With 32-man brackets in this year’s DIAA Individual/Team Championships, it was thought that there might be some major upsets along the way to muddy the waters. After the first two days of competition however, there have been few upsets and most of the top seeds have advanced in their weight class.
The competition was split into two preliminary rounds this year, with weights from 106 to 145 pounds being held on Saturday and 152 to 285 being held on Sunday at Cape Henlopen High School. In addition to individual titles being on the line, the state champions in Division I and II will be determined by total points accumulated by each team, as opposed to the traditional dual-meet format used in years past. “I think the format we are using this year is the right way to go. While it may not be to every team’s advantage, it gives everyone a chance to compete and show what they have. With what has been going on, this is obviously the best way to hold the tournament,” Milford coach Don Parsley said. The finals will be Wednesday at Cape Henlopen.
The Buccaneers have been solid in the lower weights all season long and the first day of the tournament was no different for Milford. Starting at 106 pounds, MHS sophomore Emily Thode would make history as she became the first female to win an individual match in state individual tournament history defeating First State Military Academy junior Avori Alexander by fall 3:16 into the match. While she would lose her next match, Thode would win one more time in the consolation bracket, besting freshman Steven Mayfield of Indian River in an 8-6 decision. Thode would be eliminated from the tournament in her next match, but that did little to diminish the historical firsts she had accomplished. “If you had to use one word to describe Emily, I would choose ‘tenacious’. She is as fierce a competitor as they come, she shows it every day at practice and every match she competes in. There are times where she might be overmatched, but don’t tell her that, she goes out there to win every time she wrestles,” Parsley said.
Milford would get rolling at 113 pounds where third-seeded 8th grader Avery Copes has advanced to the semifinals, where he will face Saint Georges junior and second-seeded Matthew Meadows. Being so young, the match presents a huge challenge for Avery but Parsley believes he is up to the task. “Avery has been improving all season and now he has a chance to go against a well polished wrestler in the state semifinals. That’s a great accomplishment for someone his age and I expect him to give it his best, just has he has all season.”
At 120 pounds, Milford senior and second seed Corey Messick will bring his undefeated 13-0 record to the mat as he battles the three seed, senior Ian Shaubach of Indian River, who has only lost one match all season. During his run up to the semis, Messick reached his 100th career victory, a milestone that carries great significance. “Corey has been such a huge part of this program during his four years here. He is reliable and a leader, just what you look for in a wrestler. He has always put the team first and for him to get his 100th win is a tribute to just what kind of wrestler he is,” Parsley said.
In the 126-pound class, the defending state champion at 120 pounds, junior Jack Thode, the number one seed has also made it to the semis with a bye and two wins by first period fall in his bracket. He will be matched up against freshman Talan Savage of Sussex Central. Savage as the eighth seed, is one of the few lower seeds to advance to the semis and wrestled at 132 during the season. “Savage is a very good wrestler and he will be ready for Jack. Jack has been there before and he always comes ready, it should be a good match,” Parsley said.
Milford senior Trenton Grant, the top seed at 132 pounds, would win all three of his matches by fall Saturday setting him up for a semifinal match against fourth-seeded junior Michael Kling of Caravel Academy. Caravel has come ready to wrestle in this tournament and currently sits atop the team standings, even though they are a D-II school. “When you take a look at how Caravel has come in here and been very dominant, you know that any one of their wrestlers is capable of winning. I think this is going to be quite a challenge for Trent, it’s a match he better be ready for,” Parsley said.
The final Bucs semifinalist is third-seeded junior Tim O’Hara, who will face off against Cape Henlopen sophomore Charles Fritchman, the second seed, who bested O’Hara in a 5-3 decision earlier in the season. “It was a close match when they met down at Cape and hopefully Tim learned a little that match which might give him an edge. Either way, I know Tim always leaves it all on the mat, you can’t ask for more than that,” said Parsley.
At 138 pounds, junior Aaron Briscoe is in the consolation bracket, he will finish no worse than eighth and possibly as high as third. Also trying to “wrestle back” for a third-place finish is Avery Copes at 160 pounds, who after losing to the weight’s top-seed Joseph Nataracola of Smyrna in the opening round, reeled off two victories also guaranteeing at least an eighth-place finish. Not bad considering being seeded last in his bracket. At 195 pounds, Milford senior Rafael Mejia is still alive in his consolation bracket as well. “Wrestling back is so much harder than just winning out. It can be easy to just throw in the towel when you can’t be the tournament champion. I honestly believe it takes a great deal of guts and determination to wrestle back, it shows a wrestler’s heart in the face of adversity. That is what this sport is all about,” Parsley said.
Milford has faired well, there is one thing missing however, fans. With no fans in attendance the tournament has taken on a different feel. “It has been a little strange, usually it’s very boisterous in here and that really enhances the atmosphere. The good news is that for the finals each wrestler will be allowed two people in attendance, I think that should really liven things up a bit,” Parsley said.