The No. 3 Caesar Rodney High School wrestling program went 3-0 in the Feb. 15 DIAA State Dual Wrestling Championships, beating No. 1 St. Mark's High School in its finals match to claim its first Division I title since 2007, and its 12th in the program's history.
Caesar Rodney High School wrestling Head Coach Dickie Howell is no stranger to dual state championships.
In fact, Howell has won seven total titles, collecting the most recent Feb. 15 as his No. 3 Riders went 3-0 in the DIAA State Dual Wrestling Tournament at Smyrna High School to capture its 12th championship ever.
But lucky No. 7 for the coach was a little different, with a little bit of an added touch, as he got to share this one with his son, Zach, a 103-pound sophomore.
“It was extra special, standing there with the trophy and being able to put my arm around my son,” Dickie said.
As a youngster, the senior Howell said, Zach was always at his side, watching the dominant Rider teams of the mid-2000s win title after title, waiting for his turn to take part in the success.
Zach sure did his part, sealing CR’s 36-24 win with a pin in the last bout of the finals against No. 1 St. Mark’s, the two-time defending state champion.
“When he was a little wrestler coming up I always dreamed about when he would get here,” the coach said. “For him to go out there and do his own part to bring it home, it was extra special.
“You can’t script it any better.”
A grappler of few words, Zach said he had waited a long time for his shot to hoist the dual trophy, and hopes he and his dad aren’t done winning titles yet.
“We’re a good team together,” he said. “It was fun doing it with him.”
The triumph of the Howell men is only one sub-story in this title run, though.
When the Riders last won a state title, in 2007, they were at the tail end of a dynasty run that featured several nationally-ranked teams. That distinction didn’t grace the 2011 squad, a roster with a lot of skill, but even more sandpaper.
Dickie referenced wrestlers like senior Allannio Monsanto, 152 pounds, a second-year wrestler that picked up a huge OT decision win against St. Mark’s, and freshman Tony Scarfo, 112 pounds, who filled in for injured freshman Micah Hight, one of the Riders’ top grapplers, and won his finals match as well.
Winning titles with a dominant squad in the past, the coach said, was special. But winning it by grinding out each match added a new level of excitement.
“I guess the ones that are most special are the ones you go into not knowing if you can get it done or not,” Dickie said. “When you win one of those, it’s just, those are the great ones.”
That’s not to say the Riders didn’t have any standouts in the tournament. Senior Issah Meade, 160 pounds, and junior Kaleb LeMaire, 119 pounds, collected their first title since joining the team.
“I’ve been waiting since seventh grade when I decided I wanted to come to CR for a state championship as a team,” LeMaire said. “It feels so good. It feels like everything I worked for, I finally got it.”
Meade, who has known individual state success with two of his own titles, said winning as a team was a much different feeling.
“I think it feels better than the two individual state titles that I won,” he said. “We won it as a team. It was my last shot, my senior year, and we finally got it done.”
While the dual season for CR has come to an end, the tournaments are far from over, as the Riders will wrap up the Henlopen Conference Championships at 10 a.m. Saturday, Feb. 19, at Smyrna High School, before they head to the DIAA State Individual Wrestling Tournament on Friday, Feb. 25, and Saturday, Feb. 26, at St. Mark’s High School.
Dickie said a good showing at conferences for some wrestlers would set up favorable seeds at states, so even though his team was going to enjoy its dual title, the season wasn’t over yet.
“That’s one hurdle out of the way and now they’re going to turn and focus on the individuals,” he said. “It’s time to go back to work.”
For more photos from the finals match against St. Mark's and the ensuing celebration, click here.
WHAT Henlopen Conference Individual Wrestling Championships
WHEN 10 a.m. Saturday, Feb. 19
WHERE Smyrna High School, 500 Duck Creek Parkway, Smyrna
Email Brian Citino at firstname.lastname@example.org