Darin Buono of Mountain Valley High School is the 2018-19 All-Region Wrestler of the Year. Sun Journal photo by Daryn Slover

It was like Mountain Valley senior Darin Buono was reliving a nightmare.

Buono’s junior wrestling season came to an abrupt end last year at the state championship meet, when, one week after winning the Class B South 195-pound championship, he was disqualified due to a rash on his arm.

The rash reappeared last January before a meet at Cheverus High School. Initially disqualified, then requalified, Buono went on to win the 195-pound class. Nevertheless, the anxiety of his senior season ending like his junior campaign lingered in the back of his mind.

“Looking forward, it kind of felt like I might get disqualified and it kind of set me back mentally,” Buono said.

“The year before we’d done everything perfect,” Mountain Valley coach Gary Dolloff said. “(We) went to the doctor, got a note that everything was OK’d, and then they didn’t accept the note (at the state meet). We told them we’d followed the procedure and we don’t know what else we can do.”

Fortunately, the rash cleared up quickly after treatment, and Buono went on to not only climb up the storied program’s all-time win list but win his first state title and the New England qualifier at 195 pounds. For his accomplishments, Buono is the Sun Journal All-Region Wrestler of the Year.

Buono wrestled through the season knowing from his experiences the previous year that nothing was guaranteed. But he was going to make sure to not stand in his own way.

“Going from last year to this year,  I think my mindset changed from walking around the mat sometimes thinking, ‘Oh, this guy’s big. I might lose to him,’ to ‘I don’t care who I’m wrestling. I’m going to try my best and I’m going to try to beat him.’ I was definitely a lot more confident,” he said.

“He had a couple of bumps during the season but he stuck with it,” Dolloff said. “He’s just one of those kids that everyone wants on their team.”

Buono’s skin never became an issue during the postseason, but he still had a few obstacles. The most prevalent was Wells wrestler Morgan Welch-Thompson, who had beaten him twice during the regular season and in the Mid-State League final. Buono, who had beaten Welch-Thompson in a preseason match, got the last laugh, winning their last match, the B South regional final, 3-1.

“Probably his weakest point was on the top, but on the bottom, I don’t think anyone held him down all year. He’s very strong,” Dolloff said. “When he was on top, he had a couple of pinning combinations that were really good. It was basically get ahead in the first period, keep ahead in the second and then, he had really good conditioning, so he kind of owned the third period.”

“On his feet, he was very, very aggressive,” Dolloff said. “At 195, you don’t get a ton of shots, but he would shoot all the time, take kids down, let them up, take them back down. You don’t see that much in the 195-pound division, so I think that had a lot to do with how well he did.”

In the state final, Buono faced Foxcroft Academy’s Lucas Ames, whose quickness kept Buono off-balance through two scoreless periods.

“He was really, really fast. I’m quick for my size, but this kid was unbelievably fast,” Buono said. “I was stronger than him, but he was just so quick, I threw him and then he got up so fast, and then he tossed me and  I rolled through.”

Buono chose bottom to start the third, rolled Ames and pinned him 57 seconds into the third period for his first state title.

“At the end of it, once I’d won, it was awesome to see the look on my coaches’ face and all of the excitement,” Buono said.

There were more smiles and excitement at the New England qualifier, where Buono not only emerged as the 195-pound champion but collected his 150th career victory in the final.

Darin Buono of Mountain Valley High School is the 2018-19 All-Region Wrestler of the Year. Sun Journal photo by Daryn Slover

“The qualifier was a lot different compared to states. A lot more competition. Obviously, everyone at the qualifier placed at states, so everyone there is at least decent,” he said. “Every match I beat them by a few points or pinned them in the third (period) with a few seconds left.”

After going 1-2 at New Englands, he finished his season with a 51-5 record and a career 151-27 mark with 98 pins. His win total ranks him third all-time at Mountain Valley, behind Caleb Austin and Ethan Boucher.

“He was totally surprised about that. I like to have the surprise so I tell the kids they’re not close,” he said. “He’s just a really good kid, a really good captain. He doesn’t say a ton, but when he does the kids listen.”

Buono plans to participate in the Maine-Nebraska Friendship Series over the summer, then enroll at Central Maine Community College to study automotive engineering.