NEWPORT — The best of the best in Maine high school wrestling turned out to put forth their best efforts Saturday at the New England Qualifier at Nokomis High School.
They did not disappoint.
Of the 14 matches in the final round, only two ended in pins, with the remaining 12 going to points decision. One match — quite possibly the match of the afternoon — went to overtime. That was the 138-pound final between Mount View’s Mark Ward and David Spinney of Marshwood.
Tied 0-0 throughout three periods, Ward finally managed to escape Spinney’s grasp and was awarded two points for a takedown to win the match and the title.
“My thought process was I didn’t want to get thrown by (Spinney),” Ward said. “That kid was massive compared to me. The idea was just to hold a close match until the end. Not to let him get any points or any extra points. I knew my cardio was going to be better than his, so that was the plan, to tire him out.”
Ward will be making his first appearance at the New England tournament.
Oxford Hills senior Dawson Stevens (160 pounds) lost in the final round 10-2 to Nokomis’ David Wilson, who was named the tournament’s Most Outstanding Wrestler.
The tournament provided a first for Skowhegan freshman Jake Craig, who defeated Bonny Eagle’s Colby Frost to win the 106-pound championship to advance to New Englands, carrying on a family legacy that his brothers Ty and Cody had also achieved in previous years.
“It feels great,” Craig said. “I know the New England competition is way big of a step up from just Maine alone, but I am ready to go down and I’ve prepared all season. I’m ready.”
The win didn’t come easy for Craig, who managed to take a 5-3 decision over Frost. It was a far different outcome than the 22-7 tech fall victory he had over Frost at the Class A championships a week earlier in Sanford.
Craig’s teammate Samson Sirois, a senior, will also get once last chance for a New England title to add to an already impressive resume. Sirois beat RJ Nelson of Foxcroft Academy 9-2 to win the 132-pound bracket, and now has 203 wins for his career, picking up his 200th victory at the Class A championships a week earlier.
“I know that RJ throws (opponents),” Sirois said. “I just sat back on my knees. When I got the leg up, I knew he was trying to roll, because that’s the type of wrestler he is. I sat down, and that forced takeout really gave me a confidence boost.”
The day also provided a classic rivalry match, as Sam Martel of Noble faced Liam Cooney of Marshwood. Martel went the distance to take a 10-6 decision.
It will be a trip of redemption to New Englands for Martel.
“Last year, I was just really tired and didn’t really wrestle well,” Martel said. “I didn’t really perform at all, it was just bad. This year, I really want to just go down there and wrestle well and make an impact.”
The two pins of the day both came in the first period. The first came at 152 pounds, where Quinton Richards of Nokomis defeated Zack Elowitch of Portland/South Portland. The second came at 285 pounds, when Erskine’s Jacob Peavey beat Cheverus’ Zeb Leavitt.
Camden Hill’s Noah Lang provided a dominant win at 145 pounds, taking a 17-2 decision over Noble’s Jonathan Grenier. Sanford’s Sam Anderson was able to defeat Dylan Strong of Marshwood 14-4 to take the 170-pound title.
Reaching New Englands has been the main goal for Anderson all season. It will be his third trip to the tournament.
“This year, I’m determined (that) I’m placing,” Anderson said. “The easiest way of getting there is making it to the (semifinals), automatically getting on the podium. I’ve just got to execute and have a motor like today. Just got to work hard, work hard with the people in the (wrestling) room, and just treat every go, every minute of wrestling on the mat like it will be the New England championships.”
Other champions included James Boyd (220), Cony’s Noah Dumas (113) and Nic Mills (195), Noble’s Joshua Cole (120), Winslow’s Ryan Fredette (182).
The top three wrestlers of each weight class at the qualifier move on to the New England tournament, which will be Friday and Saturday at the Providence Career and Technical Academy in Providence, Rhode Island.