Indian River High School will be sending six wrestlers to the DIAA state tournament, thanks to their efforts in last weekend’s Henlopen Conference Wrestling Championships, hosted at Sussex Central High School.
IR juniors Will Rayne, Ta’Jon Knight, Chris Saylor and Ramond Turner, along with senior Zach Schultz and sophomore Ian Shaubach, are all heading to the state tournament, which will be held Friday through Saturday, Feb. 22-23, at Cape Henlopen High School.
“Every year, our goal is to advance as many wrestlers as possible to the DIAA State Tournament,” IR head coach Jeff Windish said. “This year, going into the Henlopen Conference Tournament, we were confident that we could get six through to the state tournament as long as the kids showed up and performed to their abilities.
“We also thought we might be able to squeak a few more in if we were able to pull some upsets in the consolation rounds.”
Shaubach (113 pounds), Rayne (120) and Knight (126) all came up just short in their bids to bring home conference titles, falling in their respective weight-class finals.
Shaubach, who is now 34-10 on the season, was pinned by Milford’s Jack Thode at the 2:22 mark in the second period.
Rayne (31-6 overall) dropped a 16-5 major decision to Smyrna’s Joseph Natarcola.
Knight (35-6 overall) was bested by a 7-4 decision against Smyrna’s Jaxson Al-Chokhachy.
“Ian Shaubach, Will Rayne and Ta’Jon Knight performed great in their quarterfinal and semifinal matches, earning them a spot in the conference finals,” Windish noted of his finalists. “Although each came up short in their final matches, we were pleased with their performances.”
Turner — now 27-6 on the season — edged Sussex Central’s Tyler Karr, 2-1, in their 285-pound third-place match.
Saylor (32-15) picked up a fifth-place finish thanks to his pin over Caesar Rodney’s Dawson Mitchell at 2:43 of the second period in their 103-pound contest.
Schultz (37-8) squeaked by Qualeak Bumbrey of Dover for a 7-6 decision for fifth place at 195.
“Chris Saylor, Zach Schultz and Ramond Turner each responded to early round losses, and wrestled back to ensure their advancement to the state tournament,” Windish continued.
“Ian, Will, Ta’Jon, Zach and Ramond are all returning state qualifiers, and have the experience of wrestling in the [state] tournament. Having that experience going in helps them get prepared mentally for the caliber of wrestling they will see on Friday and Saturday.”
And now, sending six wrestlers onto states is satisfying for a program that has been battling against some of the best all season long.
“We were pleased with the seeds that came out on Sunday, but the kids know they have to perform well this weekend,” Windish added of the Feb. 17 seeding and the upcoming state tournament. “We are going to spend the next few days preparing for the kids we are going to see on Friday and cleaning up technique. Hopefully, we can come away with six state placers on Saturday. That is definitely the goal of the coaches and the wrestlers.”
Smyrna won the team competition in the Feb. 16-17 tourney with 223.5 points, having five wrestlers crowned champions overall. The Eagles were followed by Milford (208), and Sussex Central (174), Caesar Rodney (157) and Cape Henlopen (112) rounded out the top five.
The Indians finished seventh in the team standings, just behind Sussex Tech (109) and one point better than Dover (106).
The individual champions of the Henlopen Conference tournament were Gabe Giampietro of Smyrna (106); Jack Thode of Milford (113); Joe Natarcola of Smyrna (120); Jaxson Al-Chokhachy of Smyrna (126); Anthony Caruso of Cape (132); Nicholas Natarcola of Smyrna (138); Jackson Dean of Caesar Rodney (145); Gabriel Degraffinreed of Caesar Rodney (152); Gage Copes of Milford (160); Gabe Evans of Dover (170); J.T. Davis of Smyrna (182); Michael Wright of Sussex Central (195); Anthony Diaz of Milford (220); and Kevin Hudson of Caesar Rodney (285).
By Jason Feather