Dual Meet Finals
Gives Title to Smyrna
Publisher, Sussex County Online
DOVER -- The Delaware High School state dual meet wrestling tournament format affords precious little time for semifinal winners to savor their victories.
So the Laurel High School wrestling team had exactly 40 minutes to enjoy its first state tournament victory in wrestling -- a 36-32 semifinal win over Milford -- in the 2003 dual meet tournament at Delaware State on Tuesday, Feb. 25.
After the win over Milford, the top-seeded Bulldogs looked like they would make the whole night one to remember, but second-seeded Smyrna rallied in the last four matches in the finals for a 37-31 victory and the Division II state dual meet championship.
The crushing loss, coming after the Bulldogs had taken a 31-16 lead on a pin by Will Saylor at 125 with four matches to go, dampened what otherwise was a watershed moment in Laurel wrestling history.
Coming off the school's first Henlopen Conference Southern Division title in 20 years and wrestling in the state dual meet tournament for the first time (the tournament didn't begin until 1993), Laurel thrilled the contingent of Bulldog fans who made the trip to Dover with the 36-32 win over Milford for the program's first state tournament victory.
Meanwhile, Smyrna was thrilling Eagle fans, too, by knocking off six-time defending state champion Hodgson, 34-32, in its semifinal.
That set the stage for what promised to be another dramatic dual meet between the Bulldogs and Eagles, who tied 27-27 on Jan. 7, with the Bulldogs eventually declared the winner by virtue of having two pins to Smyrna's one.
On Tuesday night, Laurel posted three pins in the first 10 matches to build its 15-point lead, including a pin by Will Saylor over Smyrna's Kyle Robinson in 2:30 in the 125-pound match for a 31-16 advantage.
But with its less experienced wrestlers facing some of Smyrna's top wrestlers in the final four matches, the lead quickly disappeared.
First, Smyrna's Nick Proud pinned Laurel freshman Robert Reed in 43 seconds in the 130-pound match to bring Smyrna within 31-22. Then, a 5-2 decision by Brian Fletcher over Laurel's D.W. Horsey brought the Eagles within 31-25.
Smyrna then finished off the fourth state title in the school's history with a pin at 140 by conference finalist Russell Revel over Laurel's Jameik Matthews -- in only his third year of wrestling ever -- and a pin by conference champion Pat Blissard over Laurel's Jeff Downes -- known more for football and baseball -- at 145.
Laurel started the dual meet with a pin by Jason Ward at 152 in 1:27. Smyrna then tied the score 6-6 with decisions by Scott Cahall and Mike Zulkowski at 160 and 171.
Laurel got another pin by Kiante Walker in 3:06 at 189 for a 12-6 lead, but Smyrna responded with a technical fall at 215 by conference champion Josh Cherriman.
Laurel then began to generate some breathing room with three straight wins. First, Zach Slatcher recorded a pin at heavyweight in 5:14 for an 18-11 lead. He was followed by Mark Saylor's 9-4 decision over Smyrna's Matt Bivins at 103 for a 21-11 advantage. A major decision by Jared Allen over Smyrna's Tad Broomall at 112 pushed the Bulldog lead to 25-11.
Smyrna stopped the Laurel run with a technical fall by Michael Crain at 119, but Will Saylor registered his pin at 125 for the 31-16 lead.
As for Laurel's 36-32 semifinal win over Milford, while the score looked like another barn-burner like the Bulldogs' 33-27 victory that clinched the Henlopen Conference Southern Division on Feb. 12, it was anything but.
The score was only that close because Laurel decided to rest its 135- to 145-pound wrestlers by forfeiting those final three weight classes after building an insurmountable 36-14 lead following the 130-pound bout.
The Bulldogs started off with a pair of pins by Jason Ward at 152 and Ben Ralph at 160 for a 12-0 lead. Milford cut the gap to 12-6 when Kris Kendzierski won by disqualification over Laurel's Ricky Ralph, but that would be as close as the Bucs would come until the three Laurel forfeits.
Laurel increased its lead to 24-6 on decisions by Kiante Walker at 189 and Eston Ennis at 215 and a pin by heavyweight Zach Slatcher.
Milford's Jimmy Artis, the Henlopen Conference champion over the weekend, won by a decision to bring Milford within 24-9, but the Bulldogs responded with a decision by Jared Allen at 112, a hard-fought, double-overtime decision by Bobby Otwell at 119, and a pin by Will Saylor at 125 for an insurmountable 36-9 advantage.
Milford then got a technical fall by Josh Abraham at 130 to cut the deficit to 36-14 before Laurel forfeited the final three matches.
Laurel , Smyrna152 Pounds
Laurel 36, Milford 32152 Pounds
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