Four of the top five finishers at last February’s Class C state wrestling championships will square off at Guiski Gymnasium in Dexter to open the 2009-10 season Friday evening.
Dexter will host Foxcroft Academy, Lisbon and Dirigo of Dixfield in a four-way meet that has become a recent tradition among the four perennial contenders, with the host school rotating on an annual basis.
Weigh-in is scheduled for 5 p.m., with matches set to begin at 6.
“It can give you a good feel for what the season is going to hold,” said fourth-year Dexter coach Adam Gudroe.
“Even though some wrestlers won’t be competing in the same weight class they will be at the end of the year, it can give you some idea of what’s going to happen and what teams need to do to get better.”
Lisbon is the defending Class C state champ, with Dirigo and Bucksport tying for second place, Dexter just one-half point behind in fourth and a rebuilding Foxcroft team placing fifth.
Dexter returns a youthful team from a year ago, with four seniors and nine freshmen among its roster. That senior contingent will be expected to provide leadership both on and off the mat, said Gudroe.
The Tigers will be led by senior Doug Richardson, reigning individual state champion at 189 pounds, who also is coming off a strong football season in which he ranked among the top rushers in the LTC while leading Dexter to its first postseason berth since 1995.
Classmate Zac Poirier is back after placing fourth in the state at 285 pounds last fall, the same finish Lee Gustin had at 160. The fourth senior, Mike Rosetti is being counted on for a productive season at 152.
Dexter suffered some heavy graduation losses in the lower and middleweight classes, among them former state champions Mike and Brian O’Connor and Ronnie Harvey.
But the returning underclassmen and a solid freshman class have fueled optimism that the Tigers will remain among the elite in Eastern Maine Class C.
“We’ve got nine freshmen, and all of them come in with some experience,” said Gudroe. “My dad [former Dexter varsity coach Dave Gudroe] helped coach them at the middle school and that helps because I know what they learned down there.
“Our hope is that the seniors will pull them along to veteran status pretty quickly. The seniors are going to be the ones to pull everyone else along, and they’re a good group to do it.”
With 18 or 19 wrestlers on the roster, Dexter will be challenged during the early stages of the season with filling as many of the 14 weight classes as possible in order to prepare for a revised Class C postseason.
The Tigers will compete in the Penobscot Valley Conference championships in late January, but instead of an EM “C” championship meet there will be a combined Class C state qualifying meet to be held Feb. 6 at Jay High School.
That change in regional tournament format came about because Western Maine Class C in recent years has fielded very few varsity teams. This year, for instance, just five Western C teams are expected to compete for state honors, compared to 14 in Eastern Maine.
As a result, the top eight wrestlers in each weight class at the qualifying meet will advance to the Class C state championships, to be hosted by Dexter on Feb. 13.
In preparation for hosting the states, Dexter also hosted — and won — an eight-team preseason event during which meet officials successfully experimented with a video system that will provide live feeds of ongoing matches on large screens in the school’s cafeteria. That will enable fans and competitors alike the opportunity to watch the matches either in the gymnasium or in the cafeteria during the busy, daylong event.
“It should be good for the fans,” said Gudroe. “We had the technology, so we figured why not use it.”
Regional, state meet sites set
Sites have been formalized for the regional and state wrestling championship meets.
After conference meets are held, generally on Saturday, Jan. 30, 2010, regional meets will be held the next Saturday, Feb. 6, at the following locations: Eastern Maine Class A, Westbrook High School; Western A, Deering High in Portland; Eastern B, Maine Central Institute in Pittsfield; Western B, Fryeburg Academy; Class C single qualifying meet, Jay High School.
In Classes A and B, the first four place winners in each weight class both Eastern and Western Maine will qualify for the state championships. In Class C, the top eight finishers in each weight class will qualify for states.
State championship meets will be held at the following locations on Feb. 13: Class A, Noble High School in North Berwick; Class B, Medomak Valley High School in Waldoboro; Class C, Dexter High.
Individual state champions from Classes A, B, and C in each weight class will be invited to represent Maine at the New England Interscholastic Wrestling Championships, scheduled for March 5-6 at the New Haven (Conn.) Athletic Center.