Mt. Blue senior Drew Blanchet recovered from nearly being pinned in his opening match at the Eastern A regional tournament to win the match and eventually place second in the 138-pound weight class.

The fact that Blanchet was even wrestling in the tournament was even more of an amazing recovery story. Blanchet had lost most of the wrestling season due to surgery to repair damage to his knee suffered during the football season. Blanchet, a standout center on the Mt. Blue state championship football team, had a torn meniscus repaired on Dec. 5. At the same time, a cyst that had formed in the knee was also removed. The surgery left him with 17 staples in his knee and kept him off the mat for six weeks.

“After about six weeks of intense physical therapy and copious amounts of icing my knee, my range of motion was good enough so that I could start conditioning,” said Blanchet. “The week after, I wrestled a home meet with heavy duty wrap around my knee. I could barely walk straight.”

Coach Bob O’Connor kept Blanchet out of the Kennebec Valley Athletic Conference championship tournament to give the knee as much time as possible to rehabilitate.

“I would come home from practice some nights and my knee would be the size of a cantaloupe. But ice and ibuprofen fixes that,” Blanchet said with a laugh.

Blanchet, a three-time state qualifier, entered the regional tournament with just a 6-2 overall record. He was given a No. 6 seed and his path to return to the state meet would be a challenging one.

When he found himself on his back in the first match at the regional tournament against Oxford Hills’ No. 3 seed Kyle Dexter, Blanchet found the strength to fight free and later win the match by pin.

“I was thinking about how much I worked to get back to the point I was at and that if I could fight through everything else, I could fight getting pinned,” Blanchet said.

Blanchet followed up that match with a 4-0 win over second-seeded Scott Kirkpatrick of Westbrook, guaranteeing himself a return trip to the state tournament. Blanchet’s day ended with a silver medal after losing to Skowhegan’s top-seeded Kaleb Brown in the championship final.

Blanchet, who placed at the state championship in both his sophomore and junior years, is taking a pragmatic approach to Saturday’s state tournament.

“Basically I’m just taking the state tournament one match at a time, just like Coach O’Connor wants me to do,” said Blanchet. “It’s my senior year and as much as people have tried convincing me to throw in the towel, ‘you had a good football season’ and all that, I feel like this is something I need to do, especially since it’s Coach’s last year.”

* * *

Madison qualified nine wrestlers to the state championship and finished second as a team at the Western C regional. Ryan Malcolm led the Bulldogs by capturing the 285-pound class title.

“We had a great week of practice,” said coach Scot Padelford. “All the kids knew that they could be a part of Madison history. This was the first team plaque in the 10 year history of the program.”

Malcolm outlasted a familiar foe, Winslow’s Aaron Lint, in his championship finals match by a 3-2 margin. This was their fourth meeting of the year.

“Ryan has won all of them,” said Padelford. “This time the match went into three overtimes before Ryan got a reversal in the closing seconds.”

Josh Shull (106), Cody Soucier (152), Matthew McLaughlin (170) and Derrin Moreshead (182) each placed second. Jen Allen (126) was third while Daniel Moreshead (145), Joseph Foss (160) and Mason Moody (195) all placed fourth.

* * *

Nokomis earned two individual titles as the team finished in third place at the Eastern A regional tournament.

Rusty Wilson (182) and Jacob Nichols (285) each won their weight classes.

Wilson evened his season record at 2-2 against Skowhegan’s Levi Hayden in the championship match. Wilson scored two points in the final seconds to edge Hayden 5-4.

Nichols, just a sophomore, lived up to his top-seed by pinning Windham’s Jake Hodgkins in the championship.

“It’s the first time since I’ve been coaching that Nokomis has put six kids into the state meet,” said coach Scott Preble.

Kolin Fraser (106) advanced from a sixth seed to place second. Teran Booth (113), Jonathan Crocker (132) and John Wilson (170) also will advance to the state championship tournament.

“We’ve had some Eastern Maine champions as well, but not two at the same time,” said Preble. “I’m excited to go to the state meet on Saturday and hopefully they will all perform to their potential there as well.”

* * *

Maine Central Institute’s Dylan Dahlbergh won a wild 19-9 finals match against top-seeded John Underhill of Camden Hills to earn the 120-pound championship in his home gymnasium at the Eastern B regional meet.

“Underhill really dominated their match earlier in the year,” said coach Mike Libby. “When Dahlbergh came out and just attacked him, I knew we had a match on our hands. Other than a late scare, Dylan dominated this one. I love a kid that I know will give me everything he has every time he toes the line.”

Trevor Kitchin (152) finished second.

“Kitchin was another one that showed a spark at home,” said Libby. “I wish he wrestled every match like he did in his semifinals match (a 5-0 decision over Camden Hills’ Eli Smith). Aggressive from first to last whistle, something he is just learning to be more consistent with.”

Tanner Littlefield (126) finished in third place while teammate Briar Bussell (220) was fourth.

* * *

The stage is set for the culminating event of the Maine high school wrestling season. The Augusta Civic Center hosts the 2013 Maine State Wrestling Championships on Saturday. The top eight wrestlers from each weight class in Class A, B, and C will compete for individual as well as team honors on eight mats. Wrestling action is slated to begin at 9:30 a.m.

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