AUGUSTA — A match of strength vs. leverage helped decide the Mt. Blue wrestling team’s fate at the annual Cony Duals on Friday afternoon. Luckily for the Cougars, leverage won.

Mt. Blue’s Jason Bagley managed to fend off the brute strength of Maliki Sparks of Oxford Hills for an 8-2 win in a 190-pound match that eventually gave the Cougars a 43-30 victory over the Vikings for the team championship.

“It was a scramble,” said Bagley, a junior. “It really could have gone either way. I just caught (Sparks) on a couple of mistakes that could flip the next time, it could go either way.”

The win continues a strong start for the Cougars, who finished third at the Westlake Invitational at Morse High School in Bath on Dec. 2. Mt. Blue finished fourth at the Franklin Savings Bank Classic at Mountain Valley High School in Rumford on Dec. 16.

“We really wanted to be here this year and show that we weren’t just talking, we can really back it up,” said Mt. Blue head coach Mike Hansen. “Our team showed up. There were no shortcomings, there was no negativity. We showed up, we put our money where our mouth is.”

Morse was third followed by Windham/Gray-New Gloucester in fourth. Cony, Gardiner, Madison, Cheverus and Skowhegan were also among the teams that participated.

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Sparks, a sophomore, showed his strength early, locking up with Bagley and moving him around the mat. But eventually, Bagley was able to use his body positioning and Sparks’ momentum for reversals and the ability to stay on top.

“Whatever he threw at me, I just tried to counter it,” said Bagley. “We’ve been facing each other over the years, so I was just seeing what he was going to throw at me, and that was the plan.”

The dual with Oxford Hills was the only threat to the Cougars throughout the day. Mt. Blue beat Morse 54-24 to set up the championship dual with the Vikings. Mt. Blue also cruised through its pool, which included a 66-18 victory over Madison.

Among Mt. Blue’s standouts was senior Noah Krzysztofiak, who won each of his matches, including pins over Patrick Mead of Morse (1:28) and Jordan Terry (1:06) of Oxford Hills in the championship round.

“The coaching and team spirit (was key during the tournament),” Krzysztofiak said. “We all held each other accountable for trying to win every single match we had.”

Oxford Hills beat Morse 45-33 to move on to the championship round. Tied 33-33, the Vikings got a pinfall win by Chris Levesque over Payson Bowling in a 215 match. Kaelin Currier won by forfeit at 285 for Oxford Hills to seal the win.

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“We wrestled hard,” Oxford Hills head coach Tony Stevens said. “We’re a young team this year, but all those kids came through.”

Morse edged Cony 42-41. Jason Rowan had an impressive 7-6 victory over Kendall Kovales in a 138 match in the Shipbuilders’ loss to Oxford Hills.

Gardiner’s Evan Ahearn, top, competes against Mt. Ararat’s AJ Ward during the 138-pound match at the Cony Duals meet Friday in Augusta. Anna Chadwick/Morning Sentinel

“We did well,” Morse head coach Tom Hall said. “We got a couple big wins from some of our younger guys. We always like to beat Cony, so that was a huge dual for us… Our seniors and our core (wrestlers) stepped up like they always do. I was happy with the way they performed today.”

Friday marked the 23rd year of the Cony Duals — which did not take place in 2021 due to the Coronavirus pandemic — with a format that guarantees each participating wrestler up to five matches during the seven-hour tournament.

“I love this tournament, I love the format and I think it comes at the perfect time of year,” Cony head coach Shawn Totman said. “I talk to other coaches and they feel the exact same way. I think it was a big success. It was nice to have a new team, Cheverus, here. All in all, I think it was a very good day, and it couldn’t have gone more smooth. It was good.”

As a dual meet tournament, it also provides coaches the opportunity to use strategy in weight class matchups. In the Mt. Blue-Oxford Hills match, the coin flip to determine which team reports first to the scorer’s table provided an opportunity for strategy.

“We love duals, it’s my favorite thing to do,” Hansen said. “I’d rather go to duals every weekend and play this little chess match with the coaches. Oxford Hills made a real good move at 144 (pounds). They had an option to send a wrestler after us. We had to send our wrestler first, we had to make a decision to send in Dillon (Grey), because we thought they were going to throw a forfeit at us. We were going to send a (junior varsity) wrestler to collect the points. But they had a wrestler warming up, so he was ready to go, so I couldn’t risk sending out a guy to give them some points. It’s a 12-point swing.

“This dual came down to a coin flip, and we lost it,” Hansen continued. “We wanted evens. (Oxford Hills) won the flip and they picked evens. If we had evens, it wouldn’t have been that close. We would have had the choice at 144. They would have had to report first, and then we could have combated it… When they did what they did, they had us on the ropes, and we knew we needed some clutch wins to come through.”

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