Khalil Newbill doesn’t get nervous before a wrestling match anymore. In high school, Newbill would get stomach knots before every match. Even at the beginning of this season, Newbill’s first at the University of Southern Maine, he’d get butterflies.

Now, before he takes the mat, Newbill is calm. Every match is a chance to improve.

“There’s no pressure. I’m a freshman. I can go out and wrestle and learn. I can make mistakes,” Newbill said.

A four-time regional champion while wrestling at Mt. Blue High School, Newbill is enjoying a strong debut season with the Huskies. Wrestling at 125 pounds, Newbill is 19-4, and will compete with USM at Bridgewater State in Massachusetts on Sunday.

USM wrestling coach Joe Pistone met Newbill when the wrestler was in eighth grade, and has worked with him at summer camps and clinics since.

“(Newbill) has an outstanding collegiate style,” Pistone said. “He had a demanding and dominant high school style. We knew we could teach him the game of college wrestling.”

Many talented high school wrestlers can win by simply overpowering their opponents. This season, Newbill is learning technique is just as important as strength.

“A lot of it was just being in better position, being able to wrestle in any position, and being receptive to coaching,” Pistone said.

Newbill won his first collegiate match with a pin of West Virginia Tech’s Devon Steele at 1:47. It was earlier this month, at the Williams College Invitational, where he placed third against strong competition, when Newbill felt like he was getting the hang of college wrestling.

“I was really nervous at first. I didn’t know how competing in Maine would be versus the rest of the country,” Newbill said. “It takes a lot of dedication, that’s for sure.”

Pistone sees Newbill’s strong start as a sign of good things to come.

“We see him in his career becoming an All-American and possible a national champion, and I don’t say that lightly,” Pistone said.

Newbill is just as focused on his academics, and was disappointed to just miss all-academic status last semester. An athlete needs a 3.2 grade point average to qualify. Newbill earned a 3.197.

“I’m here for academics,” Newbill said. “Wrestling is nice, but it’s academics first.”

The Huskies have five regular season meets left. The North Atlantic wrestling championships will be at the University of New Hampshire on Feb. 15, with the NCAA regional championships set for March 1-2.

“I want to do as good as I can, go to regionals, and hopefully there I can place in the top five,” Newbill said.

Travis Lazarczyk — 861-9242tlazarczyk@centralmaine.comTwitter: @TLazarczykMTM