The hard road home in a bracket of 16 wrestlers is dropping into the consolation round and fighting your way to a third-place finish. Holt Baker, the sixth seed, beat Qwantez Watkins of Smyrna in the quarterfinals, then lost a semifinal bout to Trevor Copes of Caesar Rodney. Holt went to the consolation side of the bracket and beat Evan Cordrey of Sussex Central 6-1, then dominated Drew Pratt of Tower Hill to claim third place. That made Baker 4-1 for the tournament. “Both Watkins and Cordrey beat me in the regular season, and Pratt was the top seed to start the tournament,” Baker said. “I am happy with how strongly I wrestled to end my career.”
Senior Luke Bender was sidelined for his junior season following elbow surgery and lost part of his senior season with another injury. Luke, who won the state title at 145 pounds as a sophomore, was generally considered the best at 157 pounds despite being seeded third at the individual state tournament. Luke battled Red Lion strong man Jacob Ebaugh (44-6) before pinning the second-seeded wrestler in the semifinals 3:16 into their bout. Bender went on to defeat Cameron Cataldi 14-4 in the finals for his second state championship. Cataldi reached the finals by beating top-seeded Michael Lane of William Penn 9-3 in the semifinals. Bender is looking at Franklin & Marshall as a possible destination to continue his wrestling career.
The Cape gym rocked a chant “C.J. Fritchman, C.J. Fritchman!” as C.J. stepped into the circle to battle formidable foe Matthew Duarte of Caravel in the 175-pound state championship bout. The match was tied 2-2 at the start of the third quarter. C.J. was on the bottom, but Duarte let him up. The score was 3-2 in favor of C.J. The crowd chanted “Sussex County! Sussex County!” C.J. was rehabbing a problematic right shoulder. “No double-leg takedowns,” he smiled. C.J. took a risky shot and got the takedown for a 5-2 lead as the clock wound down to zero, closing his career with a state championship. “Luke and I haven been battling each other and injuries since middle school,” Fritchman said. C.J. plans to play lacrosse at Salisbury University.
Hayden had 17 rebounds and five blocks in Cape’s DIAA quarterfinal loss to Woodbridge. In three postseason games, she garnered 35 rebounds and nine blocks. Hayden led the team with 205 rebounds this season, a new program record. She also blocked 67 shots, collected 46 steals, dished off 45 assists and scored 84 points. "On the court, Hayden is quiet except for when she is celebrating her teammates," said Cape coach Pat Woods. "What she does often goes overlooked by everyone but us. She is always in the right place." Hayden is in the National Honor Society, Leo Club and Henlopen Leaders Club. The AP and honors student was awarded 2023 Academic All Henlopen Conference honors in basketball, and the same in softball in 2022.