Capture Mat Crowns
Controversy at 171
Photos: Above, Laurel's Adam Ralph sits in disbelief after his controversial 171 finals loss while coach Dave Rogers (left) glares at referee Ed Janvier (right). Below (from top to bottom), Sussex Central's Raheim Brunskill celebrates his 145 title, Indian River's Will Saylor locks horns in his 103 final win, SC's Corey Strohmeyer on the way to the 130 title, and Seaford's Cameron Fitzgerald checks the clock near the end of his 135 title win.
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MILFORD -- Four Sussex County wrestlers captured Henlopen Conference championships and Caesar Rodney High School won its sixth consecutive tournament title in a championship finals round punctuated by controversy.
Will Saylor of Indian River, Corey Strohmeyer and Raheim Brunskill of Sussex Central, and Cameron Fitzgerald of Seaford won their championship matches on Saturday, Feb. 17, 2001, but many in the overflow crowd at Milford High School thought Laurel's Adam Ralph was robbed of a title in his 5-4 loss to CR's Brian Palmer in the 171-pound championship match.
CR won the team title again with 239 points to runnerup Sussex Central's 217. The Riders won 8 individual titles including five straight from the 152 to 215 weight classes. The Riders won all four head-to-head finals matchups with Sussex Central to secure the team title.
But the match that everyone was still talking about long after the announcement of CR's Zack Kopp as the tournament's outstanding wrestler and CR's Dickie Howell and Lake Forest's Scott Fleming as co-coaches of the year, was the 171-pound bout between Ralph and Palmer.
In a review of the videotape from the match, Ralph, a two-time conference champion at 103 (1998) and 135 pounds (2000), thought he was on his way to a third conference title when he took Palmer down for an apparent 7-5 lead with just 42 seconds left in the match. Instead, he found himself ahead just 4-3 with 1:25 remaining after a controversial ruling.
If you're confused, so was everyone else in the gym. And after the air was cleared, anyone not wearing Caesar Rodney blue and gold was outraged.
Following Ralph's takedown, the wrestlers slid out of bounds with 32 seconds left, and CR coach Dickie Howell, on a tip from an assistant, stormed over to the scorer's table to demand the match be reset because lead referee Ed Janvier had failed to stop the match as required when he gave an offensive stalling warning to Ralph with 1:42 remaining in the third period and Ralph leading 4-3.
Janvier had also given Palmer an offensive stalling warning with 1:15 left after Palmer had reversed Ralph to take a 5-4 lead.
After a lengthy discussion between Howell, Laurel coach Dave Rogers, Janvier, assistant referee Matt Holloway, and head official Rolf Thomas, Janvier sent the crowd into a booing frenzy by ordering the clock and score reset to the point of the stalling warning. But instead of the 1:42 time of Ralph's warning or the 1:15 time of Palmer's warning, it was reset to 1:25 with Ralph leading 4-3.
Ralph, obviously bewildered by the turn of events, couldn't hang on as Palmer managed a reversal with 34 seconds left to score the decisive points.
Rogers became even more upset when Janvier hit Palmer with an apparent second offensive stalling warning with just 10 seconds left, but instead of awarding a point to Ralph that would have tied the score 5-5 and sent the match into overtime, Janvier ruled that the first stalling warning of the period had been wiped out when the match was reverted.
Ralph sat in stunned silence and Rogers was beside himself after the match, and an unidentified fan rushed CR's Howell while thunderous boos rained down from the bleachers and another fan shined a laser pointer into Janvier's face. It was nearly 10 minutes before order was restored enough to allow the tournament to continue.
"Ed told me that he agreed with me that the first stalling should not have been wiped out but that he was overruled by Rolf Thomas," said Laurel coach Dave Rogers Sunday morning. "I was an official for 17 years and the only time you wipe a stalling off is if you go back and wipe off the whole period. By going back to 35 seconds into the period, that was still good time. You do not wipe that (first) stalling out."
Rogers also had a problem with the timing of Howell's protest, questioning why Howell waited for nearly a minute after Palmer's first stalling warning to lodge his protest just after Ralph had taken the 7-5 lead.
