Several area grapplers have been preparing to compete in the 46th annual New England Interscholastic Wrestling Championships on Friday and Saturday at the New Haven Athletic Center in Connecticut.
For some, it will be one last opportunity to shine on the mats.
The margin for error is razor-thin, and Maine wrestlers often learn first-hand how competitive the next level can be at the prestigious event.
For the second consecutive year, Lisbon will send the most wrestlers from Maine, including Forrest Cornell at 112, Joel Pomerleau at 119, Mike McNamara at 130, Matt Nicholson at 135, Marcus Bubar at 145 and Joe Doughty at 215.
“I feel that Lisbon has another opportunity to show the quality of Maine wrestlers,” Lisbon coach Mark Stevens said. “There will be no easy matches in Connecticut. Everyone is there because they beat the best from their state.”
“I’ve been there and know what to expect,” said Bubar, who is seeded Maine’s top seed at 145. “I have seen a lot of kids go down there out of shape and hurts performances. It’s something (training) that you can’t afford not to do.”
Cornell and Bubar each will be competing for the third time and have the most to prove. The wrestlers all have specific goals and they have worked hard to reach them.
Mountain Valley will have teammates Ryan Burgess and Josh Thornton at 103 and 140, respectively. Falcons wrestler Taylor Carey, state finalist at 152 pounds, also accepted an invitation to compete.
Burgess had been anticipating this tourney since the preseason, and he dropped from the 112 clas to 103 during the regular season. He is confident a return at the same weight will be an advantage. The junior won two of three consolation matches last year.
Thornton, a sophomore, has been hindered by a sore shoulder and fully realizes what to expect.
“My shoulder is a lot better, still not 100 percent, but it will have to do,” Thornton said. “I went down to watch Ernie (Matthews) and Ryan wrestle last year and it is a very fun and exciting tourney to watch a lot of good wrestling.”
Dirigo senior Alex Miele (160) accomplished the same feat and will be making his first trip. He came up three points shy in the state finals last year. Miele’s older brother, Kyle, competed in the New England competition twice.
“Whenever I take kids to New England for the first time you just never know,” Dirigo coach Doug Gilbert said. “It’s a different environment and the wrestling styles need to be, too. The kids need to be prepared, both physically and mentally. It’s certainly not a case of just being able to step on the mat and being able to simply execute moves that have worked through out the season.”
Steve Martin (171) of Bonny Eagle, who placed third in 2009, is 40-0 and has had one match go the entire six minutes. Former medalist Matt Delgallo (125) of Gardiner is a four-time state champion.
“I can’t go in to a match to hyped up,” Martin said. “I need to slow down and control my emotions. There are some good kids at the New England and they have different styles than Maine wrestlers. They concentrate on takedowns and then slip legs in and (cross body) ride.”
Last year, the format changed to a double-elimination tournament.