OLD TOWN, Maine — In many respects the River City Rumble is one last chance for high school wrestlers from greater Bangor to test their skills in preparation for this Saturday’s conference championship meets.
But there was no escaping the battle for local bragging rights, either, on Wednesday evening as the third annual Rumble produced its third different champion.
Brewer emerged unbeaten from the four-team competition, as the Witches subdued John Bapst of Bangor, Hermon and Old Town in a series of dual matches held on two mats before an enthusiastic crowd.
“It means a lot,” said Brewer’s Stephen Desjardins, the reigning Eastern Maine Class A 119-pound champion who pinned all three of his opponents during the Rumble while now competing at 125 pounds. “It’s my senior year and my last year here and we hadn’t won it before, so it was a touching moment.”
The Class A Witches, who next compete Saturday in the Kennebec Valley Athletic Conference championship meet at Cony High School in Augusta, edged defending Rumble champion John Bapst 40-34 in its first match and then topped 2007 champion Hermon 42-30 before closing out its undefeated night with a 54-18 victory over Old Town.
Nick Dugas (135 pounds) pinned three opponents for the Witches, while Qasey Perry (119) Nate Davies and Marc Eaton (215) also scored three victories each.
“They did a great job,” said Brewer coach Marcus Eaton. “They wrestled with heart and they wrestled with character, which is what we want.”
John Bapst secured second place with a 54-30 victory over Hermon in its final match. The Crusaders previously had defeated Old Town 60-18.
“I thought our team wrestled all right,” said John Bapst coach Joe Bowen. “But that’s why this is a great meet, because you never know who’s going to win.”
John Bapst was led by 152-pound Fred Lear, who scored two pins and a third win by technical fall. Nick Rullo (171) added two pins among his three victories, while Russell Costain also scored three wins.
Ryan Botting (140) and Dylan Libby (160) each scored three pins for Hermon, while B.J. Andrews (145) had two pins among his three victories. Jen Graban also earned 18 points for the Hawks with three victories at 103 pounds.
Old Town got a strong performance from 189-pound junior Lee Larry, who scored three victories by pinfall in a combined 1 minute, 53 seconds. Justin Libby, wrestling at 145 pounds for the Coyotes, scored the biggest comeback of the night as he rallied from a 12-3 deficit with a reversal to pin John Bapst’s Justin Jordan in 3:35.
But while Brewer got to take home the tall trophy at the end of the evening, perhaps the bigger picture was served through the sheer promotion of a sport that has flown somewhat under the athletic radar in the Bangor area.
“The atmosphere was exciting for wrestling,” said Bowen, who organized the inaugural edition of the Rumble in 2007 while coaching at Brewer. “What will be great is to come back 10 or 20 years down the road and see these teams still doing what we got started.
“We’ve gotten great support from all the schools and all the athletic directors, and I think it’s just great when you can do these things to generate interest in our sport. It’s exciting to see where local wrestling is going.”