DIXFIELD – There’s still some unfinished business left for the Dirigo wrestling team.

The Cougars, who defended their Class C regional crown last weekend, seek their first state championship in 11 years Saturday at the Augusta Civic Center.

Current head coach Doug Gilbert was an assistant coach on Dirigo’s 1996 state championship team.

The Cougars, who qualified 14 wrestlers for the state meet, remain confident that their depth will pay off.

“The goal all season was to win the triple crown,” Gilbert said. “That includes league, regional and states. No wrestling team in Dirigo has ever done that. The kids are not all that excited about winning the league (third MSL crown in 18 years) because they realized the job wasn’t done.”

Dirigo enters Saturday with regional champions Dylan Castonguay (103 pounds), Mike Jonaitis (135), Jon Smith (140), Josh Palmer (152), Kyle Meile (171), Kevin O’Leary (189) and Pat O’Leary (285).

Still, the Cougars remain on guard. Last year after winning regionals, they finished behind Lisbon in the state meet.

Dirigo entered the season with high expectations. Three top Class C teams fell in dual meets and the Cougars finished second (best ever) in the McDonald’s and Atlantic tournaments. Dirigo (25-1) avenged its lone loss this year against Mountain Valley late in the year.

There were several moves that helped put the team in position to succeed. Castonguay and Chad Oakes 112 solidified the lower weights with Brandon Jonaitis at 125. Brett Staples (119) battled back from mononucleosis.

“That definitely has been a big boost,” Gilbert said. “Freshmen in three of the first four weight classes with a combined record of 75-32. Dylan had never wrestled before, and Chad has placed in all four tournaments.”

Palmer, a state finalist, is 31-1 since bumping up to 152, and Matt Smith dropped to 145. Adam Gatchell (160) and Justin Bittrich (215) each earned spots.

A trio of defending state champions Derek Daley (35-5 at 130), Smith and Miele (38-2 at 171) should each score heavily, but Daley has struggled (rib injury) to finish in the late stages of his matches. Smith (37-0 at 140) avenged a preseason loss to Class A state champion Joe Eon of Massabesic. Miele, who holds a school record 110 wins, has been equally impressive. His only two losses came against Josh Eon, who placed fourth in New Englands.

Mike Jonaitis (31-8) is a two-time state finalist, and Pat O’Leary (30-7) won his 100th match with a pin in the regional finals. Dirigo achieved a rare feat having Miele, Daley, Mike Jonaitis, Smith and Pat O’Leary each surpassing the century mark in career wins this season.

“The states will be competitive,” Gilbert said. “But, this year, we hold our fate in our own hands. We don’t need someone to upset (multiple state champions) Jerimiah Barkac (Dexter) or Jerod Rideout (Foxcroft), or have the planets all line up. If we wrestle to our potential, we should be all right.”


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