Grapplers dig in to pull out win

The Indian River wrestling team made school history Feb. 9, defeating Southern Conference rival Seaford in a heart stopping 36-35 come-from-behind victory to gain admission for their first post-season dual-meet tournament.

Down 27-6 halfway through the match, the Indians went on a tear, winning five of their last six matches — four of six by pin — for the victory.

“Coach (Jeff) Windish pulled us together and told us that if we could win from here on out we could win,” said Mark Giblin.

Senior captain D.J. Singleterry (215) and Mario Robles (HW) pinned their opponents in their usual fashion, with a little over a minute elapsed in each match, to get the ball rolling for the Indians.

“It really came down to the last four matches (112-130), and P.J. Barch got it started for us with a 12-9 come-from-behind decision,” said Windish. “It went right for us at exactly the right time.”

Barch was down a couple points with only a few seconds remaining, but a swift escape, followed by an immediate takedown, was enough for the win.

“I was really nervous but I channeled my energy to get the win,” said Barch.

Freshman Luke Saylor followed suit, winning his match in a clutch 9-5 decision. “I was really impressed the way Luke stepped in there to get the big win for us,” said Windish.

As the match stood on an edge of a knife, Mike Willis (125) went down 9-0 early in his match, but persevered to pin his opponent at the beginning of the second period. Willis’ scrappy victory narrowed the margin to 35-30 in Seaford’s favor with one match remaining — one last chance for a crack at the division II championship.

Mark Giblin (130) moved up a weight class for the final match and seemingly had the additional load on his shoulders.

“It’s a weird feeling knowing that the match was going to come down to me, but if we were going to win I had to get the pin,” said Giblin.

The Indians will meet stern resistance in their first dual-meet tournament as they face a tough (11-3) 5th-ranked Hodgson squad. Hodgson went 1-3 versus the top tier Division I wrestling programs this year, beating (10-3) St. Marks 34-19 earlier this season. Hodgson lost close matches to William Penn and Salesianum (ranked 2nd and 3rd respectively) this past month, but that doesn’t concern coach Windish.

“My kid’s are really excited at the opportunity to wrestle in the post season, and I believe that if we can be competitive we’ll have a good shot to win,” said Windish.

Once past Hodgson, Indian River would either face 5-6 Caravel or 6th-ranked, 13-3 Smyrna for the Division II championship. Smyrna is the favorite going into the contest as they post six ranked wrestlers to Caravel’s two.

If and when Indian River beats Hodgson, the Indians competitiveness and their own ranked wrestlers Andy Bokinsky (160) and Singleterry (215) would match up well with Smyrna. Indian River is 4-1 versus southern Henlopen conference teams, and posted a 6-2 record against small schools this season.

The dual-meet tournament will take place at Delaware State University, Feb. 9 at 5 p.m. The Indians keep it moving as they participate in the Henlopen Conference wrestling tournament Feb. 18-19 at Sussex Central High School. The tournament will start at 3:30 p.m. Friday, and 11 a.m. Saturday.

Single-session tickets for Friday or Saturday matches will cost $5, and an all-day Saturday pass, which includes the championship session, will cost $10. Spectators will have to pay an additional $6 for the championship session if a single-session ticket was purchased. Passes for the entire tournament will cost $14.

The state tournament will be held at a site yet-to-be-determined Feb 25-26.