The Indian River Indians varsity wrestling team kicked off the 2006/2007 winter season with a ninth-place finish at Stephen Decatur’s two-day War on the Shore tournament, which started on Dec. 7, despite having two wrestlers not make weight.
When P.J. Barch (140) and Dominique Morris (152) didn’t make weight, Indian River’s prospects for winning the tournament dwindled because they had to forfeit its matches in the respective weight divisions. But of the remaining 12 wrestlers that participated, four wrestlers finished in the top six — including two in the top three — and several more piqued head coach Jeff Windish’s attention.
“I’m pleased with the finish considering we didn’t have two kids wrestling, though I’m sure with Dominique and P.J. in our lineup we would definitely improve on our finish. But I saw some good things from the young guys that we can build from, and that’s a positive.”
Bo Wilkinson (145) displayed dominating strength and incredible determination on his way to a 5-1 tournament record, including consecutive come-from-behind victories, for a third-place finish.
He pinned two, won a major decision and earned consecutive comeback decisions over James M. Bennett’s Marquese Harmon and La Plata’s Mike Good in what has begun as an excellent season for the sophomore and second-year wrestler.
“Bo really blossomed in this tournament,” Windish said. “He came back against two tough kids, and that catches your attention as a coach.”
“Bo’s definitely going to make a name for himself this year,” Windish continued. “He has an incredible work ethic, is a very coachable kid and is only going to get better.”
Good (4-2) won three major decisions and secured one pin, while Harmon (3-2) earned two decisions and one pin.
First-year wrestler senior Zach Rector went 3-3, finishing sixth in the heavyweight division, and might have place higher. But inexperience allowed his final match against La Plata’s Joe Sharp to slip away.
Rector held a 3-2 advantage and had dominant position on Sharp with 30 seconds remaining but mistakenly thought he trailed the match, so he allowed his opponent a match-tying escape. And, with 10 seconds left, Sharp took Rector’s back for the match-deciding 5-3 score.
“Zack dominated that kid the whole match but he thought he was down, so he let his opponent up,” Windish said. “We were yelling to him, but he just wasn’t aware of the score.”
“That’s just inexperience of not knowing where you are in the match. But that’s something he won’t do again,” Windish continued. “Zack’s just that kind of kid. He’s going to continue to improve.”
Rector’s first of three losses came at the hands of tournament champion Josh Capriani (Colonial Forge) by way of pin. Sharp lost to Capriani, as well, but in a 2-0 decision.
Mike Magaha (119) went 4-2, which included a 15-2 major decision over James M. Bennett’s Chris Rodriguez, a 20-2 technical fall over McDonough’s Dominic Anastasi and a 2-1 decision over Stephen Decatur’s Trevor Ricketts. It resulted in a fifth-place finish in a division that was dominated by Sussex Central’s tournament champion, Connor McDonald.
Perry Townsend (215) went 3-1 and was the Indians’ lone finalist. But he lost the championship match in a decisive 13-4 major decision to Colonial Forge’s Matt Reck.
Townsend won his first match by pinning Arcadia’s Robbie Snyder in 17 seconds and dominated Sussex Central’s Tanner Cannavo in a technical fall to put him in the championship match.
“Perry lost to a tough kid,” Windish said. “He’s a ranked kid in Virginia — a legitimate kid. But Perry’s capable of much better than what he showed. He’s come into this season with a lot of expectations for himself.’
“Perry’s the kind of kid that doesn’t like to lose and will work harder to fix the problem,” Windish continued.
In addition, Windish expressed confidence in his team and their abilities but was especially pleased with freshmen Antonio Gonzalez (112) and Matt McDowell (160), Sean Cummings (135) and first-year wrestler senior Josh Hitchens (189).
Gonzalez, McDowell and Cummings each won two matches. Hitchens wrestled up a weight class, from 171 pounds, to help fill the void created by Barch and Morris, and won a match in the 189-pound weight division.
“As a first-year wrestler, Antonio winning two matches is definitely a positive and I was also pleased with McDowell,” Windish said. “He wrestled very hard and I see a lot of promise in his future. And I know I’m not the only coach on our staff that thinks that.”
“Sean (Cummings) is another one,” Windish continued. “After missing most of last season to a broken arm (since December), I was very impressed with his victories and, to an extent, his losses.”
“Even in his losses he had opportunities to win and, had he not broke his arm, I felt very confident that Sean could’ve placed in states last year. Sean knows this is his senior year and I’m sure he’s going to want to go out with a bang.”
Windish mentioned last week that his team’s performance in the War on the Shore tournament would be a good indicator of where his team stood, and thus far it appears that they’re headed on the right track.
Indian River will host 20 teams from the mid-Atlantic region, including New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Virginia, Maryland and Delaware, for its second annual Battle at the Beach two-day tournament, starting at 3 p.m. on Dec. 15.
The tournament will get back into full swing at 9 a.m. on Dec. 16 and run all day, with the championship round starting around 10 p.m.
Windish indicated that, of the 20 teams that will be in attendance, there will be “quite a few ranked teams from New Jersey and Virginia, and that last year’s No. 1 team from Maryland will be there,” as well as “outstanding individuals.”
Delaware Valley Regional High School’s Dan Kelly is currently ranked No. 6 nationally at 119. Nick Murray of Boundbrook High School is ranked in the top 10 and will wrestle at around 140 pounds.
Indian River will also get an additional look at competition in their conference, since Cape Henlopen, Laurel, Lake Forest and Sussex Tech will all attend the tournament.