Skowhegan wrestling coach Tenney Noyes, right, demonstrates a technique with wrestler Aiden Clark during a Nov. 22 practice in Skowhegan. Rich Abrahamson/Morning Sentinel

There’s good news for wrestling teams throughout the state.

After losing meets and tournaments to the COVID-19 pandemic last year, a full wrestling season is in the works for the first time in nearly two years.

“It’s going good,” Skowhegan co-head coach Tenney Noyes said. “It usually takes a lot to knock the rust off after taking the spring and summer off, but now having essentially two years off, getting back into the swing of things. Getting your body used to it again is the thing that’s going to kind of slow everybody down if they haven’t been doing offseason club wrestling.”

ANother challenge wrestlers face is how they will be able to compete while wearing masks this season. The Maine Principals’ Association is recommending masks be worn during competition. They will be required during championship meets.

In early November, the MPA announced wrestlers must be fully vaccinated in order to compete, but then it dropped the mandate amid criticism from athletes, parents and athletic administrators.

“Right from the get-go, I haven’t worried about (kids) wrestling with the mask,” Gardiner head coach Matt Hanley said. “The wrestlers are used to adjusting to tough situations and this is just another one. We’re conditioning (with masks), so they’re ready for it. From what I’ve heard from other states and wrestlers out of state, it hasn’t been as big of a factor as some people might think it is… If the choice (comes down to) do you have to wear a mask to wrestle, that’s an easy choice. Throw it on and let’s wrestle.”


Skowhegan wrester Camryn Atwood, front, works through a drill with teammates during a Nov. 22 practice in Skowhegan. Rich Abrahamson/Morning Sentinel

Not every team or school will be enforcing masks at a home meet. Noyes said Skowhegan will not enforce masks for its indoor winter sports. Noyes added that his team will adjust as needed, depending upon rules for opposing programs.

“We’re going to adhere to the stricter rule for whatever school we’re competing against,” Noyes said. “If we’ve got a match, just as an example, if we’re over at (Maine Central Institute) and they say, ‘You have to wear a mask in order to wrestle,’ and they won’t wrestle us unless we wear a mask, we’re going to wear a mask. We want the matches. That’d be the same if they came to Skowhegan, and they say, ‘hey, you’ve got to wear a mask, or we won’t wrestle you.’ Then that’s what we’ll do.”

Wrestling coaches all agree that they are excited for the opportunity to compete again after last season was canceled.

“You can wrap (the wrestlers) in saran wrap and they’ll pass out before they say uncle,” joked Mount View head coach Hamilton Richards. “It’s going to be interesting. Probably in a lopsided match that’s over in the first, second period, probably no one is going to complain about the mask. But two very skilled wrestlers getting into the third period or overtime, the mask is not going to be anybody’s friend.”

Skowhegan wrester Emma Shaw, front, and teammates wear masks as they listen to instructions before the start of practice Monday in Skowhegan. Rich Abrahamson/Morning Sentinel

Teams are also dealing with declining numbers, a pre-pandemic issue. Even Skowhegan, a traditional Class A powerhouse, has lower numbers compared to previous seasons.

“We’re light on numbers,” Noyes said. “With all the last-minute changes that were occurring, and the dust hasn’t settled yet. It’s caused a lot of frustration. With (having) last season off, the boys found something to do in the winter time. They picked up jobs or have found other things that are more important to them now.”


Richards, who has built strong teams at Mount View over the years, had four wrestlers out this season, as of late November.

“We’re predominantly a basketball and soccer community,” Richards said. “I’m always trying to carve out our niche, then COVID hit and we did without a season. The middle school has gone two years without a season. The feeding of our program is really hurting.”

Despite the numbers, there are still talented wrestlers ready to compete. The River Hawks return junior Aiden Clark, a regional champion and state finalist at 120 pounds two years ago. Clark also had success at New Englands. Junior Mike Welch had 26 wins as a freshman two years ago and finished fourth at 113 pounds at the Northern Class A meet. Senior Camryn Atwood competed in the Class A tournament at 195 pounds two years ago and figures to be in the mix, along with junior Kobe Butters. On the girls side, seniors Emma Shaw and Elizabeth Trask both return. Trask was a girls state champion two years ago, while Shaw collected 23 wins and was a girls state finalist.

“We’re pretty upperclassmen heavy,” Noyes said. “We’re trying recruit some sophomores and freshmen, we’ve got to get some underclassmen, get them back into it.”

At Gardiner, Hanley has a young group, but still returns junior Cole Brann, who finished fourth at 126 pounds at regionals in 2020. Drake Ahearn, who has previously wrestled at 152 pounds, should also be a factor. Cony also expects to field a competitive team as well.

“Basically, how I’m lumping it, you’ve got two groups of freshmen,” Hanley said. “You’ve got the true freshmen, and you’ve got the sophomores that didn’t get that freshman year in. You’ve got two classes that are going to be new to high school wrestling.”



Dave Dyer — 621-5640

Twitter: @Dave_Dyer

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