Caesar Rodney’s Mikel Abdullah just had to avoid giving up bonus points in the last match, and he did just that to give the Riders a 30-29 win over Smyrna to claim the 2018 DIAA Division I Wrestling Championship.
The Riders knew they needed some results to swing their way to defeat Smyrna, who had won four of the past five state championships.
Samuel Ervin created the first swing in the opening match at 170, when he scored a take-down of Dakota Kerr with :02 left to set the No. 3 seed off to a 3-0 lead.
Smyrna came right back with a Josh Dailey win at 182, and then Tony Wuest collected the 101st pin of his career at 195 to put the Eagles ahead 9-3.
Brandon Holder’s third-period take-down helped edge Hunter Moyer 4-1 at 220, and then Kevin Hudson scored a 7-2 decision at 285 as the matches flipped to the lightweights.
Joey Natarcola broke open a tight match with three takedowns in the third period to win for Smyrna at 106, before Jaxson Al-Chokhachy’s 4-3 win at 113 regained a six-point lead for the Eagles.
It only lasted 3:26, as Michael Primo picked up Caesar Rodney’s first pin of the day at 120 to tie the match at 15.
The second pin came just 1:34 later, as Cameron Hayes pinned his opponent’s shoulders to the match, giving CR their biggest lead of the evening.
Nick Natarcola attempted to respond in kind at 132, but Caleb Adamowicz was able to keep his shoulders off the mat, surrendering a tech fall, but not a pin, and the point saved kept the Riders up 21-20.
The match of the night came at 138.
Smyrna’s Ryan Kelley scored an early take-down and near-fall for four points, but CR’s Benedict Anderson responded with three back points in the second period to get back in the bout.
Anderson managed an escape from the bottom in the third period, sending the wrestlers to overtime.
After a scoreless first minute, Anderson pulled off a stunning reversal from the bottom, and when combined with an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty, his 7-4 win put the Riders up 24-20 with three matches to go.
Jackson Dean scored a quick 1:07 pin at 1:07, and the Riders had a 10-point lead, meaning the Eagles would have to not only win, but get bonus points in the last two bouts to have a chance for the title.
Greg Baum was in a 7-7 match at 152 in the third period, when he was finally able to get Riley Tracy on his back, and the pin brought Baum to his knees, and the Eagles to within 30-26.
The math was simple, with the unsportsmanlike conduct penalty, Smyrna was going to need a tech fall, pin, or a conduct violation by the Riders in a major decision to get to the criteria.
Jack Davis took control of the match early for Smyrna, leading 4-1 going into the final period.
He scored a take-down, and nearly had Abdullah on his back twice in the third period in front of an erupting crowd at Smyrna’s gym.
Ultimately, Abdullah found the will to survive, and while he lost his bout 7-2, it was good enough for Caesar Rodney’s first wrestling championship since 2012.
For Smyrna, it’s a second straight loss in the state finals to a team they defeated in the regular season, following their run of four straight titles.