Wrestling fans cheer for underdogs and upsets

Sallies and Raiders win State Swim Titles
February 27, 2024

Upset specials - The Henlopen Conference wrestling finals Feb. 24 at Sussex Central’s Castle were electric, which is why the house lights were turned down; it helps focus energy on the athletes. Favorite son Malachi Stratton, 120 pounds, was taken to overtime by Anthony Andrews of Sussex Tech. The large crowd not from the 856 got behind Andrews, not because they don’t like Stratton, but because it’s an underdog thing. All champions know they are a loss away from a celebration at their expense. Stratton did not blink. He took the first shot in sudden-victory overtime and got the takedown for a 12-10 win. Stratton embraced Andrews in a show of sportsmanship. The next Gnarls Barkley crazy match came at 133, where Talan Savage of Sussex Central was in control of Jerusalem Howard of Lake Forest when suddenly at 5:25 into the six-minute match, Savage got caught and was stuck. The crowd went to Bonkersville as Happy Harrington and Freaky Felton people raised their arms in celebration.The third match that caught the energy of the entire crowd was at 190, where sophomore Teagan Gratkowski of Smyrna was leading top-seeded Jordan Curry of Milford with under 30 seconds left. But Gratkowski looked hurt and exhausted, and Curry pursued, getting the takedown in the final seconds. Sports fans love underdog stories. It's why you don’t stand close to the train tracks; you may get pulled under as an underdog.

Sports cliches - It’s hard to beat a team three times in the same season, but it’s easier if you win the first two. Cape plays at Sussex Central Tuesday, Feb. 27,  in the opening round of the boys’ basketball tournament. The Vikings won at Central 48-47 Dec. 14, then won at Cape 56-43 Feb. 8. Cape is 5-1 over its last six games. Central is 4-4 over its last eight games, but 13-7 overall compared to Cape’s 10-10 record. This game is a toss-up; it all depends on who shows up. The Cape girls will play at Saint Mark’s Wednesday, Feb. 28. Cape is 14-6, while the Spartans are 12-8. The Cape girls beat Saint Mark’s 43-41 at the Bob Carpenter Center in the quarterfinals of the state tournament March 6, 2010. The Spartans were 19-0. Before the game, Teresa Allen, mom of point guard Johnesha Warren, asked me, “Tell me the truth, Fredman. What chance do we have in this game?” I assessed the Spartans' record and eyeballed them in warmups and answered, “None! Cape has no chance!” Johnesha Warren went out and lit up the scoreboard for 24 points, while Capri “Three Ball” Murray had 11, including three from downtown Rehoboth. The moral of the story is never gamble on sports; you will lose both your shirts, home and away.

Holy water - “Bless me, Father, for I have sinned. I stole a banana and ate the skin.” The Catholics have captured the Delaware state championship swim meet again. Salesianum won its eighth straight state title, while Ursuline Academy won its second in a row. Swimming is a data-driven sport – it is its own culture. Swimmers train insanely hard if they want to place in the top eight at the state level. I think the Cape Gazette should have a swimming and surfing columnist. Reminds me of what I heard back in 1975 when Cape first proposed the building of a swimming pool: “With all this water around here, we don’t need no damn swimming pool.” Anyone remember swim lessons at Lewes Beach? Fear of the water coupled with crabs biting your toes, and sometimes jellyfish. 

Relaxing weekend - So many local athletes are playing lacrosse in college. Let's take a look at last weekend's games. Army, ranked No. 5 in the country, beat Mercer 15-7. Mikey Frederick (Cape) had four goals for the Mercer Bears. Penn beat Delaware 11-10. Hank D’Ambrogi (Cape) had a goal for the Blue Hens. Air Force beat Stony Brook 12-11. Caelan Driggs (Salesianum) had two goals and an assist for Air Force. Florida Southern beat Flagler 14-13. Luke Burton (Cape) had two goals for Flagler. Tampa beat Florida Tech 13-8. Joe Coveleski (Cape) had a goal for Florida Tech. The Rollins College women’s lacrosse team remained undefeated at 6-0, beating the Palm Beach Atlantic Sailfish 22-18. Molly Mendes (Cape) had a goal for Rollins. Former Cape players Finn Forcucci and Brexton Carter both started for McDaniel College in a 14-7 win over Goucher.  Sawyer Walker (Cape) scored two goals as Xavier beat Presbyterian 15-11. 

Snippets - Connor Kugelmann had a heroic Henlopen Conference wrestling tournament last weekend. He stepped up at 175 pounds, substituting for Jeffrey Rainier, who rolled his ankle playing basketball. Connor weighs under 165 pounds, but he is athletic and was up for the challenge. Connor exceeded all expectations, placed fifth in his weight class and qualified for the state tournament. His dad Brian was there for every match, and so was I. It was awesome. I was proud of the son and the father. Go on now, git! 


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