Smyrna wrestlers earned a hard-fought come-from-behind victory over Caesar Rodney Friday night.
It was a classic battle of two archrival teams squaring off in a wrestling match Friday night that meant as much to the coaches as it did to the athletes.
The top-ranked Smyrna Eagles narrowly edged third-ranked Caesar Rodney 32-22 in an exhilarating, come-from behind victory before a packed-house at the Smyrna Coliseum. The defending state champion Eagles are coached by Kurt Howell, a former high school all-state wrestler at Newark High School, while the Riders are coached by Kurt's older brother, Dickie Howell. The two programs are considered to be two of the best in the state of Delaware. The winner of the current showdown typically gets the family bragging rights, that is, until the next matchup, or the state tournament.
From the outset, it appeared the Riders would run away with the match. Caesar Rodney's two big men, Troy McNally at 220 and Zach Parker at 285, won the first two matches with pins against Jerren Carter and Terren Carter for a fast 12-0 lead.
But the exciting match would turn around quickly, as freshman Chase Archangleo won his 106-pound match,3-0 over Nick Klink, and Nate Bryant earned a major decision over John Devary 14-6 at 113 pounds.
Smyrna's three-time all-state wrestler Brent Fleetwood then faced Micah Hight, also a three-time champ, at 120 pounds. Fleetwood won a superb match by the narrow margin of 1-0 on an escape point conceded by Hight in the second period.
Smyrna coach Kurt Howell said he wasn't surprised by the move, "Micah is really good on his feet, and I thought they would try to make it happen on his feet, but it didn't go their way."
During the third round, Hight turned his ankle, but after a brief time-out was able to complete the match.
"I just took a knee and tried to stay focused in case he did keep on wrestling," said Fleetwood.
It was Smyrna's third victory in a row, and seemed to change the momentum toward the home team.
Rider coach Dickie Howell said it was his decision to have the two champions face each other instead of having Hight move to another weight class. "My choice was to go for two wins instead of moving Micah up. It didn't work for us. It was tow really good matches, but we just didn't get it done tonight," he said.
The Eagles' Othniel Edmond continued the winning streak by topping Brandon Scott, 6-3, at 126-pounds. Then veterans Tyler Carney and Kalen Wilson won the next two matches to extend the Smyrna lead to 23-12.
Caesar Rodney's Tony Scarfo broke the Eagles streak by earning a major decision over Justin Jones by a count of 10-0. Eli Hutchinson prevailed at 152 pound for Smyrna, but CR's Seth Brosius edged Josh Hutchinson 6-5 at 160, then Mike Clavier beat Ronnie Wuest at 170 pounds, in overtime, pulling the Riders within four points at 26-22.
Smyrna was able to clinch the victory on the strength of Michael Rocco's tough 4-2 win over Connor Castellon at 182 pounds and Marquelle Bennett's 7-2 decision over Craig Logan at 195 pounds.
"No amount of coaching moves can make up for good wrestling, "said Kurt Howell, "Our kids, especially Brent and Othniel, came to battle today."