The Foxcroft Academy wrestling team made the most of Plan B this week.
Plan A was to compete Monday and Tuesday at the Noble Invitational tournament in North Berwick, a two-day event that annually brings together many of the state’s best teams regardless of class as well as several top-flight out-of-state entries.
The Ponies originally were scheduled to leave for southern Maine on Sunday, but when the tournament was pushed back to Tuesday and Wednesday due to the Blizzard of 2010 and the Foxcroft contingent was unable to travel Monday due to the raging storm, it was left with the potential for an extended period without competition given that it hadn’t even practiced since the previous Thursday due to the Christmas holiday.
But one of the team’s wrestlers recalled that Hermon High School was still hosting its annual tournament on Tuesday — a much more reasonable travel alternative given the circumstances — so athletic officials at Foxcroft called their peers at Hermon, and as a result the Ponies were able to join the field of the Hermon Holiday Tournament on short notice.
“We’ve always had a good relationship with the people at Hermon,” said Foxcroft wrestling coach Luis Ayala.
And not only did the Ponies compete in the daylong event, they won it.
Foxcroft totaled 123 points to edge second-place Caribou (105) and third-place Erskine Academy of South China (103) among the 19 schools represented in the tournament. Hermon (102) was fourth and Ellsworth (84.5) placed fifth.
Foxcroft was led by individual meet champions Trevor Weymouth at 125 pounds and Zach Smith at 160, along with runnersup Mark Smith at 112 pounds and Wesley Stinson at 152.
The effort also provided evidence of the Ponies’ evolving depth, with Matt Smith (119) and Forrest Law (135) each finishing third in their weight classes while Alex Francis (130) placed fourth.
“I like the way we’re wrestling right now,” said Ayala.
Foxcroft currently fields wrestlers in 12 of the 14 weight classes, with the 103- and 140-pound divisions currently vacant but Ayala is working with his 22-wrestler roster to fill those gaps.
“You have to be able to have a full team to compete when you get to the (Penobscot Valley Conference) and other big meets,” he said.
Foxcroft could rank among the favorites in the conference based on its early season performances, which not only includes the victory at Hermon but a season-opening dual-meet win over defending Class C state champion Lisbon, two dual-meet victories over defending PVC champion Dexter and one over perennial conference power Bucksport, as well as narrow losses to Western C power Dirigo of Dixfield, Class B Caribou and Class A Skowhegan.
Class C currently does not have Eastern and Western Maine championship meets because of the paucity of Western C wrestling programs, so Ayala is focusing his team’s attention on winning the PVC title for the first time since 2008. In that light, competing in the Hermon Holiday Tournament provided another benefit.
“I got to see all the PVC teams I hadn’t seen yet,” said Ayala, who listed Caribou, Ellsworth and Fort Kent among chief PVC rivals who also wrestled at Hermon. “Everybody else we wanted to see before the PVCs were there, and just to get some matches under our belt against those teams was good for us.”
Foxcroft is a fairly young team, though it boasts some talented underclassmen led by Mark Smith, a junior who was the 103-pound Class C state champion last winter. Other key performers include Weymouth, a junior who was the Class C state runnerup at 119 in 2010, and Stinson, a sophomore who placed second at 135 pounds in the state meet a year ago.
Foxcroft is scheduled to return to regular-season action at 6 p.m. Thursday at John Bapst of Bangor against the host Crusaders and Calais, which features two returning individual state champions in seniors Scott Carpenter and Spencer McCormick.