FRANKLIN TOWNSHIP – In a program steeped in tradition like the Delsea High School wrestling team, there are very few unknowns.
Those new experiences or challenges that do present themselves are not something the Crusaders overly worry about and, in fact, while not outright dismissed, are looked upon as road bumps to be approached as they have approached every other obstacle.
“What I’ve learned over the last three seasons is to do the work and what I need to get better,” junior Justin Dougherty said. “Earlier this year we used momentum a lot in each match. But now, everyone is just going out there trying to do their best. We see that we have it in us.
"You have a job to do one-on-one. That’s all that matters. That’s how we approach every match and every day. You focus on what’s there in front of you.”
On Friday, Delsea (14-10) will travel to Lacey (17-2) for the South Jersey Group 3 Final in a 6 p.m. start. It’s a road less traveled for the Crusaders on several fronts, most importantly they won’t be the favorite. Certainly not against a team that enters with a certain amount of redemption in its mind after a narrow loss to the Crusaders just one year ago when Delsea won it’s 16th South Jersey title.
“We’re not used to being on the road in this match,” said Delsea head coach Greg Sawyer said with a smile having won eight straight South Jersey titles. “But that’s where we are right now.
“We fortunate to have a program that has sustained success. We have kids that when they come in learn from our upperclassmen and then teach it to the wrestlers that come in after them. It’s really the only way to have a program that has the success we’ve had.”
To that end, Dougherty is a perfect example of how Delsea has been able to remain relevant and able to add silverware in its trophy case season after season.
“I think Justin really started to step up last year,” Sawyer said. “That’s when you see the most growth in a wrestler. Late in that sophomore year where they have a good feel of how things should be done and now its working for them. But Justin has been in our lineup since his freshman year and he’s been to Toms River (where the state semifinals and final will be held on Sunday). He has the experience we need and he’s a big part of what we are doing this year.”
Dougherty stepped up on Wednesday with a pin of Seneca’s Andrew Knorr in 49 seconds after Seneca’s Zach Borton earned a pin one weight class earlier at 126 pounds. Dougherty admitted he’s not worried about a match’s momentum and the Crusaders won by 52 points, but the approach will remain the same against Lacey.
“The tradition here is special,” said Dougherty, who has won 4-of-5 bouts heading into Friday night. “We know what needs to be done. It’s about consistency and we have the team to do that with.
“Just don’t stress over the little things. Just keep going. Don’t worry about the losses and keep working to the next match. I’m just trying to wrestle the best I can every night out. I’ve wrestled some really good kids this year and maybe the result isn’t a win, but if you take something out of every match, you’ll be successful. That’s the only way you can improve.”