LISBON — Respect and control.

As Lisbon coach Mark Stevens sees it, wrestling is about respect and control. Throw in character and a little good timing and Stevens sees the amalgamation of Forrest Cornell, who has a chance to accomplish two feats Saturday that no one else in Lisbon’s storied wrestling history has ever done.

At the state high school wrestling championships (9 a.m., Augusta Civic Center), Cornell and fellow seniors Mike McNamara, Matt Nicholson and Josh Pomerleau will try to become the first class to win the state title all four years of their high school career at Lisbon.

Cornell, meanwhile, will attempt to match that as an individual and become the first Greyhound to win four state championships. He is the fifth three-time champion, but Lisbon has never had a wrestler go four-for-four.

“It would mean so much because I’ve been doing it for eight years and I never thought I would be a four-time state champ,” he said. “And (to be) Lisbon’s first… that’s unbelievable.”

Cornell has dominated at the state’s biggest meet, winning seven of his eight matches by pin (the other was an 8-4 decision).

“Iceman”

Known as “Iceman” by his teammates, Cornell’s face and body language don’t give away much on the mat, even when his hand is raised or on the rare occasion his opponent’s is.

“If he loses a tough match, he has the same expression on his face as if he just won a state championship,” Stevens said.

Maybe that’s because Cornell is so accustomed to the highs and lows of the sport.

Like many other Lisbon wrestlers, he followed in the footsteps of his brothers, Justin, a two-time individual champion, and Dan, a member of the 2006 state championship team.

“When I was in third grade, I was watching them wrestle. Ever since then, I’ve been a part of wrestling,” Cornell said.

Cornell earned the 103-pound state championship his freshman year via the aforementioned decision, but still kept a low profile.

“He was so quiet, I didn’t really get to know him until New Englands,” he said.

Cornell’s second match at New Englands was against Nick Flannery, a No. 1 seed out of Massachusetts who would later go on to become a New England champion. Hoping to keep the freshman from a quick fall, Stevens told Cornell to just try to score a point on his more experienced foe.

“He goes out there and sticks him in the first period. You could hear a pin drop in that gym,” Stevens said. “He’s gained everybody’s respect.”

That includes Pomerleau, his most frequent practice partner. Though not close friends outside of wrestling, Cornell and Pomerleau say pushing each other hard in practice has been critical to their success in competition.

“I think he’s helped me the most,” Cornell said. “He’s probably the hardest worker.”

“What makes him tough is he knows a lot of moves and he’s a really smart person, about everything,” said Pomerleau, a senior who won the state crown at 119 last year and is the top seed at 125 on Saturday. “He has really good hips, balance, mat awareness. Any position, he knows how to get out of it or get into it.”

Multi-faceted

It wasn’t always that way for Cornell.

“I used to be a mat wrestler,” he said. “Over the years, I’ve been developing neutral position and takedowns, especially this year.”

Opponents now have a hard time guessing what takedown he’ll use when he’s on his feet.

“Forrest has several tools on his feet,” he added. “A lot of kids are one-dimensional. They’ve got the single leg or they’ve got the great double. Forrest has a fireman’s carry. He’s got a single leg. He’s got a lateral throw. He’s got low singles, high singles. He’s multi-faceted on his feet.”

Cornell has worked hard to diversify his repertoire, but also to make sure no part of his game has suffered as a result. A bit of advice that Stevens gave him early in his career has resonated to this day.

“He said something once — ‘Don’t fear the man who knows 1,000 moves practiced once. Fear the one who knows one move practiced a thousand times,'” said Cornell, who has 130 career victories.

“We keep it simple. Hard work,” he added. “Four years, two hours a day of hard practice, three months a year.”

With back-to-back 112 championships the last two years, Cornell entered his senior year ready to make the move up to 119 pounds and give the run at his fourth title his all.

But he fell ill early in the season and got off to a slow start. December was a frustrating month, but Cornell and his coach didn’t lose sight of the big picture.

“Thank God it happened then, because if it happened in January or February, that could have been it,” Stevens said.

Cornell said it took three weeks to get his strength and conditioning back to where it should have been. But he closed the gap on his competition quickly and ended up winning the Mid-State League championship for one of the few firsts left in his career.

“I’d never won it before. I’d always gotten second. I thought it was awesome,” he said.

Another milestone awaits at the Augusta Civic Center. A high honors student, he said he doesn’t plan on wrestling in college, so with the exception of the All-Star and New England tournaments, his wrestling legacy will be complete Saturday.

Regardless of how many titles it includes, it will have been built on respect and control, character and good timing. And four years of work.

“It’s been hard, but well worth it,” Cornell said.


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