The Smyrna Eagles reclaimed the DIAA Division I Dual Team Wrestling state championship Saturday, winning a thriller over defending champion Caesar Rodney, 35-33, in the finals at Smyrna High.
Saturday’s championship bout rode the seesaw early on as the Eagles and Riders exchanged points. Down the stretch, the Eagles held off CR to win the title after two years of losses in the finals by a point each time.
Trailing by a point with four bouts remaining, Joey Natarcola earned a pin-fall win over Colton Bowie to give the Eagles the lead. Then, Jaxson Al-Chokhachy fought off Michael Primo at 126, earning a 3-2 decision to all but seal it for Smyrna.
“I had to stay focused and realize what I needed to do for the team,” Al-Chokhachy said. “I knew I could beat [Primo], I’ve wrestled him a billion times. I had to go out and stay focused, not give up anything stupid.”
Heading into the final bout of the night, Smyrna’s Nick Natarcola fell to CR’s Jackson Dean by a 5-1 decision, but it wasn’t enough to put the Riders on top.
The finals were tight from the start as Smyrna and CR traded victories through the first 10 bouts and set the stage for some nailbiting matchups down the stretch.
The Eagles and Riders are no strangers and the two met in regular season action in late January. Like Saturday’s matchup, their contest a few weeks back was also a close one, a 33-30 Smyrna victory.
“Both of them were close, it was a lot different this time,” said Smyrna head coach Aaron Harris. “Both were tight matches and you have two good coaches coaching against each other, you play chess and you make your moves and we came out on top this time.”
In a back and forth contest between arguably the two best teams in the entire state, Harris gave credit to both squads for battling it out.
“A couple of things could have went the opposite way and you could be talking to Dan Rigby right now,” Harris said. “So, congratulations to CR, my boys dug deep and pulled it out.”
Smyrna began their championship journey in the opening round, downing Delcastle 52-20 Friday night. On Saturday afternoon, the Eagles took on Sussex Central in the semifinals, defeating the Golden Knights easily, 60-12, to set up the championship final.
The Eagles now turn their attention to the Henlopen Conference championships Friday at Sussex Central at 5 p.m.