Darton’s Davion Caston celebrates after winning his 125-pound match, a key victory to lead the Cavs to the Eastern District II title on Saturday. (David Mann/Darton State College)
ALBANY — Darton State College shocked the NJCAA wrestling world on Saturday, winning the program’s first Eastern District II title.
Head wrestling coach James Hicks capped the day with the Eastern District II Coach of the Year award, the highest honor ever received for a Darton wrestling coach.
The Cavs went into the tournament ranked 30th in the nation and hit the mats against higher-ranked schools from the northeast, where wrestling has historically been stronger than the programs south of the Mason-Dixon line.
Apparently, no one told that to the Cavs.
“I knew that if we wrestled well, we could win it,” Hicks said.
The Cavs’ 197-pounder was injured prior to the tournament, so Darton was unable to compete in that weight class, which meant Darton had to get the win by scoring extra points in the nine other weight divisions by way of pins, tech falls and major decisions.
“When you’re dominating matches, you get bonus points,” Hicks said. “That was the key to us winning with nine guys.”
Darton scored 94.5 team points. Nassau scored 87 to finish second, and Glouchester Community College scored 78.5 to finish third.
Darton’s Davion Caston, Quitni Noel and Zach Wright all finished in first place in the lower weights of 125, 133 and 141, respectively. Their performances paved the way for the middle and upper weights.
“A lot of the upper weights came through this year,” Noel said. “That’s what makes us stronger than we were last season.”
The sophomore added, “And a lot of the schools underestimate us. I went into this with the mindset of this is my last year, you know, I got to win.”
Noel and teammates Caston, Wright, Orlando Nwade, Anthony Smith, Matt Carroll, Anthony Saulle and Jesse Rowland all qualified for nationals, which will be held in Spokane, Wash., beginning March 1.