Bucs seniors looking to pin down conference, state titles

MILFORD — The wrestling teams at Sussex Central and Milford high schools aren’t natural rivals.

But the two teams – from schools that are less than 25 miles apart – are part of traditionally strong wrestling programs.

Tuesday night at Smyrna High both schools are scheduled to wrestle in the dual meet state championships – Central in Division I, Milford D-II – and afterward each is expected to have multiple grapplers place at the Henlopen Conference and state individual tournaments.

Senior Bart Dalious looks for a pin in a recent dual meet. (The Chronicle/Jeff Mitchell)

Senior Bart Dalious looks for a pin in a recent dual meet. (The Chronicle/Jeff Mitchell)

It is at the latter two tourneys where conference and state championship hopefuls from each school are expected to meet on the mat, though all four of them were quick to point out that nobody in their respective weight classes can be overlooked.

In the 145-pound weight class, Milford’s Bart Dalious and Central’s Justin Bennett split their two meetings this season, the Buccaneers senior winning the first go-round and the Golden Knight taking the second match. Then at 152, Knights junior Brandon Bautista and Bucs senior Chase Taylor are favorites to reach their finals at both tournaments. Bautista won by decision over Taylor when they wrestled earlier in the season.

“I know I just have to be on my ‘A-game’ the whole time, wrestle my match and while it can go either way, hopefully I come out on top,” Dalious, last year’s Henlopen champ and state runner-up at 138, said about wrestling in the two individual tournaments for the last time.

“Of course a lot of it has to do with training, skills and athletic talent, but a lot of it (winning) is mindset,” Dalious added about why he and Bennett are two of the favorites to win individual championships. “I think me and him both have the same mindset and goals.”

For Bennett, the coming two weeks on the mat will likely be his last in the sport. Constantly battling through injuries, the senior said, is the reason why he will give wrestling up for good after high school.

Still, Bennett added that he will face more stress in the state dual meet championships than in the individual competitions that will be his final events.

“Honestly in tournaments, I relax and just let everything go,” said Bennett, who placed second in both conferences and states last season in the 152-pound weight class. “Basically I go out there and wrestle how I know how to wrestle. I don’t really get too stressed out about it. I’m more-so stressed out in matches (dual meets) because I’m expected to do a certain thing. In tournaments you just win and move on.

“He’s (Dalious) definitely one of the guys I have to look out for, the main competition for me,” Bennett added. “Other than that… I don’t really see too much, but I’m not going to look passed anyone. Anyone can be beat on any given day. I want that state championship bad this year, especially after falling short to Kalen Wilson last year. I’ll definitely do my best to get a state championship this year.”

Senior Chase Taylor and the Bucs will be wrestling for a third straight dual meet state title. (The Chronicle/Jeff Mitchell)

Senior Chase Taylor and the Bucs will be wrestling for a third straight dual meet state title. (The Chronicle/Jeff Mitchell)

Bennett’s teammate, Bautista, who only recently moved to Delaware, is the sole member of the group that figures to have at least one more chance at Henlopen and state glory.

That, however, doesn’t mean the Sussex Central junior is any less hungry for each title.

“I’m looking for the top spot, but I’ve got to work hard, wrestle hard and keep going,” Bautista said. “I’ve been wanting it ever since I found out I was coming here (to Sussex Central).”

Taylor’s wanted championships a long time too. Entering last season virtually unknown, the then junior wrestled his way to a fourth place finish in both the conference and state tournaments. Now in his final appearance, he would like nothing more than to win a pair of gold medals.

“I’ll train the same way, have the same mentality and hope to wrestle the same way as I have this season, maybe step it up even just a little bit,” he said. “I’ve learned a lot since that match (with Bautista at Battle at Beach). It was a tough match, and I’m ready to go into it (again) more conditioned and all-around ready.”

Dover High will host the Henlopen Conference championships this Friday and Saturday and then the state individual tournament will be held at Cape Henlopen High the following weekend.

From the Milford Chronicle Sports Desk

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