The high school wrestling postseason begins Saturday with the conference championships and each team’s approach to their meet depends on who’s coaching.
Some coaches want to build or maintain momentum heading into the big regional meets on Feb. 11. Others just want to emerge from this Saturday unscathed.
“We’re going down there hoping to get a ‘W,’ said Dirigo coach Doug Gilbert, whose team is headed to Wells for the Mid-State League meet. “We’re hoping to finish in the top three, anyway.”
“I just don’t want to come out of it with any injuries,” said Mt. Blue coach Bob O’Connor, who will be leading his team to the KVAC championships. “The next week is what really matters, regionals, because without that, your season is over.”
O’Connor still expects four or five of his wrestlers to reach the KVAC finals at Cony High School.
Camden Hills, which handed Mt. Blue its only loss this year, will be favored to retain its conference title. Mt. Blue won the conference’s Class A bragging rights last year with one champion, Khalil Newbill, and a number of surprising performances from a young roster.
That young roster has gained experience and confidence this year, finishing with a 22-1 record.
The Cougars boast some of the top lightweights in the state, including 106-pound freshman Tyler Craig (33-0), Newbill (31-2 at 120 pounds) and Caleb Farrington (160), who haven’t lost to a KVAC opponent all year. Kevin Moore (33-3) has been exceptional at 132 and 126.
Drew Blanchet (138), Nick Hyde (132) and Chris Ingram (152) all placed at last year’s conference meet.
The Cougars’ depth has been tested lately. Travis Stuard (195) has been sidelined by an injured shoulder and may be back for regionals. Dustin Small (113) has been sick, and Joey Metcalf (220), who finished third at KVACs last year, has been barred from the team for disciplinary reason. That has forced 185-pound Raymond Clark to move up to 220.
Despite being shorthanded, O’Connor expects the Cougars to be in the hunt in an improving Class A field.
“I think it’s going to be a dogfight between us, Cony and Skowhegan,” O’Connor said. “Skowhegan’s dropped a few kids in weight class and they’re looking pretty tough right now. I think in A East they’re the team to beat.”
Other local wrestlers to watch at KVACs are: Shawn Bang, Sheldon Bang, and Conner Murphy (Edward Little); Keith Madore (Oak Hill); Cordell Brooks, Malik Geiger, Jake Hall and Bill Leahy (Oxford Hills)
Dirigo heads south Saturday with an eye toward capturing its first Mid-State League title since 2007. The Cougars will try to knock off defending champion Fryeburg Academy.
“Fryeburg’s tough. York is tough. And you never know what’s going to happen with Mountain Valley,” Gilbert said.
The Cougars (21-2) took this past weekend off after wrestling 13 dual meets in eight days.
“We had a great practice (Monday),” he said. “The kids are healthy. They had three days off, Friday, Saturday and Sunday, and they’re ready to hit it. After 13 matches, they were a little weary, but we got a lot out of it.”
The Cougars are led by defending MSL champion D.J. Webber (170) Caleb Hall (132), and Thomas Barnett (160), who had a crucial 11-6 decision to help Dirigo edge Fryeburg, 36-34, last week.
“Thomas has really stepped up his game. He beat (Fryeburg Academy standout) C.J. Bartlett the other night. He’s come along quite a bit,” Gilbert said.
Other locals to watch at Mid-States include: Brett Whittemore, Nelson Pepin and Zach White of Dirigo; Zach Stevens (Lisbon); Alex Turbide (Monmouth); Nicole Burgess, Nate Boucher, Zach Cross, Dakota Jacques and Ryan Glover (Mountain Valley).