SOUTH PARIS – The objective was to spend time on the wrestling mat for some on-the-job training at the annual Viking duals Saturday at Oxford Hills.

The event was held to give athletes and teams the opportunity to see where they are for the upcoming season. The top teams in Classes A, B and C were invited to participate, and it proved to be extremely interesting. Although, it’s considered preseason, the competitive nature was front and center.

Live competition allowed wrestlers to evaluate their personal strengths and weaknesses.

“Experience. That’s the most important thing today,” Massabesic coach Bob Eon said. “We saw other teams that might not be seen during the season, and it let’s us know where we stand. Some guys are still adjusting their weights, and this shows them who is out there for competition.”

The teams were divided into pools of three teams. They wrestled each team in their respective pool and one dual meet. The top teams from each pool automatically moved on to the quarterfinals. The remaining teams were seeded, based on criteria, including records and fewest points allowed against in a pool.

The field featured Class B state champion Mountain Valley and Class C state champion Lisbon, and each opposing team was determined to beat them. The three second-place teams Massabesic, Camden Hills and Dirigo also had incentives.

Dirigo started well by rallying to upset Belfast 39-34, on a Matt Smith (152) pin in the final match. Also sticking the Lions was Kyle Meile (30 seconds at 171), Pat O’Leary (215), Jon Smith (140) and Mike Jonaitis (major decision at 135). Derek Daley lost 5-2 in overtime at 125. The Cougars were humbled by Massabesic 57-18.

“I had some things to work on, today,” O’Leary said. “My half (nelson) and I need to be able to tee off and finish moves.”

Mountain Valley and Lisbon are over a week behind in drills because several wrestlers played on the state championship football teams. The Falcons were missing starters Mike Gilbert (SATs), Zack Bradley (shoulder) and Kyle Dow (muscle testing). The veterans usually can see or feel exactly what needs to be worked into their repertoire.

“Mat time is important, right now,” Mountain Valley state champion Tyler Child said. “I needed to work on my takedowns because I’m weaker on my feet. But my strength is underneath because no one can hold me down.”

Mountain Valley lost to Foxcroft Academy 38-34 (on two forfeits) and then 37-35 to Kennebunk.

“You can’t get much closer than that,” Falcons coach Gary Dolloff said. “We did well, considering. It was good for kids like Tim Foss (103), first-year wrestler, (freshman) Mike Duka (140) and Brian Worthley.”

On the other end of the spectrum, an inexperienced wrestler or junior varsity wrestler might not recognize these problems. This is where coaches can properly evaluate each individual and see if the drills gone over in practice are being utilized. The body movement, offensive or defensive, may require the need to switch strategies.

“This is a great tournament and great venue,” said Lisbon coach Mark Stevens, who started eight freshmen. “It allows the younger kids to see what it is all about, and they can afford to wrestle methodically. First one takedown and then another. They do not need to hit a home run; today isn’t all about winning or losing.”

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