PROVIDENCE, R.I. — Cody Craig of Skowhegan and Bradley Beaulieu of Marshwood each had some unfinished business to tend to at the 53nd annual New England Interscholastic Wrestling Championship over the weekend.
Their missions were accomplished as the two Maine wrestlers each won individual championships, Craig in the 106-pound division and Beaulieu at 138 pounds.
It was a productive showing for the state, as nine Maine wrestlers earned medals at the two-day double-elimination event that was held at the Providence Career and Technical Academy.
There was plenty of surprises throughout the action, but it was Craig’s and Beaulieu’s time to finally reach the top step of the podium after having felt the sting of coming up just short.
“It’s a surreal feeling. A lot of work has gone in to this moment,” Craig, who was emotional moments after winning with a 3-1 decision against Ryan Jack of Danbury, Connecticut, said. “It was just like my semifinals match. I knew what (Jack) was going to do, which was try to delay and stay outside. So, I went in with a game plan and needed to wait and (lure) him in.”
Craig, who was a New England finalist last year, executed the initial takedown on the freshman and then recorded an escape in the second period. Jack escaped late in the third period, but Craig was able to counter.
Craig referred to his semifinal match, when he decisioned Andrew Fallon 7-1, after executing a high single-leg takedown into a cradle near fall. Craig had beat Fallon 4-3 at the Noble tournament and had devised a plan for the rematch.
“He also stayed outside, and once he had (a stalling call) I waited and attacked.” Craig, who will attend Hill prep in Penn, said.
“It’s hard to put Cody’s career (in perspective),” Skowhegan co-coach Brooks Thompson said. “Cody lifts spirits up in wrestling room and works a lot with our youth program. He takes the sport very seriously and can be hard on himself. But, he is a very humble kid.”
Oxford Hills’ Dawson Stevens (160 pounds) reached the quarterfinals and then needed to wrestle back and win consolation matches to reach the medal round. Stevens, a junior, placed fourth after losing 7-1 against Michael Bennett of Bristal Easton, Connecticut. Vikings teammate Jeff Worster also won matches at 182 pounds.
Beaulieu utilized his sound judgment and technical skills to decision Tim Kane of Fairfield, Connecticut, 5-2 in finals. The Marshwood four-time state champion, was a New England 2015 finalist and medaled four years at the prestigious tournament.
“A lot went in to this and it feels good,” Beaulieu, whose 241 wins is the most by a Maine wrestler, said. “As a freshman, I had set a goal and it’s long overdue. I’m the first NE champ from Marshwood and I couldn’t think of a better place.”
Beaulieu will compete next fall at Old Dominion University in Virginia.
Maine wrestlers had fared well Friday night and the state advanced its most ever. Four of five won in the semifinals, including Robert Heatherman (170) of Mount Ararat/Brunswick, who recorded a 15-0 technical fall.
In finals, Heatherman lost a heartbreaking 5-3 decision late reversal by Connecticut state champion Joe Accousti. Ryan Ferdette of Winslow lost 8-6 in finals to George Tarwo of Concord. Other Maine medalists were third place by Trent Goodwin (170) of Ellsworth; fourth, by Samson Sirois (132) of Skowhegan and Peyton Cole ( 152) of Ellsworth; and Austin Shorey (145) of Noble placed sixth.
Former Maine resident Connor McGonagle Timberlane, New Hampshire won a New England championship at 126 pounds. Peter DelGallo of Gardiner beat McGonagle in last years New England finals.
The New England competition can be overwhelming on wrestler, and there is plenty of heartache. Danny Buteau (132) of Oak Hill lost an 5-3 overtime match in the round of 16. The Raiders’ standout then won a major decision 10-0, in a match that was delayed when electronic score card was sent after second period.
“I’m proud that I was able to compete here. It’s the fourth time and the experiences far out weigh any shortcomings,” Buteau, who lost 5-1 in elimination match, said. “It’s tough against opponents down here. Don’t get me wrong, there’s some good wrestling in Maine. But, at NE you simply can not afford to let your guard down at any time.”
Mountain Valley’s Caleb Austin (126) had plenty of incentive, after having lost 1-0 and 6-4 at New Englands last year, and this year won 16-4 and 4-3. But, he was pinned in quarterfinals by the Massachusetts state champion.
Dirigo’s Bryce Whittemore (160) won his first two matches by a pin and 12-8. His luck dimmed with a 7-3 quarterfinal lost, and a 3-2setback in consolations.
“Bryce had looked really good,” Dirigo coach Doug Gilbert said. “Then a move slipped off and he gave up back points.
“He wasn’t done at that point, but it’s difficult to come back against an experienced wrestler.”
For the second straight year Skowhegan (43 points, 11th) was the top Maine team, followed by Ellsworth (32, 18th), Marshwood (30, 20th), Mount Ararat/Brunswick (27.5, 23rd) and Oxford Hills (27, 24th). Danbury easily won the team championship with 114 points’ New Town, Connecticut had 67; Mount Anthony, Vermont, 62.5; Timberlane, 57; and 2016 champion Bishop Hendricken, 56.
On Friday evening, Marshwood coach Matt Rix was ejected from the tournament for questioning calls, and Bucksport freshman David Gross 285 was ahead in quarterfinal match, but suffered a knee injury and was unable to continue.