Waldo Caballero is taking over the Orono High School boys soccer program amid bittersweet circumstances at best.
Caballero, who for the last 10 years has been an assistant coach for the Red Riots, recently was named to replace longtime coach Larry Berthiaume, who died of pancreatic cancer June 5 at age 53.
“It’s a big loss for all of us,” said Caballero. “It will be hard for me and for the students because he had the type of character that really provided a lot of encouragement for everybody.
“And for me there also is the friendship part. We worked together for a long time and we became great friends, and for me it’s very sad that he will not be here.”
Caballero grew up playing soccer in his native Bolivia, and at one point the midfielder competed professionally in that South American country.
But it was his talent in another field, music, that enabled him to leave a land rife with political unrest at the time for a new life in the United States in the late 1970s.
He first went to college in southern Maine, and soon made his way north — where he’s been ever since.
Music remains a focal point of Caballero’s life. He teaches music in the Orono school system, serves as Orono High School’s orchestra director, and also plays viola with the Bangor Symphony Orchestra.
But he’s also maintained a lifelong connection to soccer. Not long after arriving in Greater Bangor in the early 1980s he began playing soccer again, and among those he played with was Berthiaume.
The two became friends and eventually coaching colleagues, with Berthiaume going on to a long coaching career at Orono and Caballero eventually joining him 10 years ago as an assistant.
“Larry and I have known each other for a long time, we’re like butter and bread,” said Caballero. “We used to play pickup games together as well as coach together, and since we coached together we never really disagreed about anything because we knew each other so well, and we shared the understanding that soccer is a gentlemen’s sport, that sportsmanship is a big part of it.”
Orono finished last season with a 14-2-1 record, reaching the Eastern Maine Class C championship match before falling to Fort Kent.
Graduation took a heavy toll on the Red Riots, but some experienced players do return, including Caballero’s two sons, Alex and Miguel.
“It’s going to be a mixture this year,” said Caballero. “We had 10 or 11 seniors who graduated and most of them were starters, but it won’t be a completely new team. We’ve got five or six back from the varsity, as well as some younger players.”
Caballero will be assisted on the sidelines this fall by former Hermon girls’ varsity soccer coach Ben Poland.
Wrestlers shine in Nebraska
Eighteen of the state’s top high school wrestlers recently returned from a competitive effort at the 26th annual Maine-Nebraska Friendship Series.
The Maine contingent, coached by Shawn Guest of Morse of Bath and Shane Bouchard of Oak Hill of Sabattus, went 2-2-1 in five dual-meet matches held in the Cornhusker State.
The wrestling exchange, the oldest of its kind in the United States, was started in the mid-1980s and annually sends standout wrestlers from one state to compete in the other state, with Maine and Nebraska alternating as host states.
This year’s Maine team featured 10 state champions, including Scott Carpenter of Calais and Doug Richardson of Dexter.
Carpenter, a two-time Class C state champion, at 125 pounds in 2010 and 119 pounds in 2009, went 3-2 in five matches against the Nebraskans in the 132-pound class. Four of Carpenter’s matches were decided by three points or less in addition to his 14-4 outpointing of Parker Ridgeway of Columbus, Neb.
Carpenter will be a senior at Calais this fall.
Richardson, a recent graduate of Dexter Regional High School and the 2009 and 2010 Class C state champion at 189 pounds, went 2-3 in his five matches. Competing in Nebraska at 190 pounds, Richardson recorded both of his victories by pin, with all three of his defeats by points, including one loss by one point and another by two points.
Richardson also was the recipient of the Friendship Series sportsmanship award presented to one member of the Maine team.
Among other Eastern Mainers on the Friendship Series team, Skowhegan senior-to-be Kaleb Austin went 2-3 at 152 pounds, while recent Maine Central Institute of Pittsfield graduate Revelin Goewey finished 1-4 at 160 pounds.
The 27th annual Maine Nebraska Friendship Series is scheduled to be hosted by Maine next summer.
PCHS grad takes Poland post
Tyler Tracy, a former basketball standout at Piscataquis Community High School of Guilford, has been named the new boys varsity basketball coach at Poland High School.
The 25-year-old Tracy went on to play basketball at the University of Maine-Farmington, and is a physical education teacher at Monmouth Academy.
He also spent last year as an assistant coach at Livermore Falls High School, and previous to that was an assistant for two seasons at UMF under Beavers’ coach Dick Meader.
Poland, which competes in Western Maine Class B, finished 6-12 last winter under former coach Gregg Rice.