Kennebunk Coach Steve Young helps Connor McGarry up from the mat after McGarry wrestled with teammate Jonah Barstow, left, during a practice at the school this week. Shawn Patrick Ouellette/Staff Photographer

KENNEBUNK — They are regional champions, for the first time since 1995.

But the Kennebunk Rams are still embracing an underdog mentality heading into the Class A wrestling state championships Saturday at Mt. Ararat High in Topsham.

“You’ve got to love the underdog story, having that mindset. When you’re the underdog, you give it that little bit extra oomph to move forward,” said Kennebunk Coach Steve Young.

Last Saturday, the Rams won the Class A South title by a half-point over regional host Noble, the reigning Class A champion.

Kennebunk’s last regional title before this year came in Class B. The Rams’ only state championship was in 1991 when they tied Sanford for the Class A crown.

In 2020, the last time wrestling championships were held, Kennebunk placed seventh at the regional meet and 14th at the state meet. But the Rams have been building their program steadily. In Young’s eighth season as the head coach, Kennebunk has nearly 30 wrestlers – a big number by Maine standards – who demonstrate enthusiastic support for each other during meets.

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Senior Eli Soule, the regional runner-up at 160 pounds, said he isn’t surprised by his team’s success.

“We have a lot of strong upperclassmen now. I think we just kind of grew up and got a little stronger,” Soule said.

Young believes his team can win a state championship. “If our kids wrestle like they have been the past few weeks, I really think they have a legitimate shot at winning the tournament,” he said.

David York, left, and Eli Soule wrestle during a practice at Kennebunk High on Tuesday. Kennebunk has 10 wrestlers who advanced to Saturday’s Class A state meet by finishing in the top four in the South regional. Shawn Patrick Ouellette/Staff Photographer

He also knows other teams have good reason to feel the same way.

Noble and Kennebunk had 10 wrestlers advance to the state meet by finishing in the top four in the regional.

“Let’s put it this way, I wouldn’t count Noble out,” said Knights junior Derek Cote after winning the 138-pound title last Saturday.

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Massabesic and Bonny Eagle were right behind in third and fourth in A South, and both send three individual regional champions. Massabesic’s six-wrestler contingent is led by freshman Nicholas Chenard at 113, sophomore Dominick Bubar at 152 and senior Sean Wakefield at 195. Wakefield placed third at states in 2020 at 182.

Bonny Eagle has eight wrestlers, led by juniors Cameron Frost (120) and Caden Frost (132) and senior Tristan Day (285). Caden Frost is a returning state champion.

From the North, Oxford Hills enters as the regional champion with eight wrestlers, including regional champs Eitan Afriat (170) and Dillon Worster (195).

North runner-up Mt. Ararat/Brunswick has as much top-end firepower as any team with four regional champions in Brycen Kowalsky (120), Dash Farrell (132), Spencer LeClair (152) and Shea Farrell (160). Kowalsky is looking for his second state title at 120.

The 160-pound weight class figures to be among the tougher brackets. Cheverus’ unbeaten senior, Marshall Fowler, pinned Soule in the South final. That was the first loss for Soule, who didn’t get back on the mat until mid-January after being injured during football season.

Overall, Kennebunk is strongest in the middle to upper weights and will need strong performances from Soule, regional champions Bradley Foster (145) and David York (170), and regional runner-ups Tucker Kennedy (152) and Owen Bourque (285).

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York is Kennebunk’s only wrestler who placed at the 2020 state meet, finishing third at 145 pounds.

“I just hope I can wrestle to the finals. That’s the ultimate goal: Get to the finals and win it,” York said.

Whichever team ends up on top, it likely will be able to point to the wrestlers who picked up valuable points in the consolation rounds as the key. That’s where Kennebunk will need similar performances to what it received last week from Ethan Kasprzak (fourth, 120), Elan Keys (fourth, 126), Mario Reel (fourth, 138), Jonah Barstow (third, 182) and Connor McGarry (fourth, 195).

David York leads the way during warm-ups at a Kennebunk High wrestling practice on Tuesday. Shawn Patrick Ouellette/Staff Photographer

“It was huge that we had 10 people qualify. Those consolation matches, they can add up points really quick,” McGarry said. “We have a lot of tough wrestlers. I know every single one of us wants to place at states.”

The Rams are also intent on winning the Class A Dual Meet Championship, to be held Tuesday at Fryeburg Academy. This will be the second time the Maine Principals’ Association has sponsored dual meet championships.

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IN CLASS B, Mattanawcook Academy is favored to win the team championship at Morse High in Bath on Saturday.

Mattanawcook, which won the Noble Invitational this season on a tiebreaker over Class A Massabesic, won the North regional and brings four regional champions to the state meet, including two-time Varsity Maine All-State selection Jackson Sutherland (170). Sutherland and Isaac Hainer (182) both pinned their way to regional titles.

Mountain Valley won the B South title, beating four-time defending state champion Wells by 15.5 points. Wells will be a threat, particularly in the lighter weights, where Jace Patel (120), Griffin Brickett (132) and Michael Ducharme (138) won regional titles and Dan Marquis (126) lost in the final in overtime. Eli Potter at 170 was Wells’ fourth regional champ.

“We wrestled about as well as we could have (at regionals), but so did Mountain Valley,” said Wells Coach Scott Lewia. “Hopefully we continue to wrestle strong this weekend and we should be right in the thick of things. Mountain Valley is tough and Mattanawcook has been the toughest team in the state this year.  They have some tough kids that will win.”

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