SOUTH PARIS – A couple of days away from the last meet of his outstanding high school wrestling career, Oxford Hills senior Tom Moulton talked about why the sport has meant so much to him.

“It’s one-on-one. Your name doesn’t matter,” he said. “You just go out there – you’re a person and they’re a person, you get dressed the same way every morning – and you go out there and one-on-one it. The competition is great. What you have to put your body through and what you realize you can do … you never thought you’d be able to do some of the things you do. It’s about the pride, too, knowing you can go through all of this. It’s definitely the toughest sport I’ve ever done.”

Only Moulton has made it look pretty easy the last four years as a four-time regional champion in four different weight classes (145, 152, 160 and 189).

Looks can be deceiving, though. Moulton said making the 29-pound jump this year has made it perhaps the most difficult of his career.

“It’s more of an adjustment, I would say. But I got used to it at the beginning of the year,” he said. “Strategically and physically, it was a different level.”

It’s a level to which the 5-foot-8 Moulton is still adjusting. After finishing third in the KVACs, he rolled through the Eastern A regionals as the top seed, picking up his 150th career win before beating No. 2 seed Zach Chandler of Mt. Ararat, 8-2, in the final.

“He’s heard a lot of the short jokes from his teammates, but his upper-body strength is incredible for a kid his size,” Oxford Hills coach Mark Dolloff said.

Dolloff said Moulton could have easily wrestled at 160 or 171 this year, “but he puts his team ahead of any of his personal goals. I’m always impressed by how compassionate he is. He always thinks about his teammates first.”

“We have two senior captains two weight classes below me,” Moulton explained. “They’re good friends and I’m heavier than they are anyways, and I’ve wrestled heavier my whole career. I just wanted to do something good for the team.”

The payoff came last week, when the Vikings placed all 10 of their wrestlers. They’ll bring that contingent to Augusta on Saturday for the state championship meet.

Moulton, who didn’t place his freshman year, took fourth his sophomore year and third last year, will feel a sense of urgency on the Augusta Civic Center mat.

“The state meet is totally different,” he said. “It’s everything you’ve done all year put together. You definitely don’t take anyone lightly. They’re all tough.”

After Saturday, he’ll begin to focus on the next challenge in his life. On Sept. 4, he’s heading to Parris Island to begin basic training as a U.S. Marine.

“I’m going to find out, for the first term anyways, if it’s going to be a career option or not,” he said. “I want to get my schooling for free. The benefits are definitely great.”

He wouldn’t mind if one of the benefits is an opportunity to continue his wrestling career in the armed services. After all these years of one-on-one battles and personal growth, it’d be tough to give up the mat for good, he said.

“It’s kept me sane, really. Wrestling’s kept me alive,” he said. “I definitely don’t want to have this be it.”

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