Cheverus High’s wrestling program plans to host the newly named Zeb Leavitt Memorial Invitational on Saturday.

Leavitt, the 2017 Class A heavyweight state champion, died in a car accident on Dec. 13, 2020, at the age of 20.

Zeb Leavitt

A 2018 Cheverus graduate, Leavitt starred on the football field and the wrestling mat. He helped the East team win the 2018 Shrine Lobster Bowl and was named the school’s Male Athlete of the Year. The Gorham resident’s contributions to the Cheverus community were vast. He was a multi-instrumentalist who played in the Cheverus Jazz Band. In his senior year, he was awarded the Saint Francis Xavier Campus Ministry Award and helped lead the school’s Kairos Retreat.

Also an avid outdoorsman, Leavitt had just finished his third semester studying theology at St. Joseph’s College when he died.

Leavitt joined the Cheverus wrestling team as a freshman and was instrumental in helping Coach Jason Barriault build the program.

“Zeb’s character, compassion, and work ethic are the foundation that our team culture is built on,” Barriault wrote in an email. “He grew this program through increasing participation and setting our team goals to be as important as his individual goals of winning state titles. He is the main reason that we went from a few kids wrestling attached to Deering to a competitive program year in and year out. I think of Zeb every time a Cheverus athlete takes the mat and I want him to stay a part of Cheverus Wrestling in the years to come through this tournament.”

Cheverus first hosted an invitational tournament in 2019 and again in 2020. Wrestling did not take place in Maine in 2020-21 because of COVID. The virus is still having a significant effect on the sport. No spectators will be allowed for the Leavitt Invitational, which begins at 9:30 a.m. And Biddeford, Medomak Valley and Oceanside won’t be attending as originally planned. As of Tuesday night, eight teams will wrestle, including traditional powers Noble, Cony, Mountain Valley and Lisbon/Oak Hill. The co-operative Windham/Westbrook/Gray-New Gloucester team, along with Monmouth Academy and Dirigo are also expected.

This season, Cheverus has 20 wrestlers on its roster, including eight freshmen. Seniors Sebastian Merrill and Marshall Fowler are the leaders. Both placed in the Class A meet as sophomores. Fowler recently won the 160-pound division at the Noble Invitational. Leavitt was Cheverus’ last individual state champion.

MASSABESIC’S YOUNG TEAM made a big statement a few days after Christmas when it finished second at the Noble Invitational, losing out on the title on tiebreaking criteria to Mattanawcook Academy after both teams scored 152 points.

“Considering we weren’t even figured to be in the top six or seven in the state,” it was a strong effort for the Mustangs, said veteran coach Rick DeRosier.

Unfortunately some of that momentum has been slowed by COVID cancellations. Massabesic lost a home date with Portland/South Portland and Scarborough/Gorham. Then, like many of the top teams in Maine, the Mustangs didn’t get to challenge themselves at the highly competitive Spartan Wrestling Annual Tournament. That tourney, which typically includes some top teams from around New England and is considered the deepest tourney in Maine, was also canceled last Saturday.

“That’s good wrestling, from out of state kids or kids we don’t normally see,” DeRosier said. “That impacts a lot. … Bringing everything to a higher level.”

Senior Sean Wakefield, the Noble Invitational champion at 195 pounds, is setting the tone in practice. Among the young wrestlers, Isaac Boulard, the 106-pound champ at the Noble Invitational, is proving to be a formidable competitor.

DeRosier, 60, intends to retire after this season. A 1981 graduate of Massabesic, he joined Bobby Eon’s staff in the early 2000s, becoming the head coach a few years later.

“I’ve (coached) even before that,” DeRosier explained. “I coached at the youth level 25, 30 years ago and coached the youth and middle school as head coach or assistant working my way up with my own kids. My daughter and my son have been gone for at least 10 years.”

NORMALLY BY mid-January, the top teams and wrestlers have been clearly identified. DeRosier said that’s far from the case this season.

“We’re not wrestling, so we can’t see what other wrestlers are wrestling, plus, with the virus, I think it’s going to come down to who’s healthiest at the end of the season,” he said.

SITES ARE STILL undetermined for the postseason tournaments. Mike Bisson, assistant executive director of the Maine Principals’ Association, said Wednesday the process is ongoing. The regional tournaments (four sites) are scheduled for Feb. 12, with the Class A and B state meets (two sites) set for Feb. 19. The MPA also is scheduled to hold a State Dual Meet Championship on Feb. 22; the girls’ individual tournament on Feb. 23, and the New England Qualifier on Feb. 25.


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