Mt. Ararat senior Ben Laurence (top) battles Mt. Blue’s Tucker Nicholas at the KVAC wrestling tournament last month. Both wrestlers will be competing at the New England Championships this weekend in Methuen, Massachusetts. Kennebec Journal photo by Joe Phelan Buy this Photo

There’s at least one more opportunity this season for the state’s best grapplers to make their mark.

The best high school wrestlers from Maine and throughout the region will make their way to Methuen High School in Methuen, Massachusetts, for the New England Wrestling Championships on Saturday and Sunday. Each wrestler that placed in the top three of each weight class at the New England qualifier last week at Noble High School in North Berwick is invited to compete.

Noble — the Class A champion — leads the pack with six representatives for the meet, led by qualifying champions Derek Cote (113 pounds) and Joshua Cote (132). Just behind the Knights is Class A runner-up Mt. Ararat/Brunswick, which will be sending four wrestlers, led by state champs Brycen Kowalsky (120) and Ben Laurence (170).

Mt. Ararat/Brunswick coach Erick Jensen said to prepare for the possibility of New Englands, the Eagles participated in meets and tournaments that involved schools from other areas in the region. Mt. Ararat/Brunswick wrestled in a meet against Essex High School (along with Massabesic and Lisbon/Oak Hill) on Jan. 15 in Vermont. The Eagles also participated in the Spartan Tournament on Jan. 3 in Sanford, which included programs like Danbury (Connecticut), Timberlane (New Hampshire), North Providence (Rhode Island and St. Johnsbury (Vermont).

“Our schedule this year, we made it a lot tougher,” Jensen said. “We actually competed well. Three of those guys who are going (to New Englands) won in Sanford against those top-level teams. I think we’re ready and we’re excited for it.”

Though the Eagles may have an edge over other Maine programs entering the tournament, there still remains an element of the unknown in regards to the wrestlers competing. Scouting can be done against fellow Maine wrestlers, but that’s not the case entering a regional tournament.

“I tell (the wrestlers) when we get to New Englands, you’re going to see a different style,” Jensen said. “What we see in Maine versus what you’re going to see out of wrestlers from Connecticut or Massachusetts is a more aggressive style, and you’ve got to be ready for it.”

Central Maine will be well represented in Methuen. Nokomis will be sending two wrestlers, Calvin Peck (120) and Nicholas Lincoln, who finished as the Class A runner-up at 220 last month. They will be joined by Lisbon/Oak Hill’s Cam Bourget (182) — the area’s lone qualifying champ — Skowhegan’s Aiden Clark (120), Lisbon/Oak Hill’s Jack Tibbits (132), Mount View’s Mark Ward (152), Mt. Blue’s Tucker Nicholas (170) and Lisbon/Oak Hill’s Daniel Bolton (170).

Ward, a senior, will be among the local wrestlers to watch in the tournament. The Class B champion in his weight class, Ward carries a record of 52-1 this season. His lone loss came at the New England qualifier, when he fell to Marshwood’s Colby Isabelle by a 5-4 score.

“He’s had an outstanding year this year,” Mount View coach Hamilton Richards said. “He’s been (the outstanding wrestler) at three different tournaments — the MCI Winter Classic, the (Kennebec Valley Athletic Conference championships) and Class B (championships)… We’re looking to get him redialed in (for New Englands). But he’s had a great year this year. He’s shown me he can really think well on the mat.”

Richards said Ward has been practicing with wrestlers from Skowhegan, Camden Hills, Dexter and Mattanawcook Academy to get prepared for the tournament. Ward is no stranger to New Englands, having competed in the meet last year at 145 lbs.

“I think (experience) helps reduce the jitters,” Richards said. “Knowing some of the styles that some of the other schools use from New Hampshire, Vermont, Rhode Island and (Massachusetts), that’s something to get used to. Some of those states wrestle a little rougher. The officials aren’t prone to make slam calls… Massabesic, Marshwood, Noble, they wrestle so much out of state, they’re used to (out of state) kids. The rest of us, we don’t get the exposure, so some of our kids get a little shellshocked. That’s the way it is in some of these other states, you’ve got to understand that it’s rough.”

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