Milford wrestlers pin down college choices

MILFORD – Milford’s wrestling program is back to being one of the state’s best.

And like any successful program, the Buccaneers are sending grapplers to the next level of competition.

Last month a pair of graduated Milford senior wrestlers announced their respective plans for wrestling in the collegiate ranks. Buccaneers 152-pounder Chase Taylor has picked Wilkes University in Pennsylvania as the place he will next take the mat, and 195-pounder Kenny VanVorst is headed to North Carolina’s Gardner-Webb.

For Taylor, who will study to become a special education teacher, choosing Wilkes came from more reasons than just the sport.

Graduated Milford High senior Kenny VanVorst will wrestle at Gardner-Webb next season. (The Chronicle/Jeff Mitchell)

Graduated Milford High senior Kenny VanVorst will wrestle at Gardner-Webb next season. (The Chronicle/Jeff Mitchell)

“It’s not necessarily just the wrestling,” he said. “It’s the education. When I went up there, I liked the way they talked about how much interaction we have with the teachers.”

VanVorst too made his choice based on the education he will receive while he majors in marketing. But for him, another main factor in the decision came from a visit he made to the Garner-Webb campus that included discussions with his soon-to-be new teammates.

“When I visited the campus I met the coach (Daniel Elliott), and he’s a really nice guy,” VanVorst said. “Hanging out with the wrestlers, it felt like hanging out with the wrestlers here.”

Both wrestlers played large roles in Milford’s run of three straight Division II dual-meet state championships. But each also experienced some personal disappointment in the individual tourneys, with Taylor getting upset in the Henlopen Conference championships and VanVorst losing in the state tournament final. Taylor, in fact, was thinking about giving up the sport after the conference tournament.

Both, however, said they have grown from their respective experiences.

“Just getting away for a while,” Taylor said of what changed his mind about wrestling. “I talked to coach (Don) Parsley, and he asked ‘Do you not ever want to wrestle again?’ I thought about it and I didn’t (want to stop).”

Wilkes University was the choice for Milford grad Chase Taylor. (The Chronicle/Jeff Mitchell)

Wilkes University was the choice for Milford grad Chase Taylor. (The Chronicle/Jeff Mitchell)

“It definitely motivated me, because it was a pretty sucky moment,” VanVorst said of his runner-up finish at states.

Memories of team championships, tournament wins and many other success stories while wrestling at Milford are some the grapplers will take with them to the next level. Still, both said their brightest memories formed at the high school came off the mat. And recently.

“I think my best memory is going to be the senior prank this year,” Taylor said. “We took about 300 desks out of the school, put them in the parking lot (and) barricaded the teachers’ parking lot. We had a water balloon fight the next day.”

“Mine would probably be the water balloon fight,” VanVorst added.

On the mat, both colleges are getting wrestlers that are ready to make the leap, Milford assistant coach Luke Pierson said.

“I think they’re getting kids that are already prepared for being college athletes,” he said. “These kids wrestle 30, 40, 50 matches in the summer alone. They both put in time in the weight room. They kind of understand that when they go to college it’s a year-round sport, and they’ve been preparing for that anyway. They embrace that. They work hard and go about it without complaining.”

And while coach Parsley knows VanVorst and Taylor will each leave big spots to fill on next year’s roster, he is happy they plan to continue wrestling in college.

“Certainly when you lose those guys it’s tough, because how do you replace them?,” he said. “But it’s really exciting to see them move to the next level. In all the years that I’ve coached, my greatest desires are trying in the moment to be the best we can be, and to spur guys on so that they can continue to be part of the wrestling community, whether that’s moving onto the next level and competing, jumping into the coaching ranks or being an official. If I can get them to love the sport so much they want to be a part of it a long time, then I am winning.”

From the Milford Chronicle Sports Desk

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