Strong finish prepares Indians' wrestlers for team dual-meet championship
Even with a loss last Saturday, Feb. 4, to William Penn, the transition into February has been a good one for Indian River High School’s varsity wrestling team. With a late-January win over Delaware Military Academy (DMA), followed up with victories in a tri-meet against Maryland schools on Friday, Feb. 3, the Indians were geared up for a strong showing against Sussex Central this past Wednesday, as they wrapped up the regular season.
“We started off last week with a big win over DMA,” said Indian River head coach Jeff Windish, “and we wrapped up with our weekend matches. I was pleased with the way we wrestled against the Maryland teams. We went in there with the intention of setting the tone early, and we did that. These were two out-of-state teams that we needed wins against to stay in contention for the team duals. We got in there and made quite a few falls.”
Last Friday, Indian River strung together back-to-back victories over Aberdeen, 56-15, and North East, 48-31, bringing their overall record to 7-5 on the season and giving the Indians a likely nudge into the Dual Meet Team Championships, set for Tuesday, Feb. 14.
Major decisions from Jalen Griffin (145 pounds) and Max Wilkinson (152 pounds) over Aberdeen’s Austin Smith and Jasaan Beck, respectively, set the pace for the Indians, who picked up wins in all but one of their official bouts against the Aberdeen Eagles.
Devontae Mitchell (160 pounds), Eddie Lyubchenko (195 pounds), Davonte Waters (220 pounds), Colt Kollock (106 pounds) and Justin Lopez (138 pounds) each nabbed pins in their first matches of the day, while Matt Selba (170 pounds) and Jake Troublefield (182 pounds) picked up decision wins for Indian River.
IR followed that up with a battle of the tribes, as the Indian River Indians took on the hosting Indians of North East High School. Mitchell, Wilkinson, Selba, Troublefield and Lyubchenko each garnered wins for the green and gold, jumping out to an early solid lead. After opening the first match of the day with a win, Griffin was the last Indian standing as he closed out the evening with a 40-second pin in the final match on North East’s Justin Stewart.
The competition was a bit more overwhelming for Indian River the following day, however, as William Penn visited Dagsboro and took care of business, 42-17, but not before Rashaun Odom (120 pounds), T.J. Knight (126 pounds), Kollock, Wilkinson and Troublefield each picked up wins over their William Penn opponents.
“Every coach and every wrestler wants to win whenever they step onto the mat,” assured Windish, “and even though William Penn got the best of us, we can take a lot away from that loss. From a coaching standpoint, and on behalf of all of our wrestlers, I can say we wrestled our best and gave it all we had. With a couple points here and there, the match could have been a lot closer.”
Despite the loss, Windish said he was pleased to see several individuals come out on top.
“Colt gave us a huge win,” he said, “knocking off a strong wrestler like Austin Simpson. Rashaun [Odom] kept it going for us with a win over [Steven] Gbale, a high-ranked kid in the state. [Odom] got it right at the buzzer, and it was a really huge win for the team. T.J. Knight filled in for Garrett [O’Neal] and did a great job, too.”
The Indians were set to host Sussex Central this Wednesday, Feb. 8, (after Coastal Point press deadline), in the final regular-season matchup of the schedule. Though the William Penn match brought the Indians’ team record to 7-6, Windish mid-week still liked their odds of making the cut for the state dual-meet competition. But he also understood what was riding on the Sussex Central matchup.
“This match has implications into the postseason,” he said. “It’s an inter-district rivalry and, as always, our goal is to go out there and win. These kids realize that, and we’re preparing for Central. There are key matchups that our guys will face. Some of them are tossups, and we need our wrestlers to go out there and get them. We’ve been talking about it at practices. They know what needs to get done.”
On Tuesday, Feb. 14, Smyrna High School will play host to the Wrestling Dual Meet Team Championship, although the Indians won’t know their ranking until the start of next week.
“We’ve been dictating the tempo of these matches,” said Windish. “That’s what we need to continue to do.”