There has been preparation aplenty, and Friday night Maine’s best wrestlers took to the mat at the New England Interscholastic Wrestling Championship.

Seniors Jake Thornton of Mountain Valley and Jesse Hutchinson of Dirigo each held their own at the state qualifier, earning the right to participate on the big stage for the first time at the 50th annual New England championship, being held this weekend at the Providence Career and Technical Academy in Rhode Island. The top three in each weight class, regardless of division or conference, are representing Maine at the two-day event.

Thornton won a Class B state championship, and Hutchinson is a Class C state champion.

The Falcons’ wrestler trained at the River Valley Recreation Center with Eric Austin, is confident in the work he’s put in has been successful, and he plans to stick what works.

“I’m not sure how I’ll do,” said Thornton, who has gone to watch older brother Josh (a two-time state champion) and other Mountain Valley wrestlers at the meet in the past. “I hope to do well, but will wrestle (my) heart out and have fun with the rest of the whole experience.”

Hutchinson, who wrestles at 160 pounds, had a road to the championships racked with adversity. He was a state finalist last year and was sidelined with a shoulder injury during this season, but the Cougars’ standout is eager to test his skills. “Jesse stayed busy,” Dirigo coach Doug Gilbert said. “He is just looking to win a couple of matches.”

Hutchinson was taken to school by three-time Class A state champion Cody Hughes of Marshwood (third place at NE in 2013) at the state qualifying tournament last month.

Beginning in 1999, Maine automatically sent its state champions to the New England meet. This year, the Maine Principals’ Association changed the qualifying method, holding an all-classes tournament designed in an effort to enhance the level of competitive Maine wrestlers at meet.

Stewart Buzzell (145) of Monmouth, who won two matches at New Englands last year, returned to the meet, while Malik Geiger of Oxford Hills, who won the qualifier at 170, and Wil Gunter of Mt. Blue, each made their initial trip.

Other Maine medalists include reigning New England champion Peter DelGallo (120) of Gardiner, Colin Sevigney (138) of Wells, and Tyler Craig (120), of Skowhegan.

Skowhegan and Marshwood qualified the most wrestlers with six each, including three champions. Freshmen Cody Craig (106) of Skowhegan and Brad Beaulieu (113) of Marshwood also competed, as did Pierce Korr of Mt. Ararat.

Wrestlers competed in the first few rounds of competition Friday. Maine wrestlers fared well.

Kidayer Alijbyly of Portland made it through to the quarterfinals at 106 pounds, and Brad Beaulieu of Marshwood advanced to the quarters at 113. DelGallo of Gardiner found his way into the quarterfinals at 113 as well, while Tyler Craif reached the final eight at 120 pounds.

Thornton fell in the prelims at 126. Dominick Day of Biddeford and Kameron Doucette of Skowhegan both made it to the quarters at 138 pounds. Buzzell of Monmouth bowed out in the Round of 16 against Tyler Noury of Rhode Island at 145. Jackson Howarth and Joseph Grenier of Noble advanced at 152 pounds, and Cody Hughes of Marshwood made it through at 160. Hutchinson of Dirigo, also at 160, fell in the round of 16 to Jonathan Viruet of Massachusetts.

Richie Mills of New Hampshire ousted Maine’s top seed, Geiger, in the round of 16 at 170 pounds, while at 182, a pair of Maine wrestlers — Mikal Federici of Skowhegan and Brett Gerry — made it to the quarterfinals at 182.

Michael Curtis of Wells defended his top seed at 190, making it to the quarters, while Gunter of Mt. Blue lost a tough match to John Lachowicz of Massachusetts in the round of 16 at 285.

Matches continue Saturday in Providence.


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