning who were in the state finals last year. Two returning leaders are junior Corey Messick and sophomore Jack Thode, wrestlers Parsley believes sets the tone for this team.
“These guys are natural leaders. They lead by example and make sure to help their teammates out when they need it. While they aren’t seniors, they carry themselves with great confidence and nothing seems to faze them.”
Speaking with Messick, he feels that the team will be ready to start the season and believes that the Buccaneers will improve as the season goes on.
“We have a lot of great guys in the (wrestling) room, who know what they are doing. They aren’t afraid of hard work and that is half the battle.” When asked about his individual goals Messick said, “I hope to do well in the Conference Tournament and get a good seed in the State Tournament. From there, I just want to do my best.”
Thode believes this team has the makings of something special.
“You don’t see anyone slacking in here. Nobody takes a drill or a rep off, they are always ready to compete. That’s all you can ask of your teammates, to be committed and everyone here is. I’m very proud to be a part of this group.”
We also took a chance to speak with senior Anthony Diaz who won the State Title at 220 pounds last season. Diaz is hoping that the team continues its winning ways.
“We know how to win; we just have to keep on doing it. It’s going to be tougher this year, but I believe we have what it takes to compete at the D-I level,” he said.
With more than 30 wrestlers on the squad, Milford will once again have a good mixture of experience and youth. Parsley believes he has the makings of a solid team.
“We have good numbers. That means that we can make sure that guys get to compete to either earn a spot on the varsity or if they are on varsity, it gives them a chance to get better. I’m very excited about this season.”
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