LEWES– Football involves plenty of strength and hand-to-hand combat, but Middletown’s overwhelming success in that sport hasn’t traditionally carried over to wrestling.
Until the last couple of years.
Carter McClung became the Cavaliers’ first state champion since Derek Brady (1986-87) last season, and Middletown earned three No. 1 seeds going into this year’s DIAA Individual Wrestling Championships on Friday at Cape Henlopen High.
Two of those No. 1s kept it rolling through the first two rounds, and Luis Estrada and Dante Immediato have a chance to add to the Cavaliers’ trophy case on Saturday.
“We’re still working,” Middletown coach Clif Bakhsh said. “I don’t expect Middletown wrestling to be a household name yet, but I think we’re earning some respect little by little. We’re starting to come up with some better wrestlers year after year, consistently placing at the state tournament.”
Estrada, the top seed at 106 pounds, scored a pin in the first round and an 18-2 technical fall in the quarterfinals.
“I feel like it went pretty smooth,” the senior said. “That’s what I was expecting.”
But a huge test looms in Saturday’s semifinals at 11 a.m. Estrada will meet fourth-seeded Robbie Rosser of Milford, who edged him 4-2 earlier this season. Rosser was on track to be the top seed until he was upset by Cape Henlopen’s Anthony Caruso in the Henlopen Conference tournament last weekend.
“I think that’s the battle of the true No. 1 seeds,” Bakhsh said. “We’re going to see who really should have been the No. 1 seed in the semis. I believe my guy is the best guy, but he’s got to wrestle it to prove it.”
Immediato, state runner-up at 120 pounds last year, is the top seed at 126 now. The junior scored a pin and a major decision Friday to set up a semifinal against fourth-seeded Max Norquest of Cape Henlopen today.
“I just had to stay in control, keep my focus, not let anyone in the crowd or the ref get to me,” Immediato said. “I just want to go in with confidence, wrestle my match, push the pace and get into my offense.”
The other top-seeded Cavalier was the only No. 1 to lose Friday, as Smyrna sophomore Larsen Wilson scored a 9-3 upset over senior Isiah Mitchell in the quarterfinals at 170.
“It feels good, because I was struggling most of the season,” said Wilson, who improved his record to 15-13. “I had a lot of in-state losses, so this win helps me a lot.”
Wilson withstood repeated shots from Mitchell to lead 4-2 after the first period and 7-2 after the second period.
“Some people told me he has a strong shot and he’s a good finisher,” Wilson said. “I knew he was going to shoot a lot, and I had to capitalize on it.”
Middletown had a breakthrough season last year, winning its first Blue Hen Conference title and upsetting Cape Henlopen in the first round of the DIAA Division I Dual Meet Tournament. The Cavaliers went 6-5 in dual meets this season.
“From top to bottom, all 14 weight classes, we weren’t as strong as we were,” Bakhsh said. “But we have individuals who really pulled through for this team the whole time, and this is an opportunity for them to shine now.
“When you do the team events, you do things for the team. … Here, it’s their chance to shine, and I think they’ve earned what they’ve gotten.”
Facts and figures
— Only three No. 2 seeds lost on Friday. But the 1-2-3-4 seeds all advanced to the semifinals in only five brackets – at 132, 138, 145, 152 and 195 pounds.
— The most jumbled bracket is 170, where the Nos. 8, 4, 3 and 7 seeds reached the semis. Wilson will meet Polytech’s Avery Mayan and Caesar Rodney’s Andrew Sudler will challenge Salesianum’s Logan Montgomery to determine the final.
— The lowest-seeded wrestler to reach the semis was Salesianum’s Ben Froelich, the No. 10 seed at 160. Froelich defeated No. 7 Carter Lamey of Charter of Wilmington 4-0 in the first round, then nipped No. 15 Atilla Brisco of Hodgson 1-0 in the quarterfinals. Brisco stunned second-seeded Josh Dailey of Caravel 4-3 in the first round.
— The other notable upset came at 126, as seventh-seeded Jesse Muaka of Charter got past No. 2 Rashad Stratton of Sussex Central 8-5 in the quarterfinals.
— The 56 wrestlers who reached Saturday’s semifinals represent 20 different schools. Smyrna advanced the most with seven. Milford, Caesar Rodney, Cape Henlopen and Salesianum each placed five in the semis.
— Christiana freshman Harry Dunnum, who was profiled in Friday’s News Journal, lost both of his matches at 285 pounds and was eliminated Friday.
Contact Brad Myers at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow on Twitter: @BradMyersTNJ.
SATURDAY’S SEMIFINAL PAIRINGS
106 – Luis Estrada, Middletown, vs. Robbie Rosser, Milford; Michael Primo, CR, vs. Anthony Caruso, Cape
113 – Cameron Hayes, CR, vs. Anthony Dominelli, Hodgson; Chris Begatto, Smyrna, vs. Shane Cawman, DMA
120 – Nick Novarnik, St. Georges, vs. Nick Bramble, Salesianum; Tykwan Joyner, Dover, vs. Greg Baum, Smyrna
126 – Dante Immediato, Middletown, vs. Robbie Rosser, Milford; Kyle McDonough, Sanford, vs. Jesse Muaka, Charter of Wilmington
132 – Niko Chilson, Sanford, vs. Nick Barnhart, Caravel; Chase Archangelo, Smyrna, vs. Anthony Fisher, Dover
138 – Andrew Brooks, Sanford, vs. Vincent Diego, Cape Henlopen; Nate Bryant, Smyrna, vs. Nick Lee, Dover
145 – Justin Bennett, Sussex Central, vs. Jacques Nicolas, Hodgson; Brandon Hurd, St. Georges, vs. Bart Dalious, Milford
152 – Brendan Lamey, Sanford, vs. Thomas Gallucci, CR; Khadier Hamilton, Charter of Wilmington, vs. Brandon Bautista, Sussex Central
160 – Kalen Wilson, Smyrna, vs. Zeke Marcozzi, IR; Cory Lawson, Cape Henlopen, vs. Ben Froelich, Salesianum
170 – Larsen Wilson, Smyrna, vs. Avery Mayan, Polytech; Andrew Sudler, CR, vs. Logan Montgomery, Salesianum
182 – Joe Miller, Salesianum, vs. Colin Bergh, Sussex Tech; Austin Clayton, St. Georges, vs. Kenny VanVorst, Milford
195 – Tony Wuest, Smyrna, vs. Andrew Genett, Charter of Wilmington; John Morris, Sussex Central, vs. Michael Clavier, CR
220 – Keith Medley, Caravel, vs. Joel Torres, Cape Henlopen; Dom Hovington, Milford, vs. Nazr Roberson, Newark
285 – Brandon Dooley, William Penn, vs. Bryan Wynes, Milford; Dominique Pierce, Woodbridge, vs. Riley Montgomery, Salesianum