WALES — The pre-meet huddle broke and Alex Miele greeted some of his supporters in the Oak Hill High School gymnasium bleachers with a sheepish grin.

“They’re good at everything I hate,” the Dirigo wrestler said.

Miele was referring to Team Nebraska, which used its unfamiliar style, superior conditioning and technique to dominate Wednesday night’s edition of the 25th Annual Maine/Nebraska Friendship Series.

Two days after taking 14 of 16 matches from some of southern Maine’s best in York, 15 of 16 Nebraska wrestlers had their hand raised against some of the top competitors from central Maine, including Dirigo, Oak Hill and Lisbon.

Oak Hill’s Dillon Tibbetts, who like most of the Mainers hadn’t wrestled since states in early February, kept the visitors from completing a shutout. He pinned Kiefer Coatney.

Periods were 90 seconds long rather than the traditional two minutes. The seven-day, four-meet series  continues Friday at Cony High School 

“Most of the kids coming off the mat, I had one common theme —  ‘You’ve now seen the level that can be achieved,'” said Oak Hill coach Shane Bouchard, whose school was hosting the series for the first time. “This is what you have to work for to be that good. You have to work harder to hit that level.”

Tibbetts worried whether he could reach the level he needed as he watched a dozen of his fellow Mainers fall, including five via pin, before taking the mat in the 165-pound bout. Then he pinned Coatney at 1:52. 

“I was sat out with him behind me. I just reached back and grabbed his head and kicked over the side,” said Tibbetts, a Class B state runner-up his junior year. “He was on his back and I put him in the grapevines.”

“He’s a squirmy kid, and he’ll come up with stuff like that,” Bouchard said. “It’s kind of how he wrestles, a little bit of seat-of-your-pants  kind of wrestling. He’s got great balance. The kid is really aware of where he is on the mat. He’s not the most technical kid in the world, but he’s a scrapper.”

Flying by the seat of one’s pants may have been the easiest way to adjust to the Nebraskans unconventional (to Maine) approach.

“It’s a whole different style of wrestling,” said Lisbon’s Marcus Bubar (145), who dropped his match to Nick Ridgeway, 4-0. “They’re more hard, tough wrestlers. They just never stop. It’s good to see how a different part of the country wrestles.”

“They do a lot more ankle shots. The don’t tie up as much,” Tibbetts said. “It’s pretty cool. We never really get to wrestle kids like this in the state of Maine. They’ve got a lot of talent. It’s just a great experience to have.”

The Nebraska contingent concurred, although they’ve yet to get a taste of a true Maine summer.

“It’s been fun coming to a different place,” said Mathew Greve of Waverly, NE, who won his 245-pound bout, 7-1, over Central’s Mark Heathcote. “I’ve never rode on an airplane or seen the ocean or surfed or anything, so it’s pretty sweet. It’s fun wrestling different people that you’ve never seen before.”

Bouchard said the series is a great opportunity to keep Maine kids wrestling through the summer, to expose them to different wrestling styles and showcase their wrestling talents outside the state. But the longest lasting benefit can be found in the title. Many of the wrestlers and coaches spent Tuesday striper fishing together.

“You see how the kids interact. I bet a couple of our kids probably have all their kids’ numbers right now. Some of them are already on their Facebooks,” he said. “They’re going to make lifelong friends even after wrestling’s long gone for them.”

Other local wrestlers who competed Wednesday were Forrest Cornell, Mike McNamara, Kyle Huston and Joe Doughty of Lisbon and Keith Madore, Craig Morrill, Clyde Tibbetts and Nick Wells of Oak Hill.


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