LEWISTON – Mike Jalbert would like nothing more than to compete in the state championships.

Granted, that’s the goal of just about every high school athlete, but after taking up wrestling for the first time last year, Jalbert wants to cap his experience in the ultimate fashion.

So the Lewiston wrestler – Lewiston’s first wrestler – has dedicated the time between now and the regionals next weekend to make that goal materialize.

“That would be a little bit of a milestone for Lewiston, not having a wrestling team, and a milestone for myself as a second-year wrestler,” said Jalbert. “It would be a good accomplishment. I would feel great if I could do that and show the hard work has paid off.”

The states would be icing on the cake for Jalbert, who pursued the improbable and made something of his desire to try wrestling. He had an interest with little expectation of ever having a chance to compete in the sport, but he found the opportunity, challenged and dedicated himself and made it happen.

“It shows that if you want to go do something, do it,” he said. “If you know you can do it, do it. Do it anyway you can and get the help. There’s always someone there that will support you and help you do it.”

Jalbert had never wrestled, other than a few friendly scuffles with friends and family. He’d been active in cross country and both indoor and outdoor track, but wrestling always interested him.

The only hitch was that Lewiston has never had a wrestling team. When someone suggested that he could wrestle as an independent, he wasn’t aware he could do that.

He worked out an opportunity to wrestle with Lisbon last year. The Greyhounds compete in Class C meets, but Jalbert had to compete in the Class A regionals due to Lewiston’s enrollment.

It was a tough undertaking for Jalbert, who had to push himself like never before. There were numerous times he wondered if he’d made a mistake.

“The workouts were getting to me,” Jalberg said. “They had late night practices. The workouts were killing me. I’d never had such body ache, but I’m the kind of person that wants to stick it out. I doubted myself many times and wondered what I was doing.”

Halfway through the season, he won his first match. His second win came a few weeks later.

“It was the first match where I truly felt brave enough to take a shot,” he said. “I was able to take him down with a double leg and that helped me get the pin.”

During last year’s regionals, Jalbert was offered the opportunity to work out with Oxford Hills. Jalbert jumped at the chance, and found another Lewiston wrestler, Josh Russell, interested in joining him. Jalbert wrestles in the 160-pound weight class, while Russell, a freshman, competes in the 119 class.

He travels to South Paris each afternoon for practice and for meets on the weekends. It has given him an environment that has helped his wrestling blossom. Last year, he was simply getting his feet wet in a new sport. Now he’s taking it to another level.

“I see a lot more dedication to the practices and trying to improve,” said Jalbert, who will attend Sacred Heart University next year and compete in track, and may try to continue wrestling. “I know I listen more and listen to the coach more when I’m wrestling. I look for what I did wrong, and I work on it, and try to improve it.”

He won his first match of the season. After just two wins last year in about a dozen matches, he’s 8-9 this year.

“To know I improved enough to win my first match was pretty exciting,” he said. “That meant something to me. I saw the hard work and my parents saw it. It motivated me that I could do it.”

He’s already made great strides, but he’s not through yet. With the regionals next weekend and the states to follow, Jalbert isn’t about to let up.

“I’m quicker, and I’m more in shape for it. I’m pushing myself harder so I can improve,” Jalbert said. “I truly want to do better and make something for Lewiston.”

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