BUCKSPORT, Maine — The Bucksport High School wrestling team was small in numbers last winter, but several of those competitors have played key roles during the Golden Bucks’ current run toward Saturday’s Class C football state championship game.
“Football’s more of a team sport, you have to rely on your teammates a lot more and the team is really close,” said Bucksport senior defensive end Jordan Fogg. “In wrestling you score points as a team, but once you get out on the mat it’s pretty much all up to you.”
But many of the attributes that have led to success on the mat also are helping to produce positive results on the gridiron — in this case an 11-0 record and a trip to Portland for a matchup against defending state champion Yarmouth for the gold ball.
Game time is 2:30 p.m. at Fitzpatrick Stadium.
“I think the determination to win is one of the big things you get from wrestling,” said Bucksport senior Chris Powell, the reigning Class C wrestling state champion at 189 pounds and one of the keys to the Golden Bucks’ defense this fall as an outside linebacker. “In wrestling you’re out there on your own and you have to have that determination to win, and that’s big in football, too.”
Determination is just one intangible shared by those who succeed in both sports. An aggressive nature also is pivotal in both football and wrestling.
“You have to be very aggressive in wrestling,” said Fogg, who placed third at the Class C wrestling state championships last February in the 152-pound class. “Being aggressive is a big part of wrestling, and it’s a big part of football.”
Other wrestlers in this year’s Bucksport football lineup include senior wide receiver-defensive back Jake Stewart, second in the 140-pound class at last winter’s state meet; and
two-way tackle Damon Klenedinst, third at 215 pounds.
Sophomore linebacker Nic Bishop, a transfer from Hermon this year who led the Golden Bucks in tackles during the regular season, also competes in both wrestling and football, demanding sports that require some similar physical skills
“The quickness, the strength, the hand strength all help,” said Bucksport coach Joel Sankey. “When I was growing up in the Midwest, I went right from football to basketball, but a lot of guys went right from football into wrestling.
“It’s a tough sport, but it’s a natural complement to football.”
Fogg, a first-year high school football player, has parlayed several physical skills that enabled him to achieve wrestling prominence into a key role on a Bucksport defense that has yielded an average of just 8.8 points per game.
“There are a lot of moves in wrestling that help me out in football as a defensive end,” he said. “Especially the hand fighting, the swim moves you can use to get around a guy.”
There’s also the overall skill development that leads to increased strength or quickness that aids in both sports, as well as the use of leverage that is critical to winning the mini-battles within a given football play or gaining the edge in one-on-one competition on the wrestling mat.
“The quickness you gain in wrestling helps in football,” said Powell. “All the workouts you do for wrestling help in football, and vice versa.”
The wrestlers on the Bucksport team are looking forward to the winter, when for the first time the Golden Bucks will be competing in Western Maine Class C — a move made by the Maine Principals’ Association during the offseason in an effort to even up the number of teams in Eastern and Western Class C.
But for one more week at least, the thoughts are far, far away from the wrestling mat — there’s a state championship to be won.
“The thought that we’re going to be playing for a state championship is just great,” said Fogg. “It’s going to be an amazing feeling to be out there Saturday.”
When Bucksport takes to Fitzpatrick Stadium’s FieldTurf for Saturday’s game, they will be going up against a Yarmouth team that has played seven of its 11 games this fall on its own artificial surface.
Yarmouth High School has a turf field, where the 11-0 Clippers played four regular-season games as well as three postseason contests.
No LTC Class C teams in Eastern Maine play regularly on an artificial surface, though the annual Orono-John Bapst game is now held at the University of Maine’s turf field and the Red Riots also hosted two playoff games at UMaine because of unplayable conditions on their high school field.
Bucksport’s last exposure to artificial turf was last summer while participating in a 7-on-7 league at Hampden Academy, so the Golden Bucks have worked out for three days this week on the artificial turf at Maine Maritime Academy’s Ritchie Field.
“It’s a little different,” said Powell. “It’s definitely a lot faster, and you don’t slip as much. We’re getting used to it.”