Take Henlopen Titles
Photos: Above, Will Saylor of Laurel rides Sussex Central's Josh Lowe en route to his third straight Henlopen title. Below, Jimmy Artis of Milford works on CR's Ian Moser in the 103 final and Sussex Central's Jason Dickerson pins Smyrna's Russell Revel in the 140 final, and Milford's Josh Abraham.
Publisher, Sussex County Online
SEAFORD -- While no Sussex County teams could stop the Caesar Rodney juggernaut in this year's Henlopen Conference wrestling tournament the way Sussex Central did last year, a number of Sussex County wrestlers walked away from Seaford High School with championships and state tournament berths on Sunday, Feb. 23, 2003.
In addition to the conference championships won by Milford's Jimmy Artis and Josh Abraham, Laurel's Will Saylor, and Sussex Central's Jason Dickerson, Laurel head coach Tom Pavia won the 2003 coach of the year award.
Although the Bulldogs placed only Saylor in the championship finals Sunday night, he guided them to their first Henlopen South title in 20 years and their first berth in the Division II state dual meet tournament.
As expected, Caesar Rodney, the dominant team in the conference dual meet season, toted off the tournament's team championship hardware for the seventh time in the past eight seasons. The Riders won the tournament's team title with 263.5 points, while Smyrna placed second with 194.0 points.
The top team from Sussex County was Laurel, which placed third with 177.5 points. Milford was fourth with 144.5 points and Sussex Central, rebuilding from last year's tournament championship team, placed fifth with 137.0 points. Seaford also scored more than 100 points with 110.5 points for sixth place.
As for the individual honors, Saylor, a junior, won his third consecutive conference title with a 12-3 major decision over Sussex Central's Josh Lowe in the 125 final. Saylor previously had won conference championships at 103 as a freshman and 119 as a sophomore.
While his third conference title is nice, he hopes to add a second state title -- he won states at 103 as a freshman but finished third as a sophomore at 119 -- to his credit.
"I thought I had a pretty good tournament," said Saylor of his third conference title. "I thought I could have wrestled a better final match, but I won and that's what's important. Now I just have to stay focused on the state tournament."
Milford head coach Don Parsley saw his program capture multiple championships for the first time in at least four years. The Bucs had won only one conference title in the previous four years.
"Coming into the tournament, I knew we had some guys who could have some success," said Parsley. "Certainly Artis and Abraham, they were not a shoe-in, but I thought they could do it."
At 103, Artis put on an impressive display of strength and quickness. Even though he beat CR's Ian Moser by only 10-7, the match wasn't that close as Artis continually let Moser up only to take him down again. Several times it looked like Moser had an advantage, only to have Artis quickly spin out of harm's way and take Moser down.
Just a freshman, Artis went 90-6 in his junior high career. He lost to Moser 14-10 earlier in the year when he came back from an early deficit to tie 10-10 only to lose four points to Moser late in the match.
"(This time) I kept my hands over the top of his head because when I knew if he grabbed my arm, he'd dump me," said Artis.
Artis' head coach, Don Parsley, said Artis learned a painful lesson in the regular season loss to Moser.
At 130, Abraham won his first conference crown with an injury default over Sussex Central's Richard Dondarski. Abraham was leading the match 4-0 when Dondarski, one of six defending conference champions in the finals, had to stop.
"That's the third time he's seen Dondarski," said Parsley of Abraham. "We were winning 2-0 or whatever at the time of the injury. Richard's a real competitor and I knew it was going to be a real battle. It's unfortunate we had to win by default, but we'll take it, by hook or by crook. I'm certainly pleased with Josh's performance. He's been wrestling well all season."
Abraham finished sixth in the conference tournament at 125 last year, but this year, with a 27-4 record, he was confident he could make the big leap to a championship, even going up against a defending conference champion in Dondarski.
"I beat him 8-3 during season," said Abraham. "I knew it was going to be a tough match, so I just worked my hardest and came out the victor. I was still nervous because it was a big crowd and I knew he was a togh competitor. Last year he upset a kid and I was hoping it wouldn't be me this year."
Dickerson gave Central its only title this year when he pinned Smyrna's Russell Revel as the buzzer sounded to end the second period. Dickerson finished third at 135 in last year's conference tournament and sixth in states. He didn't wrestle Revel during the dual meet season but had lost to him, 13-9, in an early season tourney.
"It felt good, a payback," said Dickerson. "I just went out and gave it all I had because I knew it was my last chance as a senior."
In other finals matches involving Sussex County wrestlers:
Championship Finals103 Pounds
Third-Place Matches103 Pounds
Fifth-Place Matches103 Pounds
1. Caesar Rodney 263.5
The following is the list of Sussex County wrestlers who qualified for the state individual wrestling tournament at Delaware State University in Dover on Friday, Feb. 28, and Saturday, March 1.103 Pounds
Laurel head coach Tom Pavia on winning the conference's coach of the year award:
"I'm really humbled, I'm honored. I really owe it to a lot of the support and the kids that I have. I'm so fortunate and blessed to have the kind of kids that I do because if you look at our standings, we were third in the conference standings today with two strong teams in front of us, Caesar Rodney and Smyrna, and we only had one guy in the finals. We had a lot of third-, fourth-placers, stuff like that, but it's just a wonderful privilege to be a part of this team. I'm just looking forward to building a really, really good program."
Pavia on his coaching philosophy:
"My number one goal is to impact young men, and people, and impact them in a positive way. I really feel that's my God-given purpose in life, I really do. That means trying to be a good father and good husband, that kind of thing, and a good teacher. So I love what I do. I'm very, very fortunate to be part of the community in Laurel, and the wrestling community at large, because I have a lot of support from other coaches and other wrestlers, too. That really means something to me. These will get dusty, trophies will get old and brittle, but the memories you get from them are really lasting. I'm just really excited and blessed to be a part of something like this."
Laurel's Will Saylor on being a defending champion:
"It's definitely tougher being the hunted because eveybody's going after you. When you're the underdog, you have nothing to lose so you just go out there with all intentions to win because the worse that can happen is you lose, and if everybody expects that anyway, it doesn't matter. But when you're on top, you've go to keep doing what you're doing to stay there and just keep wrestling tough and be consistent and hopefully nobody will throw you off. It's definitely tougher to be the hunted."
Saylor on second-year Laurel head coach Tom Pavia:
"He's been great. He helps us out a lot with everything we do. He's always behind us. He's a great coach."
Milford's Jimmy Artis on his championship at 103:
"My dad had me in the weight room, all day, every day, 24 hours. He would keep driving me and driving me to a conference championship. That's what I wanted to do."
Milford's Josh Abraham on his goals this year:
"That (conference championship) and the state title, but it's going to be kind of hard (at states) because I've got a tough kid in there. The upstate kids are pretty tough kids."
Sussex Central's Jason Dickerson on his championship:
"Coach (Phil Shultie) asked me what our goals were at the beginning of the season and this was one of my goals. The next one was to be a state champion. I knew I was going to be in the finals, but he (Smyrna's Russell Revel, Dickerson's finals opponent) beat the No. 1 seed (CR's Todd Martin). I was hoping to wrestle the No. 1 seed, but he pinned the no. 1 seed and I ended up wrestling him."
Dickerson on the difficult season Central has endured by its standards:
"We've struggled as a team this year. We just had a young team this year with five freshmen starting and a lot of injuries. But we have a lot of heart and we work real hard in practice."
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