He may be just a freshman, but that doesn’t mean that Indian River High School 106-pounder Will Rayne wrestles like one.
Coming off an undefeated season at Selbyville Middle School, Rayne took the mats for the Indians earlier this season and immediately started racking up the wins, eventually finishing with a perfect 16-0 record during dual-meets and 33-4 record overall, earning himself the No. 2 seed at the Henlopen Conference championships this past weekend.
That’s where, on Saturday, Feb. 17, in front of a packed house at Sussex Central in Georgetown, Rayne would advance all the way to the 106 finals before taking down No. 1 seed Mike Primo from Caesar Rodney, 9-2, for the Henlopen Conference title.
“At first I was kind of nervous being a freshman and going out there in front of all those people — I didn’t know how far I could go or what I could do,” Rayne said of going into the title match. “But I came out on top and I’m very proud.”
“We’re really happy that he got it,” said Rayne’s teammate, Zeke Marcozzi, the only other wrestler from IR to advance to the HAC finals. “Especially going up against the No. 1 seed, it’s a big deal.”
After his No. 2 seed earned him a bye in the first round, Rayne’s first match was up against Sussex Tech’s Mason Rolph on Friday, Feb. 16. It didn’t take him long to punch his ticket to the semi-finals the next day, however, getting the fall over Rolph in just 0:40 seconds.
Then, on Saturday, with Primo making his way through the bracket’s opposite side, Rayne would take on Sussex Central’s Javon Saffold for a shot at the finals, eventually clinching a 3-2 decision in what would end up being his closest match of the tournament.
“Willie’s a competitor. He had a tough semi-final match this morning, won a tough decision there, and then he was ready to wrestle in the finals,” said IR head coach Jeff Windish. “When Will is wrestling at his best, he can go with anybody.”
When the 106 finals finally rolled around, after much pacing up and down the mats with hood up and earphones in, Rayne was more than ready to go. He’d jump out of the title-match gates for two quick points on Primo, setting the tone and establishing a lead that he’d never relinquish as the seconds fell away and he sealed the top spot of the podium.
But while he may have been standing on top of that podium alone — the first time the Indians have had a wrestler take the No. 1 spot since Katteem Harmon did it in 2010 — Rayne was adamant that he didn’t make it up there by himself.
“I just want to thank all of my teammates for how hard they push me in practice. And I want to thank my mom and my coaches for pushing me and helping me succeed,” he said. “If it wasn’t for them, half the things I can do now I wouldn’t be able to.”
This weekend, Rayne will look to figure out just how far he can go when he enters the DIAA Individual State Tournament as the No. 2 seed, behind Salesianum’s Zach Spence in the No. 1 spot.
“Will sets the bar high,” said Windish. “Next week, hopefully, we can keep that performance rolling and come through with another championship.”
“I know what I can do now,” Rayne said. “I just have to keep pushing harder.”
The state tournament will be held at Dover High School on Friday, Feb. 24, and Saturday, Feb. 25. Rayne’s first match will be against No. 15-seeded Zach Palmer from St. Mark’s High School.