Maine wrestlers get the opportunity to compete at the next level at the 42nd annual New England interscholastic wrestling championships at Hillhouse High School in New Haven, Conn., on Friday and Saturday.

The two-day event will feature 42 individual wrestlers from the state of Maine and also qualifiers from the other five New England states.

“The kids showed up at junior high school practices the week after states,” Dirigo coach Doug Gilbert said. “They went to Lisbon on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday. Their weights are good, so they’re still in pretty good shape. No lofty expectations this year. Hope they win matches and just take the experience. (Dirigo) haven’t been to the New England for four years, so the kids don’t have another athlete to tell them what to expect.”

Brendon Bradley (215) of Mountain Valley is making a return trip and hopes the previous experience will be an asset. The two-time state champion clinched the team crown for the Falcons at the Class B state meet.

Earning initial trips are Ben Shutt (130) of Morse, Dustin Crocker (36-3 at 152) of Mt. Ararat, Mountain Valley junior Tyler Child (189) and Tyler Robinson (32-0 at 215) of Cony.

Dirigo will be represented by a trio of champions – sophomores Derek Daley (36-1 at 119) Jon Smith (37-1 at 135) and junior Kyle Meile at 171. Smith lone loss was 9-5 to unbeaten Jon Hussey of Marshwood. Meile had trailed 19-4 in the state meet, but executed a reversal and stuck his opponent.

The Mainers automatically secured berths by winning their respective weight classes at the Classes A, B and C state meets last month.

There will be preliminary (non-scoring) matches and a 22-man championship bracket.

Maine kids were seeded 1-2-3 in each weight class, based on criteria and additional information discussed at a meeting. Several teams assembled at Lisbon for practices against different competition. The varying styles of each wrestler should help prepare each one for the physical and mental rigors.

Maine wrestlers haven’t faced live competition since their respective state meets. The Massachusetts state championship, meanwhile, was last Saturday.

“The best way for the kids to remain sharp is by spending time on the mat,” Lisbon coach Mark Stevens said. “It has been a few weeks since our state meets and Massachusetts just held theirs. So, it stands to reason that they’ll be in a competitive frame of mind.”

Lisbon state champions include Jeff Cossar (31-9 at 103), Tyler Clark (39-3 at 125) Andrew Dubois (20-10 at 152) and Nic Adams (19-11 at 160).

Several Maine athletes are contenders to earn medals this weekend. They include an experienced trio of unbeaten wrestlers – Jeremiah Barkac (112) of Dexter and Jon Hussey each placed fifth and Josh Pelletier (38-1 at 275) of Foxcroft placed sixth in the 2005 NE tourney.

One notable absence is David Smith (275) of Mountain Valley, who suffered a career-ending knee injury. The two-time state champion, perhaps the best in his weight class from Maine, placed sixth in the previous two New England championships.

Several other team’ also have multiple representatives. Belfast has five wrestlers, led by three-time state champion Tony Gilmore (32-3 at 130).

Maine continues to make in-roads, Dekota Cotten (152-pounds) of Noble and Chris Remsen (145) Camden Hills each won New England championships in 2004.

The last Maine team to crack the top-10 was Marshwood in 1999, when Daric Buttrick (160) was a finalist.

Noble, which competes in out-of-state tournaments, will have Brian Anderson (103), Jake Longley (112), Steven Chenard (145) and Jessie Rayworth (189). Camden Hills has three entrants, including Joe McGowen (41-3 at 125).

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