The 22nd annual Friendship Series has chosen a team of Maine wrestlers to compete in Nebraska in June.
The cultural exchange between the two states, is the oldest in the nation.
The group will travel throughout the Cornhusker state and wrestle at four venues.
‘I honestly feel that this team is very strong,” Maine team leader Shawn Guest said. “There are some very good seniors on this team, who have displayed their talent on the mats of Maine for years. Even the youth on this team is talented. Many of these kids have been to elite wrestling camps, and many have traveled throughout the USA wrestling against very tough competition.”
There are 11 state champions on the team, including two-time Class B state champion Brendan Bradley of Mountain Valley and Alan Stein, a three-time state champ from Deering.
Other members of the squad include Ben Cox and Dustin Crocker (Mt. Ararat), Carlin Dubay (Caribou), Jake Longley, Jake Badger, Mike McCrillis and Jesse Rayworth (Noble), James Spencer (Belfast), Logan Russell (Morse), Jacob Berry (Camden Hills), Keith Sleeper (Gardiner), Doug Williams (Sanford) and Travis Spencer (Belfast).
Gardiner coach Matt Hanley will serve as the Friendship Series coach for Maine.
Skills and character – on and off the mat – weigh heavily in the selection process.
Guest is looking for leadership from the seniors, an idea that was born after talking to many coaches.
“I feel as if we have put together a team of not only quality wrestlers, but quality kids who we want to take to represent the state of Maine,” Guest said.
“The interest is still very much there to be a part of this team. Some kids could not participate because of work obligations and lack of funding. I think that every kid who I asked to go really wanted to go, and that they felt it was an honor.”
The Maine team will visit four Nebraska cities for competitions – Lincoln, Hebron, Aurora and Loup City – from June 19-26.
Co-founder Wally LaFountain and Dennis Walch were Maine’s team leaders for 21 years. Guest is determined to carry on this tradition, calling it a wonderful experience that kids want to be a part of.
The series lacks corporate sponsorship, but coaches, schools, and businesses in Maine have all pitched in to help the series to continue.
Numerous coaches have donated time, money and resources to help their kids, as well as other kids from other schools.