Peter Del Gallo admitted to getting a little emotional during the awards ceremony at the Southern Maine Classic tournament Monday at Gardiner Area High School’s John A. Bragoli Gymnasium. The Gardiner senior had wrestled in his final competition in his home gym and the significance of the moment caught up to him.

“It was a very sad time knowing that I’m never going to wrestle here again and just realizing that it’s my senior year and my high school career is coming to an end,” said Del Gallo.

Matt Hanley has coached Del Gallo since he was a pee-wee wrestler.

“Monday was hard on Peter, realizing it was his last home match,” said Hanley. “He has loved representing the Gardiner Tigers.”

Del Gallo finished the day as he has during most in his high school career — claiming a championship medal. Del Gallo entered the day as the top seed in the 120-pound class and drew a first-round bye. He then beat Bonny Eagle’s Caleb Frost by a 19-3 technical fall in the semifinals before pinning Scarborough’s returning state champion, Jeremy Sendrowski, in the championship finals match.

While Del Gallo’s victory was no surprise, teammate Alex Thang turned in an unexpected performance in the 285-pound class. The senior first-year wrestler advanced as a fourth seed to win the weight class. Thang opened his day with a win by pin over Biddeford’s Devyn Butler and then knocked off top-seeded Chris Kennie of Westbrook in the semifinals by a 15-4 major decision. In the championship finals, Thang scored a takedown in the third period against Cheverus’ second-seeded Zeb Leavitt to break open a 1-1 deadlock and gain a 3-1 victory.

Gardiner assistant coach Tyler Salley spends a lot of practice time working with Thang and has seen a huge improvement as the season has progressed.

“He came to us as a football player and weightlifter without any experience on the mat,” he said. “The kid is strong and we just keep working on different aspects of the sport to try to make him a complete wrestler by the postseason.”

Thang was a standout lineman on the football field and likes the physical nature of his new sport.

“I never knew wrestling could be this intense,” he said. “In football I’m used to hitting guys with equipment on, but in wrestling it’s a whole other thing. It’s about technique and finding different ways to improve yourself the next time you face someone else.”

Thang got to experience the feeling of accepting a championship medal for the first time in his short career.

“It felt amazing,” he said. “I felt like I achieved something great. I felt like all the hard work came together.”

Cameron Bell (138) won three matches on the day to finish in third place. Bell’s sole loss was to eventual champion Aiden Whitis of Cheverus. Bell, who finished in second place at the Skowhegan tournament, is putting things together as the postseason approaches, Hanley said.

“Cam is figuring out his own style and what moves work for him,” he said. “He understands where his weaknesses are and has worked hard to fix them.”

Defending Class A state champion Marshwood easily won the team title in the 11-team field. The Hawks scored 228 points to out-distance runner-up Massabesic (116.5). Gardiner finished eighth with 57.5 points.

• • •

Gardiner native, Daniel Del Gallo returned to the college mats after the University of Southern Maine’s semester break and showed that he has recovered from an ankle injury suffered late last semester. Del Gallo scored four wins to capture the 149-pound class title at the Jim Aguiar Invitational Tournament at Plymouth State University in Plymouth, New Hampshire.

Del Gallo advanced to the finals via a 9-2 decision against Bridgewater State’s Hunter Fogarty, an 11-0 major decision over Williams’ Alex Pankhurst and a 17-9 semifinal win against Plymouth State’s Nick Simeti. Del Gallo dominated New York University’s Ian Burke in the championship finals, winning by a 19-4 technical fall.

“My ankle feels good,” said Del Gallo. “I just need to have it taped, but that’s about it.”

USM placed third out of nine teams.

• • •

Former Nokomis wrestler Rusty Wilson has been sidelined by an injury but expects to return to action at the National Collegiate Wrestling Association New England Tournament at the University of New Hampshire on Jan. 31.

“I injured a ligament against MIT on Dec. 3,” he said. “But I’ll be ready to wrestle next week.”

Wilson, who competes on the University of Maine club wrestling team, was currently ranked 16th in the nation in the 197-pound class.


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