Maine wrestlers will be tested physically and mentally at the 43rd annual New England interscholastic championships at Hillhouse High School in New Haven, Conn., on Friday and Saturday.

The two-day event will feature 42 Maine wrestlers competing against the best in New England.

Dirigo has four state champions. led by Jon Smith (39-0 at 140) and senior Kyle Miele (39-2 at 171), who are both returning to New Englands. Smith has close to 100 takedowns, while Miele holds the school record for career wins.

“I went down as a freshman with my Dad to watch,” Smith said. “Last year I went down and wrestled three matches. I pinned my first kid in under a minute and then wrestled the Massachusetts first seed John Archambault (eventual finalist) and lost 8-0.

“It is a really good experience and I cannot wait for this. I am hoping to win a couple, maybe even place. Practicing with Ben (Matthews of Mountain Valley) is really helpful. I get to face the strength that I will be facing down.”

Also representing Dirigo are brothers Kevin and Pat O’Leary at 189 and 285, respectively.

“The best part of bringing underclassmen to the New England is that they get to see what it’s like,” Dirigo coach Doug Gilbert said. “I usually don’t have high expectations for first timers. Jon and Kyle know what it’s like now. They’re working pretty hard, and hopefully they will each win a match or two and, if things go right, perhaps one of them will even place.”

Mountain Valley will bring brothers Ernie (32-6 at 130) and Ben Matthews (33-7 at 145), and Kyle Dow (34-2 at 285). Oxford Hills will be represented by Brad Smith at 160, while Lisbon state champions Tyler Clark (38-1 at 125), Ryan Giusto (35-7 at 135) and Mark Stambach (35-3 at 215) will also compete.

Clark and three-time state champion Jarrod Rideout of Foxcroft spent last week training at the Olympic training center in Colorado.

Last year, Cark lost by one point in the quarterfinals to eventual New England champion Travis St. Hilaire from Colchester, Vt.

“Tyler is returning at the same weight class, so he is comfortable where he is at,” said Lisbon coach Mark Stevens.

Sam Webber, unbeaten after being a state finalist the two previous years is the top seed from Miane at 125.

Maine kids were seeded 1-2-3 in each weight class, based on criteria, such as head-to-head and additional information discussed at a meeting. The Mainers automatically secured berths in the championships by winning their respective Classes A, B and C state meets last month.

“Jon Smith and Kyle Dow are both seeded first,” Gilbert said. “The best way for the kids to remain sharp is by spending time on the mat and be in a competitive frame of mind. And I think we have a pretty good Maine group.”

Foxcroft finished fifth last year. It was the highest Maine team since Rumford placed fourth in the 1977.

Maine wrestlers may be at a competitive disadvantage, having not competed since the state championships Feb. 10. The Massachusetts and New Hampshire tournaments were held last Saturday.

Among the Maine athletes considered to have the skills necessary to earn medals, include four-time state champion Jeremiah Barkac (112) of Dexter, who was third last year, and Josh Eon of Massabesic, who was fourth at 171.

Barkac hasn’t allowed a takedown this season and holds the state record for career wins with 195.

Barkac has been working out with the University of New Hampshire.


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