High school wrestling’s postseason arrives this weekend with conference championships scheduled around the state.
The typical teams are the talk of the mat — defending state champions Massabesic of Waterboro, Belfast and Lisbon among them.
Then there’s Central of Corinth.
The Red Devils are no threat to win a team championship — but a decent bet to finish the year undefeated.
That’s because Central is represented by a one-man team in senior Mark Heathcote, the reigning 285-pound Class B state champion who is undefeated so far this season entering Saturday’s Penobscot Valley Conference championship meet at Mattanawcook Academy in Lincoln.
The Hudson resident is 35-0 after sweeping several matches at Wednesday’s River City Rumble in Old Town. Only once has an opponent gone the six-minute distance with him, 34 other foes have been pinned.
“I’m doing fairly good,” said Heathcote, who for the last four years has trained with the Hermon High School wrestling team. “I’m wrestling sick right now, but I’ve faced the No. 2 kid from Caribou [Aroostook League champion Andrew Adams] this year and pinned him each time I’ve wrestled him.”
Heathcote swept unscathed through the postseason last year, winning the PVC, Eastern Maine Class B and state titles in his weight class.
He’s a bit heavier this winter, weighing in at 256 pounds for Wednesday’s meet, but that’s still well under the weight-class limit and also considerably lighter than many of his opponents.
Heathcote’s merely using that to his advantage.
“I’m a lot faster than I was,” said Heathcote. “That’s the big thing we’ve been working on. We work on strength and all that, but mostly it’s been speed and technique that’s really helped me out this year. A lot of the heavyweights don’t expect someone to actually come out there and really be quick.”
Heathcote is grateful for the acceptance he has received from Hermon’s program, with which he has practiced and traveled to meets throughout his high school career.
“It’s been awesome,” he said. “You don’t get better coaches who look out for you more than [Hermon coaches] David Botting and Richard Stark. They’re very caring people.”
Heathcote also works out with coaches Cory Staples and Russ Chretien of the Hudson Wrestling Club, which is based at the Hudson Town Hall for younger wrestlers from the area served by SAD 64.
Heathcote also is an assistant coach with the club, and he’s entertaining thoughts of entering the coaching ranks more seriously once his active wrestling career ends.
He’s also considering a future as a wrestling official.
“I just want to stay on the mat as long as I can,” said Heathcote, who first hopes to wrestle in college next year, perhaps at Bridgewater (Mass.) State or the University of Southern Maine.
In the meantime, there are championships to defend. In addition to being the reigning state and PVC champion, Heathcote next weekend will go after his third consecutive Eastern B crown.
There’s also the pursuit of perfection — an undefeated senior season.
“The one thing I love about wrestling is it’s a team sport yet you’re out there by yourself and you’re testing yourself and other people’s limits,” said Heathcote. “At the end of the day it’s all about how you go out there and present yourself.
“Plus with the sportsmanship that comes with wrestling, it’s all there together in one place.”