The wrestling season is as long and grueling a sports season as there is, and it always finishes with the two biggest tournaments of the year. First comes the conference tournament, which crowns individual conference champions in 14 different weight classes, as well as an overall team champion. Cape had a great tournament and finished third in team standings, and Thomas Ott repeated as the 220-pound Henlopen Conference champ.
The Henlopen Conference has many of the top-rated wrestlers in the state, and the tournament is an action-packed two days of wrestling. Cape wrestled well Feb. 15 and advanced seven wrestlers into the Feb. 16 morning semifinals, with Austin Smith at 145, Justin Lopez at 170, and Andre Flowers at 182 joining Ott in the finals Saturday evening in Milford. The finals started at the 182-pound weight class, where Flowers met top-seeded Keith Jones of Sussex Central.
Jones dominated Flowers on his feet and cruised to a 13-6 decision after a series of takedowns. Two matches later, Ott successfully defended his 220-pound conference title by pinning David Hestera of Polytech after 3:10 of wrestling. Ott dominated the weight class and pinned all three opponents he faced. Ott will defend his current 220-pound state title this weekend in his home Cape gym in Lewes.
Lopez also breezed to the finals, and his match with Zach Boyles of Smyrna was hyped as the final of the night, but Boyles controlled Lopez throughout the match and won by an 11-0 major decision. The match that turned out to be one of the most exciting of the tournament was between Cape's Austin Smith and Woodbridge's Willie Davis. Davis entered the tournament as the clear 145-pound favorite, sporting a 40-2 record on the season.
But Smith, who is as tough as they come, came to wrestle. Smith was very aggressive and took Davis down early in the first period and turned him to his back for two near fall points. After a Davis escape, Smith took him down a second time and opened up a 6-1 lead over the No. 1 seed. Davis battled back in the third period and eventually won the match 9-8 by scoring a late takedown.
Even though Cape's top seeds performed well, it was some of their teammates who helped the team amass 173.5, points which was enough for third place in the team standings behind Caesar Rodney's 241 and first-place Smyrna's 298.5 points. Cape senior Sean Sheehan continued to wrestle well and finished third at 138. Nick Carroll lost his first match of the tournament but wrestled all the way back to an incredible third-place finish at 285.
Sophomore J.J. Currie contributed to the team score with an impressive fourth-place finish at 152 while Elliot Young and Aaron Mattioni finished sixth. Emmerson Fajardo wrestled to a seventh-place finish and will serve as an alternate for the states at 106, while Hunter Dailey finished eighth at 195.
The top six wrestlers at each weight class are qualified for the DIAA Individual State Championships Friday and Saturday, Feb. 22 and 23, at Cape Henlopen High School. Cape's nine qualifiers hope to continue their late-season success and will try to eclipse last year's school record of seven state place winners as they battle against the top wrestlers from Delaware's northern conferences.