AUGUSTA — Skowhegan hoped to defend its Cony Duals title last year, but a snow storm kept the Indians and a number of the other competitors home.

They more than made up for their absence on Saturday, dominating a 12-team field in the pool/round robin format.

“The boys did well. They all stepped it up a notch compared to earlier in the year,” Skowhegan co-coach Tenney Noyes said. “Each week we’re improving and it’s good to see. We’ve still got a long ways to go.”

Cony finished second and Erskine went third. The traditional pre-holiday team tournament, now in its 15th year, also featured Gardiner, Madison, Mt. Blue, Morse, Mt. Ararat, Westbrook and a team comprised of junior varsity wrestlers from the participating schools.

Teams start the day in three pools comprised of four teams apiece. They are then ranked based on pool competition and go on to a round robin against teams from the other pools to determine a champion.

Skowhegan, the defending Eastern A champion and a contender for the state title this year, showed its depth and determination to bounce back after falling to Marshwood — one of its expected rivals for the state crown — in a home dual meet last Saturday.

The Indians collected 11 pins in 14 matches in the final dual of the day against Erskine (66-15).

“We come in looking for bonus points — pins, majors and stuff like that,” said senior Kam Doucette, who pinned Justin Browne 43 seconds into their match. “If we can get that one extra point if we get that pin, we always go for it because the team matters the most.”

Wins at the Morse Westlake Preseason Tournament and Westbrook Invitational got the Indians off to a strong start this season. On Saturday, they looked for points up and down the lineup, with veterans such as state champion Cody Craig, regional champions Doucette and Samson Sirois, as well as state placers Julian Sirois, Logan Stevens and Jon Bell, doing the bulk of the work.

“As a team we got a lot of bonus points, which are big,” said Stevens, a 182-pound senior. “Our new guys really stepped up. They got us a lot of key wins. The new guys are what click it in for the team. Us veterans will win most of them but we’ll need the new guys to step up.”

After pool competition, Skowhegan’s coaches informed their wrestlers of the passing of athletic director Don Finley, who died Friday night after a long illness.

The team dedicated its last two matches to him with the slogan “Win it for Finn.”

“He’s been a great member of the community for years — as a baseball coach, as a teacher and athletic director,” Noyes said. “He was an all-around great guy, loved the kids and gave everything he had to them.”

“It was heartbreaking to find that out,” Doucette added. “He was a great man. He taught us a lot and was always there for us.”

“Everybody loves Mr. Finley. Mr. Finley is the man. We’re going to miss him so much,” Stevens continued.

Erskine’s Justin Studholme ended Skowhegan’s shot at a sweep with his 100th career victory, a 1-0 decision over Luke Bolster at 145 pounds.

“It feels good. It’s been a long way coming,” Studholme said. “I started wrestling in fifth grade and I didn’t win a lot of matches. But freshman year, I got 25 wins and I knew I was right on track to get it. I just had to step it up in practice.”

Studholme and most other wrestlers saw more action than they do at their typical dual meets or small tournaments, so the day was as much about improving mental and physical endurance as wrestling technique.

Studholme picked up the only point he’d need for the milestone with an escape in the second period, then held off exhaustion and Bolster for the final two minutes.

“I didn’t have much energy after my first four matches, but I knew I could get my 100th if I won that last match,” Studholme said. “I got focused and it gave me a little bit of energy to pull it out.”

Coaches were happy to get so much time on the mat against quality competition before the schedule starts in earnest during the holiday break.

“They all wrestled five times today and got a lot of experience,” Erskine coach Pat Vigue said. “We just look to improve every meet and get ready for regionals.”

Randy Whitehouse — 621-5638

[email protected]

Twitter: @RAWmaterial33

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