DOVER – Martin Reynoso wasn’t able to do what most Delaware high school wrestling fans thought would be impossible on Saturday night.
But he did something no Wilmington Christian wrestler had done before, and that was awfully special.
The senior was pinned by Smyrna’s Tony Wuest – the biggest favorite of the night – in the 195-pound championship match at the DIAA Individual Wrestling Championships at Dover High. But Reynoso made history by becoming the first wrestler from his school to reach a state final.
“He was pretty tough,” Reynoso said of Wuest. “Coaches were telling me what to do, and I just wasn’t able to do it. … He just knew how to transition from one move to another.”
Reynoso comes from a school with an enrollment of less than 300. The Warriors only have 12 wrestlers on their team. And he didn’t start competing until his freshman year.
But even then, WCS head coach Trey Speers saw something special in the young man who would become his first four-year wrestler.
“When he came in as a freshman, I thought, ‘This kid really does have potential,’” Speers said. “It’s really great to see that potential realized here.”
It wasn’t an easy road. Reynoso came into this two-day event as the No. 3 seed in his weight class, but almost didn’t make it out of the first round. He had to go to overtime before edging 14th-seeded Yunior Cruz of Sussex Central 6-4.
Reynoso found his stride in the quarterfinals, pinning sixth-seeded Zaqar Shaw of Glasgow in 3:31. But a major roadblock awaited in the semifinals.
Caravel senior Colin Adams, the No. 2 seed, had defeated Reynoso twice in the last two weeks. Adams pinned Reynoso in 3:31 in a dual meet on Feb. 11, then won a 7-6 decision in the finals of the Independent Schools tournament on Feb. 18.
This time, when it mattered most, Reynoso edged Adams 4-3 on Saturday morning.
“I just wrestled smart,” Reynoso said. “Don’t do anything funky, try to win it in three [periods], not one.”
That set up the final against Wuest, who was 39-2, his only two losses coming against some of the nation’s best in the Beast of the East tournament in December at the University of Delaware.
Wuest had pinned his first three state tournament opponents in a combined 75 seconds. Reynoso made it 86 seconds before the Smyrna junior earned his second state championship.
Afterward, Wuest said he was impressed with Reynoso’s strength.
“It’s good to see other kids start improving from the Independents,” Wuest said. “It makes the finals a lot more interesting than what they usually are. It’s kind of something new.”
One of the most difficult pieces of Reynoso’s advancement has been finding effective practice partners. Trey Speers went against him for three years, but Dando Speers – Trey’s brother – joined the WCS staff this year and upped the level of his daily competition.
“It was good experience for him, having someone with a lot of experience throw him around a little bit,” said Dando Speers, who wrestled at Messiah College. “Every day, he got a lot better.”
His improvement came off the mat, as well.
“He’s a technical wrestler,” Trey Speers said. “He’s definitely not just pure strength. He does have athleticism, but he has become a student of the sport. Beyond what I give him at practice, he goes and studies and watches some of the great college wrestlers online.”
Reynoso finished the season at 24-5, with tournament titles at Tower Hill and Mount Pleasant. And he made school history.
“It’s really exciting for us, especially to have Martin be the one,” said athletic director Pam Love, who has been a coach and teacher at WCS for 33 years. “Martin has really worked hard this year in a lot of ways to get himself here, and we’re really proud of him.”
Now, he hopes future Warriors can follow the trail he blazed.
“It makes me feel good,” Reynoso said. “I’m just hoping that the other guys will see that a WCS wrestler can do it.”
Contact Brad Myers at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow on Twitter: @BradMyersTNJ.