Six wrestlers who won individual state championships return to defend their titles while providing leadership to their teams this season.

Winslow senior Ryan Fredette goes after his fourth straight state championship. Fredette won more than 50 matches last season in the 182-pound class, with his only loss coming in the championship finals at the New Englands. Fredette’s teammate, Devon Vigue, won state titles as a freshman (113) and a junior (120) and looks to add a third as a senior.

Skowhegan senior Samson Sirois captured his first state title (132 pounds) after finishing second as both a freshman and a junior. Sirois added a fourth-place finish at the New England tournament to his resume.

Madison’s Seth Padelford won 34 straight matches as a junior on his way to a state championship at 220. He will try to repeat in the same weight class this season.

Cony’s Nic Mills had a remarkable sophomore campaign. He placed just fourth in the region as a freshman, yet won both Class A regional and state tournaments last season at 182 pounds. Mills will move up to 195 pounds this season.

Quinton Richards was a state runner-up for Nokomis as a freshman. He won the 152-pound state title last season as a sophomore.

Erskine will move up to Class A from Class B this season, joining a well-balanced A North region. Eagles coach Patrick Vigue says the move presents a challenge, but that his team is up to the task.

“The North A region is very competitive, but we have a lot of quality wrestlers,” he said.

Jake Peavey (285) is a two-time state runner-up, Michael Sprague placed third last season and Brock Glidden also made it to the awards podium at the state meet.

Skowhegan graduated New England champion Cody Craig, but his freshman brother, Jake, is projected to continue the family legacy. Ricky Oberg was a state finalist last season at 120 pounds and Jon Bell has medaled in the past.

Nokomis returns most of its starters from last season’s squad that placed third at regionals. Richards was a state champion and Josh Brown was third. David Wilson placed fourth.

Aside from Mills, Cony also has state place-winner Noah Dumas in its lineup. The Rams have a veteran squad, which may have the balance to perform well at the A North tournament. Marcus Caudill transferred in from Foxcroft Academy in the fall. He was fourth in the 126-pound division in Class B last season.

MCI has a standout in ZyAnthony Moss, a state runner-up last season (126 pounds) as a junior who hopes to end his high school career on top of the awards podium at the state meet.

Mark Ward had an outstanding freshman season for Mount View, placing fourth at the state tournament in 132 pounds.

Oak Hill, faced with dwindling participation, formed a co-operative team with Lisbon this season.

Also new to the landscape this season is Richmond, which will field a varsity sport after a multi-year effort by Mark Taylor and other wrestling supporters in the town. Taylor, a former Bonny Eagle wrestler, will become the program’s first head coach.

“I started the Richmond Wrestling Club four years ago,” said Taylor. “We had been wrestling at SAWALI (Sabattus, Wales, Litchfield rec department) and I knew we already had interest.

“I approached the high school first and the athletic director was immediately on board and then went to the school board. They were also immediately interested and told me I needed to start a club and show consistent growth and participation. So, we started fundraising for mats and our goal and dream was met by our amazing town. The kids were a huge part of the fundraising. We rolled our mats into the high school four months later. Every year we have grown and the end result is our varsity team.”

Richmond, with an enrollment of just 144 students, will be one of the smallest schools in Maine to offer wrestling.

While Richmond is one of the only schools in the state to add a team in recent years, students from most high schools can still compete as independent wrestlers, provided they can find a host school. Independents attend schools that don’t sponsor a team. They practice with and compete alongside a host school, but don’t accumulate points for that team. Skowhegan and Gardiner are two of several programs that benefit from the arrangement.

Messalonskee senior Austin Pelletier won 46 matches and was a state runner-up last season at 182 pounds. This season, he is expected to compete at 170 pounds, where he spent most of last season prior to the regional tournament. Pelletier and four of his schoolmates travel to Skowhegan to practice and compete as independents with the Indians. Last season, Steven Lujan was also a state qualifier.

“The Messo kids have been a great addition for our team,” said Skowhegan coach Brooks Thompson. “We don’t treat them any different than the Skowhegan wrestlers; we are all one big team.”

Skowhegan has more than 20 athletes on its roster, but Thompson likes even more numbers in the practice room.

“The more wrestlers we have in the room the better it is,” he said. “It allows us to give each wrestler multiple workout partners. This cuts down on stagnant practices where we are practicing with the same person every day.”

Coach Matt Hanley has six Hall-Dale students practicing as independents with his Gardiner team. The Hall-Dale athletes are adding a lot to the practice room, Hanley said.

“It’s great having them here,” said Hanley. “They have good energy and are excited about learning wrestling.”

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