Smyrna will be going for its fourth straight title, wrestling in its home gym and returning much of a team that defeated Polytech 34-22 in the Division I final last year.
But the Eagles will definitely be on guard Tuesday during the DIAA Dual Meet Wrestling Championships. Smyrna has been ranked No. 1 all season, but it hasn’t been easy.
Cape Henlopen had the Eagles down 26-20 last Friday before Smyrna’s Anthony Wuest and Hunter Moyer scored pins in the final two matches for a 32-26 victory. The Eagles also scraped past Polytech 31-24, and either the Panthers or Vikings could be Smyrna’s semifinal opponent.
“They certainly recognized when they wrestled us that it’s in reach for them to beat us,” Eagles coach Kurt Howell said of Cape and Polytech. “Hopefully, we can rise to the occasion.”
The action begins at 3:30 p.m. at Smyrna High, with five of the six Division I teams coming from the Henlopen North. Sixth-seeded Charter of Wilmington (8-2), which won the Blue Hen Flight A title for the first time in school history, will meet third-seeded Caesar Rodney (8-3) in the first round. The other D-I opener will be No. 5 Polytech (8-4) against No. 4 Cape Henlopen (9-3).
Smyrna will meet the lowest-seeded first-round winner in the semifinals at 5:30, with No. 2 seed Sussex Central (11-1) taking on the highest remaining seed in the other semi. The D-I championship match will begin at 7:30.
“I’ve tried to preach to my kids that we’re not the returning champs. It’s a new team, a new year,” Howell said. “Everybody else has a different team and it’s a different year for them, too. Every match, you’ve got to bring your best.”
The Eagles have had a few bumps in the road this season, but Howell believes that will add to the intensity and increase the crowd. Opposing teams and fans may sense this could be the year to take down Smyrna.
“It would not be as exciting if one team had separated itself from every other team,” Howell said. “That’s not the way it is this year. We’ve won all the matches in-state this year, so it certainly looks like we’re the team to beat. But at the same time, every other team recognizes how vulnerable we are.”
In Division II, top-seeded Milford (8-2) appears to be a solid favorite to win its third straight team championship. The Buccaneers’ only losses have come to Smyrna (32-30) and Cape (44-30).
The Division II first round also starts at 3:30, with third-seeded Sanford (4-4) against No. 6 Hodgson (10-3) and fourth-seeded Delaware Military Academy (7-2) against No. 5 Caravel (9-2).
Milford will take on the lowest-seeded first-round winner, and No. 2 St. Georges (8-3) will meet the highest-seeded first-round winner in the semifinals. Then the semifinal winners will tangle for the title.
In both divisions, the first round will start at 220 pounds, the semifinals will begin at 285 pounds and the finals will start at 106.
Tickets ($8) are good for all three rounds, but anyone who leaves will need a new ticket to re-enter. Tickets are available online at www.diaa.ticketleap.com, and will also be available at the door.
Cape swimmers sweep
Cape Henlopen swept the boys and girls team titles at the Henlopen Conference Swimming Championships on Saturday at Lake Forest.
The Vikings scored 281 points to edge Sussex Tech (264) in the boys race. The Cape girls racked up 303 points to easily outdistance Sussex Tech (228).
Cape’s Jack Weeks lowered the meet record to 58.26 seconds in the boys 100 butterfly. He also won the 100 backstroke and was part of two winning relays.
The Vikings’ girls 200 freestyle relay team of Sarah Hyde, Amelia Nigh-Johnson, Sarah Rambo and Molly Weeks set a meet record of 1:55.29.
Sussex Tech’s Hannah Venables (girls) and Indian River’s Mason Sanders (boys) were named the meet’s outstanding swimmers. Both won two individual events.
Rounding it up
— Appoquinimink’s Matt Dina has been named the Gatorade Delaware Boys Soccer Player of the Year. The senior midfielder had nine goals and three assists as the Jaguars went 15-2 and reached the DIAA Division I semifinals. He also was named an All-American by the National Soccer Coaches Association of America.
— Wilmington Friends freshman Connor Nisbet has been recognized as the top-ranked under-14 boys tennis player in the USTA Middle States region for 2015. Nisbet also finished fourth in the DIAA Division II boys cross country meet last fall.
— Appoquinimink boys basketball junior Myles Cale reached 1,000 career points in the Jaguars’ loss at Middletown on Feb. 6.
— St. Elizabeth is seeking a head coach in field hockey and an assistant coach in track and field. Send resumes and letters of interest to St. Elizabeth High School, or submit via email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
— St. Elizabeth senior Elisa Hackendorn has committed to play volleyball at Wesley College.
Contact Brad Myers at email@example.com. Follow on Twitter: @BradMyersTNJ