AUGUSTA — The Kennebec Valley Athletic Conference wrestling title was decided the moment Camden Hills’ bus arrived at Cony High School Saturday.
Bragging rights in Class A, however, had to wait until the buses were warming up for the ride home.
Camden Hills easily defended its conference crown, winning by 133 points. But the real intrigue was in Class A, where Steven Morse’s pin in the final match of the day gave Cony a one-point victory over Mt. Blue for the top spot among the big schools.
Morse pinned Winlsow’s Aaron Lint with five seconds remaining in the first period to take the 285 title and end a day-long see-saw for second place between the Rams and Cougars.
“That’s what this team’s been doing all year,” Cony coach Shawn Totman said. “They’re a lunch pail kind of group. They just keep working hard, just keep at it, keep at it, keep at it, and good things have started to happen. I think we’re peaking at the right time.”
“That’s to take nothing away from Mt. Blue. They’re a great team. It’s going to be a heck of a battle next week at regionals,” he added.
Mt. Blue rallied from a five-point deficit going into the finals after freshman Tyler Craig pinned James Archer of Camden Hills 2:35 into the first match of the round (106) and gave the Cougars a one-point lead.
Khalil Newbill provided some breathing room with a 9-3 decision over Camden’s Connor Winchenbach in the 120 final. But after Mt. Blue’s Caleb Farrington, who was wrestling down a weight class, was pinned by Skowhegan’s Christian Jackson in the 160 championship, it opened the door for Morse to be the hero for Cony.
“We didn’t live up to expectations,” Mt. Blue coach Bob O’Connor said. “We had a lot of guys that didn’t win matches that they were supposed to win. (Farrington’s match) was a match that we needed to have before regionals. I didn’t think he was going to get stuck there. He looked better that what the outcome was. But it was what it was. The majority of our team didn’t perform well today.”
“I’m glad it’s not next week,” he added.
Craig went into the day 33-0, but admitted getting cranked up for the conference meet was difficult. The freshman has wrestled in a number of national championships and won the prestigious Bighorn Nationals in Colorado last November.
“I really hadn’t been wrestling at my best (going into the finals),” he said. “I felt like I was kind of slow, kind of methodical. I’d wrestled (Archer on Jan. 25) and I figured I really had to turn it on.”
Newbill found himself in a tight two-point match with Winchenbach before a third period reversal garnered him his second consecutive conference title.
“I feel confident for regionals,” he said. “I think (Winchenbach) was my toughest competition until states.”
Kevin Moore (126) and Drew Blanchet (138) added to Mt. Blue’s total with wins in the consolation finals.
Camden Hills placed 10 wrestlers in the 14 championship matches to rack up 259 points. Skowhegan and Belfast rounded out the top five.
Oxford Hills had three wrestlers reach the consolation round and missed out on reaching the top 10 as a team by half a point. Jon Hankey finished third at 120 with an 8-4 decision over Mark Smith of Brewer. Two other wrestlers, Justin Cummings (220) and Dustin Edwards (285) finish fourth. Shawn Bang of Edward Little placed fourth at 160.