RUMFORD — When Zach Stevens finally saw an opening, the Lisbon wrestler executed his move and went on to win his third individual Class C state wrestling championship in as many years.
Still, it was Dirigo that relied on its depth and completed its mission, scoring 195.5 points to win the Class C team crown. The Cougars pulled away from Dexter, which finished in second with 158 points.
Dirigo, which won its first state title since 1997, was led by champions Griffyn Smith (106 pounds) and Jesse Hutchinson (160). The Cougars, who hosted the event at Mountain Valley High School, placed 11 athletes in the top three of the 14 weight classes.
Lisbon finished a respectable third at 134.5 points behind wins from JD Martin at 120, Stevens and Colin Higgins at 285. The Greyhounds tied with Dexter with three first-place finishes.
It figured to be a two-team race between the Cougars and Dexter from the beginning, and it showed in the early matches as the coaches continued to check match results, team points and strategies.
But that became a moot point when the Cougars won nine of 11 semifinal matches to open up an insurmountable 50-point lead.
“That’s the most points that we’ve ever scored in one round at a state meet,” Dirigo coach Doug Gilbert said. “It was solid and we beat Dexter in (three) head-to-head match-ups. It was (freshman) Tucker Barnett who gave us a big lift at 138 because his win against (Jordan Gudroe) of Dexter was a (potential) 24-point swing.”
The Cougars have relied on their depth throughout the season, and achieved its objective in the same fashion.
The finals started out well for Dirigo as Smith executed a takedown and a series of pinning combinations en route to a 15-0 technical fall against Dillion Garnett of Dexter.
“I felt very comfortable out there,” said Smith, who had won a state championship as a freshman last year. “It’s better to go out there with a series (of moves) in mind because then you can switch thins up.”
The win by Hutchinson, who pinned Joshua Collier of Lisbon with a reverse half nelson, was redemption for the senior who was a state finalist a year ago.
“Oh my gosh,” Hutchinson said. “This feels great, especially after having come so close last year. A lot has happened during the season, but I never doubted the team or myself. I had three goals, 100 (career) wins, a team title and an (individual) state championship. And we did it.”
Lisbon won three of its six matches in the finals, beginning with Martin who stuck Hunter White of Dirigo with a head and arm in nine seconds. Stevens followed by securing a double-leg takedown that planted Barnett directly on his back and pinned him at 1:28 of the first period.
“I was very cautious,” said Stevens, who had recently dropped to 138 pounds and pinned top seeded Matthew Stewart of Bucksport in a quarterfinal match. “In a good way, there was pressure. I did not want to make a mistake, I had come up short during the season, so winning for a third time at states wasn’t easy. But all the hard work paid off.”
Stevens and many other Maine wrestlers will try qualifying for the New England championship this Thursday at Nokomis High School in Newport.
Higgins pinned Richard Woodward of Penobscot Valley. The Greyhounds’ Kurtis Bolton (126) and Tyler Bard (152) were finalists. Bolton lost a tight, 3-2 decision.
“This was very satisfying,” said Lisbon coach Mark Stevens, who is retiring after winning seven state championships in 17 years. “We had nine wrestlers and they represented themselves well. It’s not all about wins and losses, but they also showed great character. Also, Doug Gilbert and Dirigo deserve a lot of credit because they have quite a team.”
Dirigo finalists included Bryce Whittemore (132), Spencer Vaughan (170), Jason Baldinelli (182), Lucas MacDonald (195) and Jullian Baldinelli at 220. Freshman Jon Flagg (106) and Torrey Barnett at 285 each placed third.
Stewart Buzzell of Monmouth repeated as a state champion at 145 pounds by pinning Jacob Hesseltine of Dexter in 1:05. The Mustangs’ (fifth, 63 points) Calvin Thompson (106) and Emily Levasseur (113) placed second and third, respectively.