RUMFORD — When Eddie DeRoche and Caleb Austin stepped on the wrestling mat, they each knew how imperative it was stick with a strategy — and their mindset paid off.

The competitive nature was clearly evident when the second leg of the 31th annual Maine/Nebraska Friendship Series was completed before a huge crowd at Puiia Gymnasium on late Monday night. The event had been originally planned for Chet Bulger Field in the Hosmer Complex,but inclement weather prompted a quick change of venue.

There was plenty of peaks and valleys endured by the competitors because numerous matches required some late heroics. Several wrestlers from Mountain Valley, Dirigo, Oak Hill and Oxford Hills saw the Nebraska team eventually pull away for a 59-46 win.

”I told the kids to be prepared and not take anything for granted because Nebraska was here to win,” said site director Eric Austin, regarding Nebraska’s five-meet losing streak against Maine.’

It was DeRoche who electrified the huge crowd by executing a lateral drop and pinning combinations in the second period to build a lead. The Mountain Valley product stuck Alex Dumas with 3.6 seconds left in the match.

”It felt good out there and I was just looking for an opening,” said DeRoche, who recently had a Mixed Martial Arts fight. ”My physical conditioning paid off because I had been training for my fight. I took advantage of the situation.”


Dirigo wrestlers Griffyn Smith and Bryce Whittemore each came up short 10-7 and 3-1 decisions. Whittemore had escaped to tie the score, but Damian Green slid behind for a takedown at the buzzer.

Austin immediately followed with a dominating performance with a 17-2 technical fall against Jeff Wheelock. The Falcon standout opened by scoring 10 unanswered points.

”I didn’t go out (aggressively), but I did look for what was open,” said Austin, who had won the Maine Brazilian jiu-jitsu (135-pound) championship a day earlier. ”Once I hit that pancake I knew I had it.”

Danny Buteau of Oak Hill executed a takedown and reversal for a 4-1 win and Hunter White of Dirigo was smooth in a 17-2 TF.

”I needed to keep constant pressure on (Luke Peterson),” Buteau said.

Nolan DeGoot of Dirigo also had a flare for the dramatic by executing a reversal with four seconds left for a 6-4 decision.


”I knew I had to move. My conditioning and training meant every thing,” said DeGroot, who has been wrestling nationally with the Maine Trappers. ”My coaching staff kept telling me, ‘switch hips,’ so I did and popped out the other side.”

Dawson Stevens of Oxford Hills was ahead 11-6, but got caught with head on side and was stuck. Mountain Valley’s Ethan Boucher and Lucus MacDonald also lost.

Nate White was trailing by one point late in the match but reached back and secured a head-and-arm pin at the buzzer.

”It was a good match. In the third period I was trying for an escape to force overtime,” White said.

”We have been really treated well,” Nebraska co-coach Darren Granfield said,

The Nebraska group experienced hiking up Tumbledown Mountain;. The hilly terrain is the exact opposite of the flat Cornhusker state.

‘We matched up better here compared to Marshwood (loss). We had some close matches go our way and some that didn’t. But Maine wrestlers are tough and we had our hands full,” Grandfield added.

During pre-ceremonies, Maine Amateur Wrestling Alliance Hall Of Famers were introduced: Wally LaFountin, Hal Watson, Doug Gilbert, Steve DeFillip, Steve Nokes, Larry Gill and Bob McPhee. The latter five were teammates on the 1974 Rumford Class A state championship team.

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