The heart of the Class A wrestling world in Maine resides in the southernmost part of the state — at such schools as Noble of North Berwick and Massabesic of Waterboro.
As the state’s northernmost Class A wrestling school, Brewer is working to build a competitive entry within its conference, and the team’s record this winter suggests the Witches are making strides.
Brewer is 23-8 in dual-meet competition after splitting two matches during a three-way meet Monday by defeating Foxcroft Academy while losing to Class B power Camden Hills of Rockport.
“It’s exceedingly better than I thought it would be,” said third-year Witches coach Marcus Eaton. “I thought we might get to 15 or 16 wins, but now we could approach 25 or 26 wins this season.”
One of the team’s strengths is its depth. The Witches field competitors in all 14 weight classes — a borderline luxury in more northern Maine wrestling circles.
“Being able to fill all 14 has been a huge factor for us,” said Eaton.
And while the team is young, with just three seniors in its starting lineup, steady improvement has been found throughout the roster.
“They’ve matured,” said Eaton of his wrestlers. “We have a very young team, and some of our older kids are inexperienced in just their first or second year, but they’ve come along.”
Brewer does boast some experienced leadership in senior Nick Dugas at 135 pounds and junior Qasey Perry at 130, along with some talented younger performers like sophomore Marcus Eaton at 215 pounds and freshman Robbie Kiah at 125.
There’s also a feeder program at the middle school level sponsored by a local church to help with the continuing growth of wrestling at the high school level.
“It’s been easier to build the [high school] team the last year or two,” said coach Eaton. “There’s a very family-oriented aspect to the team, and kids at the school are starting to find out about that and becoming interested.”
The Witches return to action Saturday at Mount Desert Island of Bar Harbor in a meet that also is scheduled to include Belfast, Old Town and Woodland.
Then Brewer is slated to host the fourth annual River City Rumble on Jan. 27.
Founded by former Brewer wrestling coach and current John Bapst of Bangor coach Joe Bowen, the River City Rumble features Greater Bangor’s four full high school wrestling teams: Brewer, Hermon, John Bapst and Old Town.
The meet will be staged on two mats at Brewer High School, with each team wrestling all three of its rivals to crown the champion.
The event also serves as Senior Night for each of the four teams, with senior-class wrestlers from the schools to be honored before the competition begins at 7 p.m.
Brewer is the defending champion, but no team has successfully defended its title and no team has won the event more than once. Hermon won the inaugural event in 2007 and John Bapst was the 2008 champion.
“It’s a big deal for us, the trophy from last year is sitting in the wrestling room right now,” said Eaton. “The kids talk about it on a fairly regular basis, and it’s a goal set at the beginning of the season, to win the River City Rumble.”
Brewer should be the favorite this year, though each of the other teams boasts its share of quality wrestlers. Hermon is led by 135-pound junior Ryan Botting, who recently surpassed 100 career wins, along with Brandon Burgess at 145 pounds and Bo Richards at 189; John Bapst features senior Fred Lear, a 152-pound competitor who gained his 100th victory earlier this season, while Old Town is led by Lee Larry at 189 pounds.
The River City Rumble will be a final test before Brewer heads to the Kennebec Valley Athletic Conference championships on Jan. 30, followed by the Eastern Maine Class A regional at Westbrook High School on Feb. 6 and the Class A state championships at Noble High School on Feb. 13.
“The wrestlers that qualify for the states really want to place at that meet this year,” said Eaton. “In the past they’ve been happy just to get there, but now they want to go and place.”