"If you don't make the call right then (when the stalling occurred), it's just like everything else," said Rogers. "It would be just like a football official saying he made a mistake two minutes ago and he had to go back and take the touchdown away.
"They're both great wrestlers, but it wasn't handled the way it should have been. If you don't make the call, you have to live with it. As officials, we make mistakes, but that's something you have to live with."
The ruling was the talk of the tournament after that point and brought another thunderous cacophony of boos when Palmer stepped to the top of the champions' stand to accept the championship. Ralph was introduced as the runnerup to a loud chorus of cheers.
After the finals ended, Janvier, approached by numerous fans for a clarification, admitted he made a mistake by not stopping the match with 1:42 left and that according to National Federation of High Schools wrestling rules, he had to revert to the time and score of the stalling warning because Ralph had been in the offensive position.
Janvier said matches are not stopped when the stalling warning is given to wrestlers in the neutral or defensive position.
Rogers said there is no procedure for protesting a ruling. "That's the way life is," he said. "It's not fair to Adam, but he has to live with it. I've never seen that happen, and I hope it doesn't happen again."
Despite the controversy, the night was a special one for the four Sussex wrestlers to cart home championship hardware.
Indian River's Saylor, just a freshman, captured his first conference title with an 8-4 decision over Caesar Rodney's John Hummel. Saylor, who pinned Dover's Ken Monk in 5:16 in the semifinals and Polytech's Josh Dandra in the quarterfinals, dominated the match from the start.
Saylor raised his overall record to 31-4 heading into this weekend's state individual tournament at Delaware State University.
Corey Strohmeyer also rose to 31-4 with his pin of Indian River's Danny Carroll in 1:47. The victory gave Strohmeyer his second consecutive conference title. Strohmeyer earlier decisioned Dover's James Sacra 7-4 in the semis and pinned Seaford's Jason Enders in 3:32 in the quarters.
Fitzgerald then won the 135-pound final with a 12-2 major decision over CR's Todd Martin. Fitzgerald, the first Blue Jay to win a conference title in 13 years, now stands at 106-23 in his career. He scored a technical fall over Milford's Aaron Kibler in 4:31 in the semifinals and pinned Laurel's Jeff Downes in 3:24 in the quarterfinals.
The last Sussex wrestler to win a championship was Brunskill, who scored a 17-3 major decision over Indian River's Danny Carroll in the 145 final. In capturing his first conference championship, Brunskill decisioned Woodbridge's Andre Cannon 7-5 in overtime in the semis and beat Lake Forest's Mike McCullum by technical fall in 5:00 in the quarters.
Eight other Sussex wrestlers reached the finals.
Milford's Keith Brown was tied with Lake Forest's Mitch Harding 6-6 late in the 119 final but got caught and pinned by Harding with just six seconds left. Milford's Chris Swain then lost to CR's Steve Scaffedi 15-5 in the 125 final.
Sussex Central's Casey Strohmeyer lost a tough 7-6 decision to arch-nemesis Dwayne Graham in the 140 final. Strohmeyer decisioned Graham during last week's state dual meet after losing to him by a pin during the regular season dual meet.
In another ongoing Sussex Central-CR rivalry, Sussex Central's Teddy Thompson was pinned by CR's Zack Kopp in 5:00 in the 152 final. Thompson lost to Kopp twice last season but had pinned him during the regular season this year.
At 160, Delmar's Lawrence Sinagra lost to CR's Brian Rigby, 9-4, and after the controversial 171-pound match, three Sussex Central wrestlers were beaten in their finals.
SC's Jake Booth lost an 8-5 decision to CR's Tony Harris in the 189 final, Jack Roach lost an 8-5 decision to CR's Mark Reynolds in the 215 final, and heavyweight A.J. Rovillard lost a 3-2 decision to Dover's Chris Denigris.
Third-place winners from Sussex County were Sussex Central's Orion Cameron at 125, Indian River's Luis Perez at 152, and Milford's Mike Passwaters at 215.
The top six wrestlers in each weight class advance to the state tournament at Delaware State Feb. 23-24.
1. Caesar Rodney 279
The following Sussex County wrestlers have qualified for the state individual wrestling tournament at Delaware State University Feb. 23-24:103 Pounds
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