Seven of the area’s top wrestlers are set to test themselves against other elite athletes today and Saturday at the 49th Annual New England Interscholastic Wrestling Championships.

Gardiner’s Peter Del Gallo (106 pounds) and Daniel Del Gallo (138), Skowhegan’s Tyler Craig (113), Mikal Federici (170) and Andrew Pineo (195), Winslow’s Aaron Lint (285) and Monmouth Academy’s Stewart Buzzell will make the trip to Providence, R.I. for the six-state meet.

Wrestling begins at 5 p.m. tonight and resumes at 9 a.m. Saturday morning at the Providence Career and Technical Center.  Finals  are scheduled to begin at 6:30 p.m. Saturday.

Daniel Del Gallo leads the group in both experience and success at the New England tournament.

This is Del Gallo’s third trip to the event. Last year he finished second in the 138-pound class. This year, Del Gallo has his sights set on gold.

“He’s going there to win it,” Gardiner coach Matt Hanley said. “He isn’t being arrogant, just confident. He’s taken a lot of extra steps to get better between last year and now. Winning is the ultimate goal.”

Still, Hanley recognizes how tough the tournament field can be.

“There is no true seeding done at this tournament,” Hanley said. “Just because you’re entered as the top seed from Maine in your weight class doesn’t protect you from meeting one of the toughest kids in the tournament in the first match.”

That exact situation happened to Craig last season. Craig entered the tournament as Maine’s No. 1 seed at 106 pounds. He lost his opening match to Connecticut’s No. 2 seed, Pascal Medor, who would go on to win the weight class.

Craig views this year as a fresh start.

“Of course, I want to win this year,” Craig said, “but if not, I would like to get on the (awards) podium. I feel like I could have done much better last year than I did. I’m looking forward to competing at my highest level.”

One of the challenges Maine’s New England qualifiers face is staying sharp during the two week layoff after Maine’s state championships. Skowhegan coach Brooks Thompson has held open workouts for any interested wrestler at Skowhegan Area High School.

“We have been having 15-20 kids at each practice,” Thompson said. “Keeping the kids conditioning has been a big part and just convincing them that they just need to keep pushing, no matter how hard it gets on the mat, just don’t stop and keep pushing yourself.”

The Del Gallo brothers have often been part of those workouts over the past two weeks.

“It has been very beneficial to wrestle with other top kids in my weight class and 113 too,” Peter said. “I was able to practice with Tyler Craig and he pushes me even further.”

Buzzell is another wrestler who has taken advantage of workouts at Skowhegan. This will be Buzzell’s first time at the New Englands.

“My personal goals are to be on the top of my game and to represent Maine well,” Buzzell said.

While others have been on the road prepping for the tournament, Winslow’s Aaron Lint has chosen to stay at home. Lint has spent much of the past two weeks working out with Winslow’s assistant coach Kris Segars, a 215-pound wrestler during his high school days in Connecticut.

“Aaron is very aggressive on his feet and quick off the bottom for a kid his size,” Segars said.

This will be Lint’s second trip to the New England tournament.

“Wrestling in it last year as a sophomore I got to see what the competition is like down there,” Lint said. “That has helped me know what to practice and helped me push myself during intense wrestling practices and conditioning.”

Andrew Pineo earned his first trip to the New Englands by winning a Class A state title and is looking forward to the experience.

“I’ve been going down (to watch) for a few years now and I have always wanted to wrestle in it. Now that I am, it’s a great feeling.”

The Skowhegan senior views this as his last time to step on the mat in competition.

“I’m hoping to end my career in a good way — pushing for a few more wins,” Pineo said. “This will, without a doubt, be the hardest tournament I have ever been in but I am going to go in and have all the fun with it I can.”

While each wrestler who wins a state title gets an automatic bid to the New England tournament. Federici gained entry when another qualifier chose not to attend.

“I was pumped when I found out,” Federici said. “I definitely was happy to get the chance to represent Maine.”

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