Bucs complete Div. II five-peat with 38-29 championship win over Laurel

SMYRNA – Trailing by just a point heading into the final two matches of the Division II Dual-Meet State Championships Saturday night, Milford head coach Don Parsley turned to a pair of Buccaneer seniors to bring home the championship.

Oscar Rosario recorded a pin of Laurel’s Chase Phippin in 59 seconds and Khiry Hovington sealed the deal with a 14-0 major decision to hand the No. 3-seeded Bucs the 38-29 championship victory over No. 1 Laurel.

The championship triumph marked Milford’s fifth consecutive Div. II dual-meet title.

“I’m just glad to be a part of this team. We had some ups and downs during the season, but we grew closer as a family and I treat every single one of those people on my team as my brothers and sisters,” Hovington said following his fourth dual-meet state title in four years. “The whole wrestling community is so kind to us, and we made history today.”

Milford puts up the “five” while showing off the DIAA hardware following Saturday night’s 38-29 championship performance (The Chronicle/Ben Heck).

For the last four years, Milford had won the Henlopen South to earn the No. 1 seed and a first-round bye in the six-team state tournament.

But, this year, the Bucs had a slightly more difficult road to the title.

With regular season losses to Laurel and Indian River, Milford came up short in the Henlopen South and settled for the No. 3 seed in the dual-meet championships.

“Both Laurel and Indian River beat us in the regular season in hotly-contested matches,” Parsley said. “We did change a few things in the practice room, certainly our mentality, and it showed.”

A 51-23 quarterfinal win over No. 6 Woodbridge and a 40-29 semifinal victory over No. 2 Indian River set the Bucs up with the championship showdown against coach Jesse Glanden’s Laurel Bulldogs.

“We worked real hard to get here, we put ourselves in position to win it,” Parsley said. “To say we were destined to win, I don’t really know that that’s the truth, Indian River and Laurel are certainly great teams and they did a great job this year and we were fortunate enough to get the rematch and redeem ourselves.”

The Bulldogs took control early on in the championship showdown, earning a Rae’Mier Deshields (182) pin and a Rae’Sheed Deshields (195) 12-9 decision to take the 9-5 lead through three matches.

For the Bucs, Eric Bennett (220), Anthony Diaz (285) and Corey Messick (106) would go on to string together consecutive wins by 15-5 major decision, 5-3 decision and 17-1 technical fall to build a 17-9 Milford lead.

Senior Robbie Rosser (120) earned his third pin of the night in 1:55 over Laurel’s Ti’Yon Dorman before Laurel slowly started to mount a comeback.

Khiry Hovington celebrates following his 14-0 major decision victory in the night’s final Div. II match (The Chronicle/Ben Heck).

“I knew I was going to have to come out here and be big for the team, and all of the matches came down to bonus points,” Rosser said. “Everyone did a good job getting bonus, everyone was fighting to get a pin or fighting to not get pinned. That’s what it comes down to in state duals.”

Isaiah Jenkins (126) won by pin for Laurel to pull to within five points, but a crucial second period pin for Milford sophomore Dominic Feightner in the 132-pound match put the Bucs back ahead by 11.

“I knew it was big and that we were going to have to come up with some big points,” Feightner said of his approach heading into his match-up with Laurel’s Anthony Morris. “So I knew I had to go out there and just wrestle hard. I had never wrestled the kid before, so I had to be a little bit cautious at first.”

Laurel wasn’t ready to give in, as Woo Fosque (138) collected the Bulldogs’ third pin of the match to pull back to within 28-23.

In the 145-pound match, Parsley made the decision to forfeit the match and hand Laurel the 29-28 lead.

After being pinned by Laurel’s Gabriel Degraffinreed in the regular season match-up, Parsley had enough confidence in his final two wrestlers to give Degraffinreed the six-point forfeit and allow Rosario and Hovington to finish it off in 152 and 160.

“We were going to play our cards and play the percentages,” Parsley said. “By giving Degraffinreed the forfeit, that was out of respect and then it certainly put our team in the best position to get the job done. We were able to do that tonight.”

“These were the results we kind of knew we’d get during the season, they just didn’t go our way,” Hovington said. “Tonight was definitely a once in a lifetime opportunity. That forfeit at 145 put us in a bad spot because of the loss at 138, but we knew that our last two guys could seal the deal so we didn’t really have much to worry about there.”

Hovington wanted the pin to seal the championship, but he didn’t mind settling for the 14-0 major decision.

“I was very excited,” Hovington said. “I wish I could have gotten the pin, but coach didn’t want me to. He said to be patient. As soon as I knew I was up 14, I was trying to look for the last two but at that point with about a minute left in the match I just had to stay in good position and leave it all up to time to get the win.”

“It feels amazing just knowing I could help my team out to win another state title,” Feightner said.

“When we lost to IR, and then we lost to Laurel, that was a big switch,” Rosser said. “Honestly, that was the best thing to happen to us as a team this year. Champions are defined by the adversity they overcome, that’s what we always say. We knew we were going to come in as the three seed and it was no big deal to us, all the guys did a really nice job of stepping up.”

Sports Editor Ben Heck can be reached at bheck@newszap.com.

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