Lake wrestlers starting to pin down wins

LAUREL – Entering this season, Lake Forest wrestling head coach Mike Hansen had no doubt his squad would have to grab every possible point to garner enough wins in order to qualify for a third consecutive appearance in the Division II State Dual Meet Championships.

Unlike the previous two seasons when Lake Forest’s roster was loaded with an abundance of experienced grapplers, this season’s lineup has just two seniors and is currently without a competitor at the 106-pound slot.

Lake's wrestling team placed second at the North Dorchester Invitational. (Special to The Journal/

Lake’s wrestling team placed second at the North Dorchester Invitational. (Special to The Journal/LaFayette W. Bell Sr.)

Helping the Spartans gain experience just before an important make or break dual meet part of the schedule was competing in the North Dorchester Invitational.

“Even though it was a lighter tournament that didn’t have some of the bigger Division I Delaware schools competing, it was a tournament where each wrestler was guaranteed five matches,” said Hansen. “So, because we are so young this year, I was able to load up our lineup in order to give our guys plenty of match experience.

“We finished second after leading at the break and had a couple of first, second and third place finishers, which gave us confidence heading back into our dual meets.”

If the first two dual meets following the North Dorchester Invitational is an indication, the experience gained there is paying positive dividends.

After starting the season with a 1-2 record, the Spartans began the post winter break dual meet portion of the schedule with wins over Henlopen South foes Laurel and Indian River.

In addition to the wins, Lake Forest proved it would wrestle hard right to the end by coming from behind in both victories.

During the meet against Laurel, the Spartans trailed 20-10 after six matches before pulling in front for the first time in match eight.

Even though Lake Forest never trailed again it wasn’t able to put the meet in the win column until the next to last match.

“It was pretty special for our guys to pull together and win this meet,” said Hansen. “Laurel is coming on strong and we were kind of beat up a little with a couple of our starters out of the lineup.

Senior Tony Williams pins Laurel’s Michael Handy in the 220-pound match to give Lake an insurmountable 40-29 lead with one match remaining. (Special to The Journal/Bill Mitchell)

Senior Tony Williams pins Laurel’s Michael Handy in the 220-pound match to give Lake an insurmountable 40-29 lead with one match remaining. (Special to The Journal/Bill Mitchell)

“However, we were able to shuffle around our lineup enough to come away with the win. What was very important was to see our guys rally for the win and I’m very proud of the way they hung in there throughout the meet.”

Until a 106-pound wrestler is found, Lake Forest starts each dual meet trailing by six points.

“Right off the bat, we are giving away points,” said Hansen. “Unless we can find a kid at 106 our wrestlers know we are going to have to come from behind in every match.”

Even though the Spartans are putting their youngest lineup on the mat in several years, it’s the two seniors that have been able to pull out the last match wins over both the Bulldogs and Indians.

Actually, in the 46-29 win over Laurel and the 40-36 victory at Indian River, seniors Trevon Hardeman (195 pound) and Tony Williams (220) and junior Jordan Springer (heavyweight) each recorded pins for the come from behind victories.

“Trevon and Tony are both multi-sport athletes and they do well in each,” said Hansen. “In fact, Trevon is also on the swim team, which is also a winter sport so he does miss some practices.

“On the other hand, Tony, after wrestling as a freshman, didn’t compete during his sophomore and junior years.

“Tony, however, started to get interested in wrestling over the summer and now, from day one of the season, he has been there and working hard. I have to say the wrestler I see now compared to what he was as a freshman is like a night and day difference.”

While the Spartans are basically a young team, they are not looking to this season to rebuild.

“I tell our guys all the time that we are not using this season to make a difference next year,” Hansen said. “What I tell them is that we are going to do it [qualify for the state dual meet tournament] this year.

“I feel we are on the right track and if we can find a 106-pounder and do all the little things right, I know we have a shot.”

If Lake Forest is going to qualify for the dual meet tournament, it will be earned.

“We have the toughest Division II schools in the state on our schedule,” said Hansen. “Except for Sanford, we will wrestle all the schools that were in the state tournament last year.

“In addition to those Division II schools, we also have some of the better Division I schools on our schedule. So, by no means are we going to back into the state tournament.”

Included on the upcoming schedule for Lake Forest are important Southern Division meets against rival Milford (away Jan. 27) and Delmar (home Feb. 5) as well as meets against Division I foes Dover (home Jeb. 3) and a regular season ending matchup against Sussex Tech (away Feb. 6).

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