LINCOLN — Most postseason wrestling tournaments are fairly predictable, based on a regular season of head-to-head clashes and pre-tourney seedings.
Not so in Saturday’s Penobscot Valley Conference championships at Mattanawcook Academy, where there was no clear favorite and a surprise winner in Ellsworth, which used its depth to win a major tournament for the first time since earning back-to-back Class B state titles in 1981 and 1982.
“We expected to place, that’s what we put on the team,” said Travis Hardison, who coaches the Eagles along with Dan Ormsby and Adam Atherton. “Maybe we weren’t seeded to, but we knew we could do it. We kept focusing on a team atmosphere with these guys, and we wanted to place. I can’t believe we ended up on top.”
The Eagles, in fifth place before the consolation finals and third before the championship finals, finished with 132 points to edge second-place Foxcroft Academy (128.5). Caribou (127.5) was third in the tightly bunched pack at the top, while defending meet champion Dexter (116) and Fort Kent (115) rounded out the top five..
Ellsworth crowned two individual champions, Brandon Gonclaves at 119 pounds and Michael Phillippon at 171, with Phillippon’s championship-round pin of Penobscot Valley of Howland’s Nathan Philbrook giving the Eagles the points they needed to seal the team title. Michael Garland added a second-place finish for Ellsworth at 285 pounds, and the Eagles’ depth also came through with a 3-1 record in the consolation finals as Zack Harris (125 pounds), Ben Wildes (152) and Patrick Kidder (189) each finished third while Josh Fowler placed fourth at 215.
“This means everything,” said Gonclaves, a senior who won his first individual conference title after placing second at 103 pounds as a sophomore and third at 112 last year. “I’m very surprised, we went in there in the first round and were doing good, but in the second round I got kind of scared. Then we just went after it and gave it our all and took it. It’s amazing.”
Foxcroft had four wrestlers in the championship finals, the most of any team, with Wesley Stinson winning at 145 pounds while Trevor Weymouth (125), Forrest Law (135) and Zach Smith each placed second. The Ponies also got third-place efforts from Mark Smith (112), Matthew Smith (119) and Alex Francis (130).
“It was very exciting,” said Foxcroft coach Luis Ayala of the meet. “We didn’t know coming in who was favored, but give a lot of credit to Ellsworth, they stepped it up all year, had improvement week by week during the season and are peaking at the right time. When you’ve got the team depth that they do, it helps out. We were three spots short, and it’s hard to catch up on those points.”
Caribou, which held a slight lead entering both the consolation and championship finals, did not have an individual champion but got second-place finishes from Jason Case at 112 and Deion Caudill at 189, thirds from Lance Jandreau (135) and Jake Maher (171) and fourths from Brendan Wood (130) and Levi Swan (285).
“We thought we could be in contention,” said Vikings coach Todd Albert, “but we didn’t have a very good start or a very good finish. That’s what happens.”
Dexter was led by Andrew Levenselor, named the meet’s outstanding wrestler after outlasting Hermon’s Ryan Botting 2-1 in overtime to win the 140-pound weight class. Aaron Webber also earned an individual title for the Tigers at 125, while Andrew Adams was second at 130, Seth Blais placed third at 145 and Dillon Garnett finished fourth at 103.
Fort Kent had two individual winners in Cody Lozier (130) and Spencer Levesque (135). Josh Pelletier placed second for the Warriors at 145, while Megan Pelletier was third at 103 and Brandon Hartt (160) and Jeremy Theriault (189) each finished fourth.
Other individual PVC champions were Alex Turanski of George Stevens Academy of Blue Hill at 103 pounds, David Sirois of Penobscot Valley at 112, Ryan Grover of Sumner of East Sullivan at 152, Justin Libby of Old Town at 160, Chris Powell of Bucksport at 189, Zac Ragot of Washington Academy of East Machias at 215 and C.J. Stratton of Penobscot Valley at 285.