This was a week that Milford wrestling coach Don Parsley had circled on the calendar. The week would start on the road against a loaded Cape Henlopen team, then the Bucs would host always tough rival Caesar Rodney. Milford would then face off against the team that defeated it for last year’s State Championship – Smyrna. “We knew going into the week it was going to be a tough one battling those three teams. It was a challenging week, but I think overall it was a good one for us. Our younger wrestlers really had a chance to go up against some tough competition and they will be better for it going forward.”
For a team that is used to winning, the first two meets of the week were disappointing. Milford would first fall on the road to Cape Henlopen 41-23. Hosting Caesar Rodney on Wednesday, Milford held a significant lead, only to lose the final five matches and dropping the meet 34-33. “If I said that falling to Caesar Rodney doesn’t hurt, I would be lying. Both of the programs have close ties and love competing against each other. We were not able to close out the match, so they earned bragging rights for this season,” Parsley said.
With a Saturday afternoon tilt against Smyrna, Milford would be facing a squad that is always among the best in Delaware. While the task would be a tough one, Parsley felt that his team would be ready to get the job done. “Nobody was hanging their head going into the meet, the team was confident even after the previous two matches. It just shows you how resilient this team is,” Parsley said.
The meet did not start out great for Milford as it would drop matches at 106 and 113 pounds to find itself in a quick 9-0 hole. With the strength of their lineup coming up however, the Bucs were ready to make a statement. At 120 pounds, senior Corey Messick would get Milford on the scoreboard with a pin at 1:28 of his match. Milford would take the lead as junior Jack Thode would pin his opponent at the 1:12 mark of his match, and just like that Milford found itself in the lead 12-9.
Milford would continue to extend its lead, but it would be a challenge to do so, as two extremely exciting matches were to follow. First up would be senior Trenton Grant who engaged Smyrna’s Jamar Wells with a high-scoring affair. Grant would come out on the winning end of a 13-9 decision. Next up for Milford would be junior Aaron Briscoe, who would battle Smyrna’s Garrett Hudson in an overtime thriller. With the seconds ticking away in the final period and Briscoe trailing 2-1, he was able to find a point to even the match and send it into overtime. With Hudson appearing to be a bit worn down, Briscoe would obtain an early takedown and gain the 4-2 win. “Briscoe did a great job battling today. He was up against it, but he found a way to get the job done against a very tough wrestler. I was thrilled with how he was able to grind it out,” Parsley said.
Milford sophomore Ryan Mejia would score a win via major decision at 145 pounds. That victory would be followed with junior Tim O’Hara winning by fall at 152 pounds as Milford continued to extend its lead to 28-9. While the lead may have looked big, Parsley knew that there was still a lot of work to be done. “We were up against CR, so we knew nothing was over. We had to have some wrestlers come up big if we were going to win the meet.”
After Milford would lose by fall at 160 pounds, allowing Smyrna to close the gap to 28-15, it was up to Milford sophomore Dwayne Witbank to respond. In a back-and-forth battle with Smyrna’s Tyler Downward, Witbank would be the one on the right score of a 9-7 decision at 170 pounds. Smyrna would come right back with a win by fall at 182 pounds, as the match began to take on the feel of the CR match. With just three matches remaining, Milford had to win one of them, in the upper weight classes, where it has been a bit thin this season.
The Buccaneers could sense what was happening and knew that the key match would come at 195 pounds. Milford senior Rafael Mejia would answer the call in a big way. Pinning Smyrna’s Downward just 1:07 into his match to seal the victory for Milford. As the Bucs bench erupted, it was obvious how much the victory meant to them. At a time when Milford needed it the most, Mejia came through for them. “We aren’t a team that is used to losing, so the thought of losing three matches in a row was definitely in the back of my mind before my match. I knew what I was capable of doing, it was just a matter of getting out there and executing. It was really great just to be able to help the team,” he said.
Milford would drop the final two matches at 220 and 285 by fall, as the final score would end up 37-33 Bucs. In a long week, it was key for Milford to gain the victory. “Our goal is always to get better as the season goes forward. We took a big step in the right direction; the mission is still to improve. Every practice, every meet,” Parsley concluded.
Milford now has a 3-2 record.