Oxford Hills’ Jeffrey Worster takes on Shawsheen’s Omar Eldaly during the semifinals at the New England Interscholastic Wrestling Championships in Providence, Rhode Island, on Saturday. Journal Tribune photo by Pat McDonald

PROVIDENCE, R.I. — The first time Bucksport junior Dave Gross made the trip to Providence to compete in the New England Interscholastic Wrestling Championships, he left with a serious knee injury and a long and difficult recovery process in front of him.

“Honestly, when I came in here I had a lot of built-up emotion … I was scared,” said Gross, who missed his entire sophomore season after getting hurt in the 2017 New England tournament. “I hadn’t wrestled here since that happened, and I think that’s why I (was) hesitant in those first two matches.”

Gross overcame those emotions — and erased some of his bad memories this weekend — and made it all the way to the New England finals before settling for a second-place finish in the 285-pound division.

Gross faced University of Virginia commit Mattuez Kudra in the heavyweight finals. The Bucksport senior fell behind early, but pushed Kudra for six minutes in a 5-4 loss.

“My mind set was just go out there, wrestle, have fun and do what I’ve done since I was four years old,” Gross said.

Gross will use the loss to a future NCAA Division I wrestler as fuel as he looks ahead to his senior campaign.

“He’s legit, he’s real and I only lost to him by one point. It just gives me more motivation coming through next year,” said Gross, who wasn’t overlooking what he accomplished this year. “I mean I’m not complaining coming off an ACL surgery and placing second in New Englands.”

The New England finalist will head into the 2019-20 season with one thing on his mind — winning.

Shawsheen’s Omar Eldaly lifts Oxford Hills’ Jeffrey Worster during the semifinals at the New England Interscholastic Wrestling Championships in Providence, Rhode Island, on Saturday. Journal Tribune photo by Pat McDonald

“Win everything and take nothing less,” Gross said.

Gross was one of seven Maine wrestlers to medal at the 2019 New England meet. Camden Hills’ Noah Lang (145 pounds) and Scarborough’s Addison Boisvert (285) both placed fourth; Portland/South Portland’s Zack Elowitch (160) and Oxford Hills’ Jeff Worster (220) finished fifth and Massabesic teammates Noah Hernandez (152) and Matt Pooler (170) came home with sixth-place medals.

Worster fell to eventual champion Omar Eldaly from Shawsheen in the semifinals and then dropped a 5-2 decision in the consolation semifinals.

In the fifth-place match, Worster made sure he ended his junior campaign with a win as he pinned Dedham’s DJ Pekacar in just 1:02.

“It’s a great feeling. I’ve had a decent season. I kind of fell off at the end, so it was good to come down here and prove myself a little bit,” Worster said.

After starting the second day of New Englands with a pin, Lang avenged a loss from last week’s New England qualifier when he turned the tables on Mt. View’s Mark Ward and picked up a 7-4 decision to keep his medal hopes alive.

Lang earned a fall over Timberlane’s Antonio Pallaria in the “blood round” to secure himself a spot on the podium. The Camden Hills senior pinned his way into the third-place match before falling by a 10-5 count to Cumberland’s Aidan Faria.

Boisvert, who was pinned by Kudra in the semifinals, bounced back with a 50-second fall of his own to earn a trip to the third-place bout.

In the consolation finals, Boisvert dropped a 9-2 decision to Xaverian’s Grant Laws and finished fourth.

Elowitch came into the season looking to accomplish two major goals — and the senior finished the job on Saturday.

“My goal was to win states and then place at New Englands and I was able to do both, so I’m happy with my year,” Elowitch said.

After picking up a fall in the quarterfinals, Elowitch dropped his semifinal bout 5-1 to eventual New England champion Cesar Alvan of Springfield Central.

Elowitch also felll in the consolation semifinals — which put him in the fifth-place match — but the 2019 Class A state champ wasn’t going to end his career with a third straight loss.

The Portland standout would not only finish his wrestling career off with a win, he put the exclamation on it with a pin of Algonquin’s Andrew Goddard in 5:49.

“I just didn’t want to end my career on a loss, so it was nice to go out there and get a win,” said Elowitch, who was happy to bring home a medal for his state. “It’s great. Obviously, Maine didn’t do as well as we would have hoped but it was nice to be able to represent Maine well and get on the podium.”

Hernandez reeled off three straight wins to start off Saturday before falling in the consolation finals. In the fifth-place match, the Massabesic junior dropped a 6-3 decision to Bedford’s Chase Anestis.

Pooler also earned three straight wins to secure a medal before dropping the consolation semifinals to Concord’s Isaac Gladey by an 8-2 count.

In the fifth-place match, Pooler dropped a 9-1 major decision to Springfield Central’s Dohnivin Harvey.

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