Reign as Mat Champs
Photos: The Sussex Central wrestling team (above), the 2002 Henlopen Conference tournament team champion, and SC 125-pounder Richard Dondarski (below), the tournament's outstanding wrestler, hugs SC assistant coach Chip Illian.
This hadn't happened in Phil Shultie's 27 years as head wrestling coach at Sussex Central High School.
For that matter, it hadn't happened in Sussex Central's proud wrestling history, going all the way back to when the Bastianellis terrorized the Henlopen Conference.
And with Caesar Rodney riding a six-year run as Conference tournament team champions, with the Riders defeating Central 39-27 two weeks ago, it didn't figure that this would be Sussex Central's year.
But ... it was ... it really was.
Central stunned conference onlookers by winning the program's first tournament team title ever. What's more, the Knights grabbed the title in grand fashion with six individual champions from freshman Richard Dondarski at 125 to senior A.J. Rovillard at heavyweight.
In between, Orion Cameron (130), Casey Strohmeyer (140), Jordan Lowe (145) and Raheim Brunskill (160) made this a night to remember for Central fans with their own individual championships.
"It probably won't sink in for a couple of days what they did here tonight," said Shultie after the title had been secured. "It is a good feeling and I hope I get this feeling more often."
The Knights took a 9-point lead into the championship finals and clinched the title with three straight victories in head-to-head matches against the Riders by Dondarski, Cameron and Strohmeyer.
Dondarski electrified the crowd with a 10-8 title decision over defending conference champion Garrett Faulkner of Caesar Rodney and in the process secured the tournament's Outstanding Wrestler award.
"I was a little nervous, but not really," said Dondarski, who went 14-0 as an 8th grader last year. "I wrestled him before and he beat me 7-5, so I knew I had a chance. I just went out there and wrestled. I knew I could take him on my feet. I had two takedowns. I knew on the bottom I had to keep moving because he's a good rider on the top. I just didn't let him turn me."
Cameron knocked off CR's Steve Scaffedi 9-4 in this final with five third period points on a takedown and three-point near fall.
Strohmeyer, trying to duplicate his brother Corey's state title of a year ago, then clinched the title with a 13-3 major decision over CR's Josh McGregor.
Brunskill battled to a 2-1 double-overtime victory over Laurel's Ben Ralph with an escape in the second extra period that gave him his second consecutive conference championship.
And Rovillard captured his first conference title with a pin of Indian River's Gene Midgette in 5:16.
Other Sussex County wrestlers also enjoyed big tournaments.
Indian River sophomore Will Saylor claimed his second straight conference title with a pin of Polytech's Julius Cannon in 5:14 in the 119 final. Saylor won the 103 conference and state championships last season.
In an all-Sussex final, Milford's Brandon Miller outlasted Cape Henlopen's Kyle Hopkins, 5-4, at 135. Miller scored a takedown with 1:40 remaining in the third period and held on from there.
Seaford's Grant Gray captured the 152-pound crown when he flattened Smyrna's Scott Cahall.
Woodbridge's James Faulkner reached the 171-pound final but lost that bout to CR's Mark Reynolds, 14-3.
Photo: Milford's Brandon Miller takes down Cape Henlopen's Kyle Hopkins on way to 135 final.
1. Sussex Central 254
Championship Finals103 Pounds
Third-Place Matches103 Pounds
Fifth-Place Matches103 Pounds
Sussex Central head coach Phil Shultie on the championship:
"We just wrestled real good today. It started last Wednesday with the state tournament and it has just been carrying over. If we can do this next weekend (state tournament), I'll be very happy."
Shultie on his prediction two weeks ago that Central could crown six conference champions (they did):
"That doesn't happen very often with me. They say I'm wrong many times."
Shultie on what he said to his team before the finals:
"We talked about it with the guys during the championship finals about what they could do. I've coached for 27 years and have never had a team championship, never. We've won the Northern Division but never overall, never team, so I said, 'You guys can do something that's never been done before (at Central)'."
