It’s time for David to take a shot at Goliath. Even if David is the best wrestling squad in the region.
Skowhegan leads the pack of area wrestling teams today vying for a state championship in Classes A, B and C.
With the exception of one team, there is no school in the state on a better roll than the Indians. Skowhegan won the Kennebec Valley Athletic Conference championship two weeks ago, then followed that performance up by capturing its second consecutive Eastern Class A title.
“They’re ready to go,” Skowhegan co-coach Tenney Noyes said. “They’re doing good. They’re focused and they’re ready to go for it.”
The Indians will try to take down a long-standing trend in Maine high school wrestling. An Eastern A team has not won a state championship since 1989, when Oxford Hills took home the title, a span of 24 years.
But Skowhegan co-coach Tenney Noyes said the Indians aren’t focusing on the team title. Instead, each wrestler’s focus will be on winning their first match, getting to the podium to medal in each individual weight class.
“Team-wise, we’re not even worried about that, not even considering that,” Noyes said. “For now, we tell them to focus on themselves, worry about that first match. Worry about themselves, get on the podium, do that for themselves. The team score will come along with that. Their goal is to be an individual state champion. Everything that happens after that, great.”
Three Western A teams stand between the Indians and a title: Marshwood, Massabesic and Noble. The trio of schools have owned the state title every year since 1998. Of those 15 years, Noble has won 11 titles, with Marshwood and Massabesic each winning states twice.
Marshwood is the current king of the mountain in the state. The Hawks are the two-time defending champs, and will have home-turf advantage, as the Class A meet will be at Noble High School in North Berwick, mere miles from Marshwood’s territory of South Berwick and Eliot.
Massabesic will also be in the hunt. The Mustangs have been runners up for the Class A title the past two years.
Like any wrestling tournament, Saturday will be an all-day event. But Noyes said the eight-wrestler brackets help the timing of the event. Skowhegan took part in the Noble Invitational at the beginning of the season, with bigger brackets and longer pace.
“(At the Noble tournament) there’s a 32-person bracket,” Noyes said. “You’re looking at four times the size of what we’ll see on Saturday. Obviously the competition is higher, but in terms of wrestling in a tournament — we’ve done six of these this year — just like this. They know the routine. They prepare themselves differently. They have a pretty good handle on what to do.”
The Indians are led by 106-pounder Cody Craig and 145-pounder Kaleb Brown. A freshman, Craig has been unbeaten all season and captured both KVAC and Eastern A titles. Brown has also captured KVAC and Eastern A titles and was named the KVAC Class A wrestler of the year.
Tyler Craig (120 pounds), Luke Bolster (126 pounds), Julian Sirois (132 pounds), Logan Stevens (160 pounds) and Mikal Federici (182 pounds) each won their weight classes at the regional meet.
It’s an exceptional feat by a 15-wrestler roster, with half the roster experiencing their first year of high school wrestling.
“We had a lot of young wrestlers that stepped up to the plate and did a great job,” Noyes said. “They understand what it takes (to win), and they’ve put the work in.”
Cony, having almost as successful a season as Skowhegan, has a chance for a top-5 finish. The Rams had three wrestlers win titles at regionals (Zeko Caudill at 138 pounds, Nic Benner at 220 pounds and Elias Younes at 285 pounds). Four Cony wrestlers had second-place finishes (Josh Gilbert at 113 pounds, Chris Paradis at 160 pounds, Griffin Richards at 170 pounds and Jake Fraser at 195 pounds). The Rams finished second at regionals with 144 points.
Nokomis and Mt. Blue have individual contenders heading into states. The Warriors’ Christopher Wilson won the 195-pound title at regionals, while Rusty Wilson (182 pounds) and Hunter Glidden (285 pounds) each had second-place finishes. The Cougars are led by JT Williams, who placed second last week at 220 pounds.
While it’s unlikely Winslow, Gardiner, Maine Central Institute, Erskine Academy, Mt. View, or Oak Hill are likely to overcome Mountain Valley or Camden Hills for the team titles, each team has one or more contenders for individual championships.
MCI had a successful run last weekend at the Eastern B regional. Dylan Dahlberg, the favorite at states at 126 pounds, beat Robert Banner of Ellsworth for the regional title. The Huskies also had two third-place finishers in Trevor Kitchin (152 pounds) and Briar Bussell (285 pounds).
Erskine also had a successful run in the Western B regional. Zach Isbell won the 160-pound title, while Cameron Grass (106 pounds) and Tyler Azevedo (170 pounds) each placed second.
Gardiner and Winslow boast two of the area’s best wrestlers. The Tigers have Peter Del Gallo, a state and New England champion last year who has won the KVAC and regional titles this year at 113 pounds. Gardiner also has Andrew Doody-Veilleux, who finished second last week at 195 pounds and Jake Truman, who finished third at 182 pounds.
The Black Raiders have the best heavyweight wrestler in the state in Aaron Lint. The senior is a two-time state champion at 285 pounds, and is well on his way to his third. The 5-foot-7 Lint has surprising quickness and uses his size and power to his advantage.
“He’s just a big, strong kid,” Winslow coach Terry Devereaux said earlier in the season. “He’s only 5-7, but he’s a full 285 (pounds). I haven’t seen anybody yet who gets near his strength level. But he’s also pretty quick. He works pretty well on his speed. He’s very compact and almost impossible to take down.”
Dillon Pelletier, who finished second at regionals at 126 pounds, is another contender.
Oak Hill boasts two lightweight contenders in Danny Buteau (1st at Western B regional at 106 pounds) and Zac Cloutier (second at regionals at 113 pounds). Mt. View had a second place finisher at the Western B regional (Job Mesaric at 220 pounds) and have a contender at 285 pounds in Chris Cole. The Mustangs also have James Blanchette, a third place finisher last week at 126 pounds, and Jaryd Fonger, who finished third at 132 pounds.
Foxcroft Academy, the defending Class C champion, has moved on to Class B. Dirigo and Ellsworth have made strong runs for the title. But Monmouth has a chance to make some noise at Mountain Valley High School in Bath.
The Mustangs enter today with a defending state champion in 145-pounder Stewart Buzzell, who was also named the tournament’s most outstanding wrestler last year. A senior, Buzzell has continued to wrestle well this season. He defeated Skowhegan’s Kameron Doucette, a contender in the weight class in Class A, by a 3-2 overtime decision in January at the Nokomis Warrior Clash.
“Every year, he just keeps getting better and better,” Monmouth coach Shawn Schultz said earlier this season. “He keeps improving. He watches his matches (on film) and sees what he needs to improve on, what to fix. He takes criticisms to heart and he listens and fixes the problems.”
Calvin Thompson, a 106-pounder, also impressed at the Warrior Clash, finishing second to Cody Craig of Skowhegan. The Mustangs also have James Gambino, a 138-pounder who qualified last year at 145 pounds.
Dave Dyer — 621-5639