There are only four names displayed on the “100 Wins Club” wrestling banner hanging up in the Indian River High School gymnasium.
Just over two weeks into his senior campaign, however, IR senior Zeke Marcozzi is already adding his name to that list, after a 4-1 performance at the Beast of the East tournament, held at the University of Delaware from Friday, Dec. 16, through Sunday, Dec. 18.
“We knew Zeke could potentially hit it in that tournament,” said IR head coach Jeff Windish.
“It’s definitely a milestone — very few wrestlers get to reach that accomplishment. It’s a testament to his off-season work ethic. He worked hard to get where he is, but he needs to continue to work that hard and finish out the season strong.”
Headed into his senior season with 89 career wins, Marcozzi earned first-place finishes and went 4-0 at both the Bulldog Invitational held at Brandywine High School on Saturday, Dec. 3, and Yellow Jacket Invitational at Newark High School on Saturday, Dec. 10, to put himself just three wins shy of the century mark.
That’s how he entered the Beast of the East tournament last weekend, taking a rare defeat in a 7-6 decision before bouncing back and getting the fall against wrestlers from Sanford and J.W. Robinson (Va.), then reaching 100 in a decision against an opponent from Pennridge High School (Pa.).
Wresting at 182, Marcozzi would go on to finish the tournament 4-1 and with 101 career wins ahead of the Battle at the Beach tournament, set for Thursday, Dec. 29, and Friday, Dec. 30, at Indian River High School.
While the milestone is certainly an accomplishment in itself — with the last IR wrestler to reach the mark being Jake “J-Troubs” Troublefield in February of 2014 — pulling it off at one of the nation’s top tournaments and so early in the season perhaps makes it all the more impressive.
‘The Beast of the East is one of the toughest tournaments in the country. There are no bad matches,” said Windish of the tournament that saw more than 800 wrestlers from 110 schools from Delaware, Pennsylvania, Virginia, New Jersey, Ohio and beyond.
“It’s a really nice event to have that happen — very few kids go up there and have successful tournaments. Everybody you’re wrestling is a quality wrestler, so you have to be ready to go. You’re not gonna have an easy match.”
The Indians saw evidence of that when wins came few and far between, and even highly-touted senior Jared Arlett finished the tournament 0-2, after starting the season undefeated.
Aside from Marcozzi, they did see wins at 126 from senior Jessie O’Neal, who finished 2-2, and from freshmen Ta’Jon Knight and Will Rayne, who each finished 1-2, wrestling at 120 and 106, respectively.
But, according to Windish, just because the wins were hard to come by doesn’t mean that facing the high-level competition won’t pay dividends, with two more tournaments still to go and dual meets still yet to get under way.
“It’s a good event to see where you’re at and what you need to do to get to the next level,” Windish explained. “It’s good to have that right before our tournament, because now we’re battle-tested. Hopefully, next week our kids are ready to go and we’ll hit the ground running.”
The Indians will host their annual Battle of the Beach tournament at IR next week, on Thursday, Dec. 29, and Friday, Dec. 30, before their first dual meet and Henlopen South Division test at Laurel on Wednesday, Jan. 4.
With all that wresting left to go, Windish said he wouldn’t be surprised to see not only Marcozzi surpass the school’s all-time win total of 127, but for Arlett to reach the century mark before the season is through as well.
“Jared still has a legitimate chance to hit 100,” Windish said. “He really needs to stay healthy this season and he needs to have some really good tournaments, but he is definitely capable of hitting it.
“It would be really nice to have those two kids get 100 this year, because they’ve both worked really hard to get where they are.”
Career win totals aside, the ultimate goal still remains a state championship.
“Our goal for them is definitely a state title,” Windish said. “There’s still a lot of things that have to happen for them to achieve that. They need to continue to work and do the right things for the next two months.”