Four Knights crowned Henlopen wrestling champions

DOVER – One point separated Justin Bennett from his first Henlopen Conference wrestling championship.

With seconds remaining in the third overtime period of his 145-pound finals match against Milford’s Bart Dalious the Sussex Central senior scored two.

Bennett’s reversal in the “ultimate tiebreaker” period lifted him to a 4-2 decision and his first conference championship. In the two previous seasons he finished second at various weight classes.

“Basically I knew it was going into triple-overtime, and I was like, ‘alright, escape I win, takedown, I win,’” Bennett said. “When I saw there was only a couple seconds left my momentum started building. I knew I had to do something, even if it was risky. At the time and with the position I was in, I could’ve tried the escape but it would’ve taken longer, so I went the easier route.

“It’s definitely something new to me,” he added about being a Henlopen champion. “Especially after two years being a runner-up. It makes me feel like I’ve done something great after all the hard work I put in with practice and in my free time.”

Brandon Bautista

Sussex Central junior Brandon Bautista was one of four Knights to win a Henlopen wrestling championship. (Sussex County Post/Jeff Mitchell)

Bennett was one of four Golden Knights that won conference championships Saturday night at Dover High. In total, 11 Central wrestlers finished in sixth place or better in their respective weight classes during the Henlopen championships and advanced to next weekend’s state individual tournament at Cape Henlopen High. Two more earned seventh place finishes and will be alternates for states.

Overall, Sussex Central finished as the tournament’s second place team behind Smyrna. The Knights, however, had more champions crowned than any other squad.

“I’m very excited for the guys, they did extremely well,” said Central head coach Phil Shultie. “Everybody worked very hard and I just hope it carries over to next weekend.”

Just as he had all season long in dual-meets, Central junior Brandon Bautista followed Bennett with a victory.

Wrestling against Caesar Rodney’s Thomas Gallucci in the 152-pound finals, Bautista created angles and made his shots count to overcome the Rider’s reach advantage and pick up a 7-2 decision.

“You fake big and create angles, that’s what my coaches taught me,” Bautista said. “You set up your shot, create angles and when they’re there you take them.

“Knowing that you tried, worked and got your butt kicked in practice by your coaches, it feels really good,” he added about being a conference champion.

Lucas Hudson admittedly didn’t wrestle his best match against CR’s Andrew Sudler in the 170-pound finals. But the junior did more than enough to earn his first Henlopen championship, defeating Sudler 7-5. Hudson scored a third period takedown that gave him a 6-3 cushion and eventually propelled him to the win by decision.

“I didn’t really do what I wanted to do, not the greatest match I could’ve wrestled, but it feels great and I got the title,” Hudson said. “You wrestle your bad matches, get through it and get the win.”

Sophomore Rashad Stratton was Central's first of four conference champions. (Sussex County Post/Jeff Mitchell)

Sophomore Rashad Stratton was Central’s first of four conference champions. (Sussex County Post/Jeff Mitchell)

Sophomore Rashad Stratton won Central’s first Henlopen championship of the evening.

Reaching the 126-pound finals by way of a victory over Cape Henlopen’s Max Norquest in the semis – Stratton lost to the Viking 7-4 in an early season dual-meet – he glided his way to a 5-0 decision over Smyrna’s Cole Sebastianelli. Sebastianelli was a familiar opponent for Stratton, who had already defeated the Eagle in the regular season and in last Tuesday’s Division I dual-meet state championships.

“I just stayed with the basics, what I did in the previous matches,” Stratton said. “He’s a tough wrestler but I did what I do best and take down.

“I’ve been working every day and pushing myself to get here,” Stratton said of being a Henlopen champ. “It feels great.”

Seven additional Sussex Central wrestlers will join their teammates in the coming state individual championships.

Those wrestlers and their respective finishes at the Henlopen Conference tournament are: Yony Perez (106), sixth; Drew Morris (132), third; Max Tolson (138), third; Blake Chambers (160), fifth; Michael Wright (182), third; Johnny Morris (195), third; Victor Cruz (285), third.

Andres Montes (113) and Mario Santizo (220) finished seventh in their respective weight classes and could be alternates in the state tournament.

In preparation for the state tournament, Shultie said his wrestlers will continue to practice how they have all season.

“We will continue to coach them the same as we have the last three months,” he said. “They know exactly the routine we go through and we’re not going to change anything for the state tournament.”

Sussex Tech

Three Sussex Tech seniors extended their seasons by placing in the top six of their respective weight classes in the Henlopen championships. Five more Ravens could be alternates after finishing seventh or eighth.

Senior Colin Bergh was Tech’s highest placer in the event, taking third in the 182-pound weight class. Classmates Marvin Spady (195, fourth place) and Kris Cannon (152, fifth) also placed and advanced.

Sussex Tech senior Marvin Spady (195) earned a fourth place Henlopen championship finish. (Sussex County Post/Jeff Mitchell)

Sussex Tech senior Marvin Spady (195) earned a fourth place Henlopen championship finish. (Sussex County Post/Jeff Mitchell)

“We’re a young team, but we had five guys finish top eight,” Sussex Tech head coach Scott Layfield said. “Colin was down, but I told him after the match (a semifinals loss to Smyrna’s Hunter Moyer in sudden victory) ‘you’re going to the state tournament. You can wrestle or not.’ And he did.  He’s a Division I athlete, for baseball, and he acted like it.

“Kris Cannon has come a long way in four years, and I’m proud of him, he’s going to the state tournament,” Layfield added. “Marvin Spady, same thing. They work hard.”

Indian River

At least three Indian River wrestlers will be in the coming state championship tournament.

IR junior Zeke Marcozzi took third at 160 in the Henlopen championships. (Sussex County Post/Jeff Mitchell)

IR junior Zeke Marcozzi took third at 160 in the Henlopen championships. (Sussex County Post/Jeff Mitchell)

Zeke Marcozzi (160) finished third, Jared Arlett (120) fourth and Mitchell Bolton (112) sixth in the Henlopen tourney. Dylan Ely (126), eighth and Arturo Salas (170), seventh, are potential alternates.

“We had a good tournament, wrestled well but caught some bad breaks in the wrestle-backs,” head coach Jeff Windish said. “It’s a tough tournament. You always want to get a few more through, but I’m pleased. We’ve really started to gel as a team the last few weeks of the season, and I think it’s a good building block for us going into next season.”

From the Sussex County Sports Desk

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