MILFORD — Right from the beginning, the Milford wrestling team figured it was going to come down to the end.
The Buccaneers also knew that they had senior Kenny VanVorst waiting to wrestle a favorable 195-pound match in the finale.
In the end it worked out just as the Bucs foresaw, as VanVorst pinned Caesar Rodney’s Jaylin Keaton in 21 seconds and Milford defeated the visiting Riders 39-35 in an exciting Tuesday night dual-meet.
“I stacked him over his head and just let the referee do the rest,” said VanVorst, adding that even though his team only needed a win by decision that he was looking for the stick. “Every time I want to go look for six (team points by fall).”
Wrestling in front of a large crowd packed into the old Milford High gymnasium, the dual-meet took on extra meaning with former Bucs coach Dan Rigby now in charge at Caesar Rodney.
Soon after the meet began, however, it was the wrestlers themselves who stole the show. The biggest team lead of the night was 11 points and both squads won seven matches each with bonus points being the deciding factor in Milford’s win.
“I had it 7-7 or potentially 8-6 in our favor,” said Milford coach Don Parlsey of his thoughts coming into the meet. “As it turned out it was 7-7 and bonus points was the key.”
Beast of the East medalist Michael Clavier bumped up to 220 and worked his way to a 9-1 major decision over Milford’s Dom Hovington to give the Riders an early four-point team lead, but Bucs heavyweight Bryan Wynes pinned Ryan Bones in 3:25 put the hosts back in front.
Sophomore Robbie Rosser pushed Milford’s lead to 10-4 with a major decision in his 106-pound match with Riders freshman Michael Primo but CR retied the team score when former Buccaneer Cam Hayes won with a quick pin at 113.
The teams traded six points in the next two matches.
Junior Mason Harrington took advantage of a mistake by Milford’s Jace Darling near the edge of the mat and scored a pin at 120 to give the Riders their biggest lead of the night, 16-10, but Alex Creasey retied the score when he won by fall at 126.
Again each team scored a pin in the following two matches — Milford’s Gavin Garcia at 132 and CR’s Chase Mounts (138) — before the Buccaneers took their biggest lead of the evening over the next two bouts. Seniors Bart Dalious (145) and Chase Taylor (152) won by pin and technical fall respectively, allowing Milford to open up a 33-22 team lead.
“You just don’t stop attacking and in the end try to get what you can get,” said Taylor, who nearly pinned CR sophomore Tommy Woodall at the end of the second period, with the back points giving him the 19-4 tech fall. “I wanted the six, but he was a little squirmier than I thought.
“I wanted to win this meet more than any other one,” Taylor added. “It was a mixture of alumni night, everyone here, Rigby on the other side. They had a couple hammers, we had a couple hammers… In the end it was a well-fought match.”
Trailing by 11 with four matches to go, CR took the next three in succession.
Thomas Gallucci started the run with an 8-0 major decision at 160, Andrew Sudler followed with a 4-1 win at 170 and then senior Dante Walker, trailing by one at the time in back-and-forth 182-pound bout, pinned Bevensky Augustin. Walker’s pin in the penultimate match put the Riders in the lead 35-33 and set the stage for VanVorst to win it for Milford.
“I knew we had to come in and wrestle a near perfect match to win,” Rigby said. “They were better than us, and I’m happy with it being this close honestly. We’re going to get there though.”
About returning to Milford, where he led the Buccaneers to Division II state dual-meet titles the previous two seasons, the CR alum added, “It’s the elephant in the room and to say it’s a little awkward might be an understatement. But, it’s nice to come back and it was a fun environment for my guys to wrestle in.”
Although the state dual-meet tournaments are still months away, Milford’s win against CR could be a stepping stone toward getting the Bucs a third straight team title. If nothing else, it will be a feather in the cap when it comes time for dual-meet seeding.
“It was a great match and win or lose I would’ve been happy with the effort my kids put forth,” Parsley said. “These (dual-meets) are huge. We wrestle in the Southern Division, and certainly in the South I think we’re the class of the group, but having Caesar Rodney, Smyrna, Cape Henlopen, Dover on our schedule, those matches are going to be key. The other Division II opponents aren’t going to be able to say they have a match over Caesar Rodney, and win or lose against the other three teams, they are Division I schools, high quality great programs, and as a result that’s going to give us the heads-up into the No. 1 seed sometime in February.”