For the first time in three years, wrestlers in Class C will be vying for a true regional championship.
Actually, in some respects, it’s been longer than three years.
In 2010 and 2011, while Classes A and B held separate East and West regionals, every Class C in the state gathered at Jay High School for a qualifier to determine who would move on to states. Wrestlers were divided into “north” and “south” brackets aligned by seed rather than geography. There were two championship finals and two consolation finals, with the top eight wrestlers advancing to states.
Many coaches disliked the qualifier for a number of reasons, chief among them that the same wrestlers would be competing against each other at the qualifier and state meets.
This year, Class C has again been divided into two separate regions, with the Western regional being held at Bucksport High School and the Eastern regional taking place at Penobscot Valley High School in Howland.
Both meets are on Saturday.
“It’s nice not to have this ‘super-region’ stuff, and everybody wrestling the state meet two weeks in a row,” Dirigo coach Doug Gilbert said.
The Maine Principals’ Association devised the qualifier due to an imbalance in the number of teams in each region. So many schools in Western C dropped their programs in recent years that it was difficult to get more than four wrestlers to compete in some weight classes.
“Before, we could have guys go right to states and not win a match,” Monmouth coach Shawn Schultz said. “You’d have five or six teams in the region and weight classes aren’t full. It was very friendly, but not really a true measure.”
This year, the MPA revised the regions to make them more balanced. Winslow and Mt. View dropped from Class B to C and were assigned to Western C, while Bucksport, Calvary Chapel, George Stevens, John Bapst and Orono were moved from Eastern to Western C.
Some of the same problems of the old regional format remain, however, and new ones arose. Calvary, John Bapst and Orono did not field teams this year, so there is still a discrepancy in the number of teams. Eastern Maine has 11, Western Maine eight.
Because the region remains thin, there are still some weight classes without a lot of depth.
“We were hoping for more kids,” Gilbert said. “We’ve got four at 112 and six at 106. You hope when you get 10, 12 teams in a region that you’ll get eight kids at least. We just didn’t seem to get it.”
The breakdown of the regions isn’t geographically or competitively convenient, either. Some schools will be competing for the first time this year. Schools from the Mid-State League will be making long bus rides east to Bucksport for a mid-morning start.
Dirigo will be taking a two-and-a-half hour bus ride to Saturday’s meet, although Gilbert doesn’t see it as an issue.
“We went to Wells for Mid-State (last Saturday, which the Cougars won). That was a two-hour drive,” Gilbert said. “These kids travel well.”
CLASS B WEST
Mountain Valley gathered some steam heading into the Western B regional at York High School with its best showing of the year at Mid-States.
The Falcons had wrestlers place in all but four weight classes and battled Dirigo to the end before the Cougars’ depth won out for a 10-point victory.
Recent additions Ryan Glover (285), Santos Rodriguez (195) and Robert Worthley (152) finished first, first and third, respectively. Nicole Burgess (106) picked up the Falcons’ third individual title, while a number of young wrestlers contributed.
“A couple people came back and some are learning, catching their wind and getting better,” Mountain Valley coach Chris Bean said.
Glover avenged a loss to York’s Alex Mercurio from the week before with an 8-5 decision. Rodriguez crushed Fryeburg’s Derek Leavitt, 11-2.
“He’s wrestling real well,” Bean said. “He’s kept in pretty good shape over the year, for football mostly. But he was still lifting and working while he was out.”
Another veteran, Taylor Carey (182), reached the finals but had to forfeit due to a rib injury. As of Monday night, Bean was unsure about the two-time state finalist’s status for Saturday.
Bean expects Fryeburg, which finished third last Saturday, and York to be the biggest obstacles the Falcons will face in trying to defend their regional crown.
“We keep plugging along, one day at a time, and we seem to be getting a little better every day. We’ll try to push as many into states as we can,” he said.
CLASS A EAST
If last Saturday’s KVAC results are any indication, the Class A East regional at Westbrook High School should be a nail-biter between Mt. Blue and Cony.
Cony nipped Mt. Blue by one point for the conference Class A title, with a dramatic pin by Cony’s Steven Morse in the unlimited division putting the Rams over the top.
The two teams have gone back-and-forth this season.
Cony set the tone with a come-from-behind win on Dec. 17 at the Tiger Invitational in Gardiner. Mt. Blue took the next meeting on a tiebreaker at the Cony Duals two days after Christmas. Both teams finished with 36 points, with the Cougars getting the edge because they won seven matches to Cony’s six.
Both teams qualified three wrestlers for the KVAC championship round, with Tyler Craig (106) and Khalil Newbill (120) giving the Cougars a 2-1 edge in championships. Cony had three additional wrestlers place, Mt. Blue two.