SMYRNA – Winning a dual-meet state title is a tough task. Repeating as state champions is an even more difficult task.
Tuesday night at Smyrna High School, the Milford Buccaneers’ wrestling squad clinched the school’s fourth consecutive DIAA Division II Dual-Meet State Championship, defeating No. 2 Indian River 34-30.
“Indian River is a really strong team, they came in prepared and were ready to knock us off,” Milford head coach Don Parsley said. “I think our experience in championship situations really paid dividends tonight because the guys were able to get the job done.”
Seeded No. 1 in the Division II tournament, the Bucs’ received a first-round bye before defeating Laurel in the semi-finals to earn a spot in the championship round.
Indian River, a two-loss team heading into the tournament, defeated St. Georges in the second round to earn a spot in the finals and a shot at dethroning the reigning champions.
Milford and Indian River traded leads early on before the Indians took control of the match. Four straight victories from freshman Ta’Jon Knight (120), sophomore Dylan Ely (126), senior Jessie O’Neal (132) and senior Jared Arlett (138) pushed IR ahead 30-15.
With just four matches remaining and a 15-point deficit, Milford wasn’t ready to hand over the championship belt just yet.
In the 145-pound match, Bucs’ senior Gavin Garcia brought the momentum back over to Milford with a win by 17-7 major decision.
Alex Creasey (152) pinned IR’s Michael Payan to bring the deficit to within five points.
In the 160-pound match, Bucs’ junior Khiry Hovington pulled away with a 7-5 decision.
Down 30-28 heading into the final match, senior Kaje Reynolds pinned Indian River senior Zion Howard in the 170-pound match to complete the comeback and clinch the title.
“All I know is I was going out there to wrestle, whether it was a pin or it was a major decision,” Reynolds said following the match. “I can’t ask for anything more than having a good team who fought well. We did what we had to do and put ourselves in good position to win it.”
Even being down 15 points with four matches remaining, Milford didn’t lose confidence and knew they still had a shot at turning things around.
In seven individual wins, Milford collected four pins and a major decision.
Senior Bryan Wynes (285), junior Robbie Rosser (113), Creasey and Reynolds accounted for the pins.
“All business all the time is our team motto, and that’s something we like to live by,” said Rosser. “So that’s how we got the job done. Everybody did their job and that’s how you win as a team.”
Rosser, one of the top wrestlers in the state, took just 55 seconds to pin his opponent in the 113-pound match.
The lineup used in the finals match with IR, according to coach Parsley, is the best lineup Milford has put out all season.
“I haven’t put the best I’ve had on the mat at any point this year until tonight,” Parsley said after the win.
Milford’s group of eight senior wrestlers – Reynolds, Wynes, Creasey, Garcia, Dominyc Hovington, Jace Darling, Michael Edwards and Michael Robertson – will graduate MHS with four dual-meet state championships.
Sports Editor Ben Heck can be reached at email@example.com.