Five Indians push through Conference onto State Individual Tournament
The Indian River Indians were bested earlier this month by Polytech in the State Team Dual Championships, but this past weekend, Feb. 17 and 18, the mindset switched as Sussex Central hosted the Henlopen Conference Individual Wrestling Tournament, with implications for State wrestling individual seedings.
In all, five Indians placed into the Delaware Interscholastic Athletic Association (DIAA) Individual Wrestling Championships, which are scheduled for Friday, Feb. 24, and Saturday, Feb. 25, at Cape Henlopen High School.
Max Wilkinson’s third-place showing at the Henlopen Conference Tournament earned him the highest standing of the five Indian River athletes. Wrestling in the 152-pound category, Wilkinson holds the most favorable draw of the Indian River qualifiers, as he gets set to open the preliminaries on Friday with Cody Horrocks of Hodgson VoTech, a fourth seed from the Blue Hen Conference.
“I know I’ve got to take the state tournament one match at a time,” said Wilkinson. “Obviously, my goal is to win a state title. I’ve worked hard all season long for this and really prepared in the off-season. I don’t want to look past anyone, but I’d like to face Mohr and Bentley.”
Samuel Mohr, a Cape Henlopen senior, defeated Wilkinson at the Henlopen Conference Tournament in double overtime before falling to Polytech’s Kurt Bentley in an overtime match for the title.
Wilkinson could potentially face Mohr this weekend in the semifinal match, pending their preliminary and quarterfinal bouts, while Bentley holds the No. 1 seed overall in the 152-pound weight class and stands a chance to see Mohr or Wilkinson again in the finals.
Two Indian River wrestlers finished in fifth place at the Henlopen Conference Tournament: Phillip Bradford (132 pounds) and Rashaun Odom (120 pounds). Two others, Colt Kollock (106 pounds) and Jake Troublefield (182 pounds), finished in sixth in their weight classes, also earning spots in this weekend’s individual tournament.
“Ideally,” said Indian River head coach Jeff Windish, “you don’t want your wrestlers to draw a No. 1 seed out of the Blue Hen or Independent conferences, but we have to treat these matches like they were any other one.”
Three of Indian River’s state placers will open up their preliminary round against a top seed from a Blue Hen or Independent conference program.
“Fortunately for us,” Windish added, “we’ve faced some strong competition throughout the Henlopen conference, so we’re used to wrestling that type of talent. Some of the guys our wrestlers will go up against are kids we haven’t seen before, but the important thing is that they wrestle the match at hand and stay focused.”
Last year, the Indians saw six state qualifiers go into the individual tournament, with four of them finishing within the top four athletes of their classes. The majority of this year’s draws may have fallen against the Indians’ favor, but Windish is staying optimistic.
“We’re fortunate to have guys like Max on the team,” he said, “guys who you can send out there and expect to get a win. Rashaun [Odom] has had some expectations this season, too. As a third-year starter, we hoped for him to be a state qualifier, and he’s done that. Everyone is really even in that [120-pound] weight class, and he could earn himself a medal this weekend.
“Phillip [Bradford] had an outstanding tournament, too,” Windish added. “He beat a state placer from last year in Jimmy Watts. That’s a match we’ve lost in duals, but he was able to overcome that at conferences. Then you have a first-year wrestler like Colt [Kollock], who qualified for the state tournament, exceeding all our expectations. We’re looking for him to go up there and win a couple matches for us.”
After opening up their season with four early tournaments, the Indians found their stride and solidified themselves as a Henlopen Conference powerhouse with talent across the board.
“We had a lot of guys peaking at the right time,” said Windish, “and, as a team, you need to be doing that. I think we’re accomplishing that. We’ve spent a lot of time and effort leading up to the individual tournament, and I want these guys to be able to say they gave their all at the end of the year. When you do that, good things will happen.”
The 2012 DIAA Individual Wrestling Championships will begin at Cape Henlopen on Friday, Feb. 24, at 4 p.m., with additional tournament action continuing on Saturday, Feb. 25, at 11 a.m.