It was a battle of the unbeaten when the Indian River High School wrestling team took on Milford on Wednesday, Jan. 25, with the defending state champion Bucs keeping their perfect record intact and handing the Indians their first loss of the season in comeback fashion, 37-33.
“We definitely have some things to work on, but I know I speak for the whole coaching staff when I say that we’re definitely pleased with the way we wrestled,” said IR head coach Jeff Windish after the match. “We had some kids really step up big in matches.”
The Indians jumped out to a quick lead with pins from freshmen Will Rayne at 106 and Ta’Jon Knight at 120.
Sophomore Dylan Ealy kept the Bucs off the board with a 4-2 decision at 126 over Milford’s Jordan Passwaters, with senior Jesse O’Neal putting the Indians up 21-6 after getting the fall at 132.
“Willie and Ta’Jon jumping out to pins right out of the gate set the momentum,” Windish said. “Dylan getting that decision at 126 was clutch, and then Jared and Jesse at 32 and 38 kept that momentum going in our favor.”
Jumping up a weight class for the match, IR senior captain Jared Arlett took on a familiar foe in Milford senior Gavin Garcia at 138. Throughout tournament play at the start of the season, the two had traded wins, with Arlett getting the best of Garcia on Wednesday in a 9-8 decision.
“He was tough. I’ve wrestled him three times now,” said Arlett of Garcia. “We decided that if he was going to go up [in weight], then I was going to go up, too. I wanted that match.”
Milford would go on to cut the lead to 24-18 with back-to-back pins after that, but IR senior Arturo “The Terminator” Salas got the ball rolling for the Indians again with a 3-2 decision over Khiry Hovington at 160.
“Arturo at 160, getting that decision there, put us back in the match,” said Windish of the pivotal moment that seemed to get the Tribe their mojo back.
“It was great to see the community out supporting the team tonight. The atmosphere in here was electric at times, and that just feeds into the momentum of the match.”
A forfeit from Milford at 182 gave the Indians a 33-24 advantage and senior captain Zeke Marcozzi his 119th career win, putting him just nine wins shy of setting a new school record and surpassing Mike Magaha’s IRHS record of 127 career wins.
With three matches to go, however, a decision for Milford’s Evonte’ Bennett at 195, major decision for Dominyc Hovington at 220 and pin by senior heavyweight Bryan Wynes sealed the 37-33 comeback victory for the defending state champs.
While Milford most likely locked in a Henlopen South title and probably No. 1 seed for state duals with the win, the 9-1 Indians were far from discouraged regarding their own state title hopes after taking their first loss of the season.
“There was a lot on the line in this dual. Coming in, this was a big match, it was the kind of match that a lot of these kids have never been involved in,” said Windish. “I think we’re still in the driver seat to get into duals. We hope to see Milford again in February, up at Smyrna.”
“I told the guys after the match that we have to work harder. We need to work on not getting pinned, we need to work on our defense, we need to work on taking shots when we’re tired,” added Arlett, noting that the loss would be used as motivation. “It’s a long road until state duals. We’ve gotta improve every day.”
106: W.Rayne (IR) p. A.Sollie 3:11
113: R.Rosser (M) p. C.Lopez :31
120: T.Knight (IR) p. J.Darling 2:50
126: D.Ely (IR) d. J.Passwaters 4-2
132: J.O'Neal (IR) p. Edwards 2:38
138: J.Arlett (IR) d. G.Garcia 9-8
145: O.Rosario (M) p. J.Ciriello :36
152: A.Creasey (M) p. Re.Turner 3:02
160: A.Salas (IR) d. Ky.Hovington 3-2
170: K.Reynolds (M) p. M.Payan 3:25
182: Z.Marcozzi (IR) fft
195: E.Bennett (M) d. J.Keller 9-5
220: D.Hovington (M) md. Z.Shultz 18-5
285: B.Wynes (M) p. Ra.Turner 1:35