Panthers look to cap off season with Henlopen Conference Championship on the mat
By Mike Santa Barbara
The 2014-2015 high school wrestling season has already been a successful one for the Polytech Panthers. The Panthers finished with an 11-1 overall record but, are looking for more success as the most important dates of the wrestling season loom.
The Panthers came up just short of the Henlopen North Division title, which went to the Smyrna Eagles. The Eagles handed Polytech their only dual-meet loss of the season this year in a close 39-12 contest earlier this month.
Now that the regular season is over, the Henlopen Conference Championships will be held this weekend at Sussex Central High School. This will be the final wrestling event of the season before the Individual Wrestling State Championships at the end of February.
Coming into the season, Polytech knew they had several fourth-year wrestlers ready to make an impact on the rest of the state. Those seniors did not disappoint, helping lead the Panthers to the second-best record in the state tied with the Smyrna and fellow Henlopen squad Milford. Only the Hodgson Silver Eagles finished with a better record (12-1 ) this season.
“We have six seniors on this year’s squad and I feel that all of them have stood out for their effort in the practice room and during matches,” said Polytech head coach Eric Buckson. “A big part of our success has been the dependability of these six wrestlers showing up every day and busting their butts.”
Leading the charge for the impressive Panthers this season has been Andy Schmeusser (120), Kody Stevens (126), Josh Price (132), Austin Rains (170), Mark Mullnack (220), and Derek Reigle at heavy-weight.
All six of the Panthers’ standout seniors are expected to do well this weekend and earn qualifying berths into their respective weight classes once it’s time for the individual states.
The Henlopen Conference Championship will kick-off at Sussex Central High School Friday afternoon at 4 p.m. wth championship matches startng on Saturday at 9:30 a.m.
Schmeusser, Stevens, and Mullnack have already seen success at the individual level, as all had top-three finishes at last year’s individual state championships.
“My expectation is that we are going to qualify all 14 wrestlers for the state tournament,” Buckson said. “I realize that is probably not a reality, but that is the mentality you have to have to practice as hard as we do every day. In the end, all I can ask for from each wrestler is their best effort and I feel like this team is poised to give that.”
Riders, Senators, and Spartans look to impress at conferences
While the Panthers were the power-house of the Henlopen Conference along with Smyrna and Milford, Dover, Lake Forest, and Caesar Rodney all look to make their mark this weekend.
The Senators finished the year at 4-5, ending the season with three straight losses to the CR, Milford, and Cape Henlopen.
The young Dover squad is led by seniors Isaiah Abrams (285), Michael D’Antonio (145), Jon’ Del Dyer (195), and Luther Williams (170).
The Spartans went 7-6 during their dual-meet schedule, good enough for third overall in the Henlopen South behind Delmar and division leader Milford who finished 11-1.
The Spartans have several standouts including Ryan Sipple (126), Brian Thomson (160), Jemeir Brummell (170), Micky Mondestin (182), Timothy Dixon (195), John Flamer (220), and Jordan Springer (285).
Meanwhile, the Caesar Rodney Riders have struggled this season with a younger and inexperienced group than the program is used to having.
After a slow start that saw CR lose eight of their first 10 bouts, the Riders won five of their last eight.
Leading for CR this season has been Mike Clavier (182), Troy McNally (220), and Seth Mogle (160).
“This season we have tried to focus on one match at a time,” said Caesar Rodney head coach Chris Harris. “I think we have some guys who can do well in the tournament. I just want my team to give me their best at the tournament to advance as many as possible to the state tournament.”