Shultie on when it sunk in that the Knights would be conference champions:
"It never really sunk in to me until Don Parsley (Milford coach) told me during the break that we were up by seven points. Then I started counting out how many we had and how many they had. I thought, with how our luck has been in the past, that the worst would happen. But it didn't. First, when CR's 103-pounder lost, that got the guys real excited. When Richie (Dondarski) won (at 125), that was a big plus. Then when Orion won, that got me motivated, and I told Chip and Bill (assistant coaches), that if Casey wins, then we've got it clinched. There's nothing they can do. And he wins, and then Raheim wins, and Jordan, and A.J. That's when it sunk in."
Shultie on freshman Richard Dondarski's title at 125 over defending champ Garrett Faulkner of CR:
"He's (Faulkner) the defending conference champion, seeded No. 1. That was a big upset. Hopefully Richie will get the outstanding wrestler for his efforts (he did)."
Shultie on his thoughts entering the finals:
"We had tried to match them 4-for-4. We really thought they (Riders) had a chance at winning 103 and 125. We thought we had a real good chance at winning 135, 140, 160 and the heavyweight. We didn't know what would happen between 171, 189 and 215 because they're real strong there. So we were depending on a lot of people to help us. It turned out that they did what they had to do and they were still getting the help from their teammates. It probably won't sink in for a couple of days what they did here tonight."
Raheim Brunskill, Central's 160-pound champion, on the team title:
"It feels great. We worked hard all season. This is what we worked for."
Brunskill on his hard-fought 2-1 double-overtime decision over Laurel's Ben Ralph in the finals:
"He's always tough for me. I beat him in overtime during the season, too. But I knew he couldn't hold me down (in the second overtime). Nobody in the state can. That's what I work hard at in practie every day. That's what I'm strong at."
Casey Strohmeyer, Central's 140-pound champion, on when he thought the Knights could end CR's reign:
"From the very beginning of the season, I've always felt we had a chance. I personally felt we had the better team even though we lost (during the regular season). All of us wanted a second shot at them."
Strohmeyer on repeating his brother Corey's feat of a state championship last year:
"That is my goal. That's what I'm all about, winning states this year."
Jordan Lowe, Central's 145-pound champion, on the team championship:
"I thought from the beginning ... I was feeling like we were going to have a good night."
Lowe on the key to his championship:
"Being patient, not getting frustated, and just making the right moves at the right time, scoring when it counted."
Richard Dondarski, Central's 125-pound champion and the tournament's outstanding wrestler, on his upset of defending conference champion Garrett Faulker of CR:
"We all wrestled good. It was a big match for me, setting the team tempo and I just wanted to take first in the conference. I was a little nervous, but not really. I wrestled him before and he beat me 7-5, so I knew I had a chance. I just went out there and wrestled. I knew I could take him on my feet. I had two takedowns. I knew on the bottom I had to keep moving because he's a good rider on the top. I just didn't let him turn me.
Central's A.J. Rovillard, the heavyweight champion, on winning the team title:
"We had to reclaim it (conference title). We should have won it in the regular dual meets. It feels good. This is my senior year, I've been here three years, and every year we've been real close but it just didn't happen. I'm glad it could happen forour senior year."
Rovillard on pinning Indian River's Gene Midgette in the finals:
"He reached back and I sunk the half in when he reached back and put him to his back."
Rovillard on how he wears opponents down during the course of a match:
"Our coach preaches that we need to be in real good shape so we can outlast everybody, all of our opponents."
Indian River's Will Saylor on moving up to win the 119 title after winning at 103 as a freshman last season:
"It was hard at the beginning jumping from 103 to 119 because the kids are a little bigger. I just had to wrestle the same as I always do and things just happened ... good things."
Grant Gray, Seaford's 152-pound champion, on his title victory by a pin:
"I wrestled him (Smyrna's Scott Cahall) before and beat him so I had a little bit of confidence. I figured he was a little more nervous than I was so I just went out there and did what I had to do."
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