Mattanawcook Academy athletic administrator Mike Bisson would like his school’s wrestling program to rise to the level of the other top Class C teams in the region, such as defending state champion Foxcroft Academy, Dexter and Bucksport.
But despite a current enrollment of just over 350 students, the Lynx have had difficulty maintaining sufficient participation to challenge for team titles in recent years.
“We start out with a good number, but by the time the season ends were down to four or six or seven (wrestlers),” said Bisson. “Our goal is to build the program.”
In that spirit Bisson has turned to one of the most successful wrestlers in state history to help try to make that happen with the hiring of Matt Lindsay as MA’s new head wrestling coach.
Lindsay was a four-time Class C individual state champion during his competitive days at Penobscot Valley of Howland from 1995 through 1998, helping coach Gerald Hutchinson’s Howlers win the fifth of their five straight team titles as a freshman as well as two Eastern C crowns.
More recently, Lindsay has been a wrestling referee in addition to his job teaching health and physical education at Katahdin High School in Stacyville.
“My major interest always has been in coaching, but refereeing was the best way to stay in the sport,” said Lindsay, who lives in Benedicta. “Katahdin where I teach doesn’t have a wrestling team, so I had to sit back and wait for an opportunity.”
Lindsay greeted 13 wrestlers for preseason practices at Mattanawcook last week, a level that represents an increase from the participation rate at the end of recent seasons.
“They’ve struggled to keep up the numbers,” said Lindsay, “but when I met with Mr. Bisson about the job, he said we just ordered a new wrestling mat and new uniforms and I thought ‘Wow,’ it’s kind of like the rebirth of the wrestling program.’”
Lindsay is hopeful he can build the Lynx into a contender in part because of the state of the developmental wrestling programs already in place locally that enable youngsters to begin competing as soon as their kindergarten year and continue straight through middle school.
“They’ve got a great feeder program here and a lot of parental help at the youth and middle school levels,” he said. “The hope is once you get them involved in elementary school that they’ll stick with it.”
Recruiting wrestlers to stay with this physically demanding sport once they reach high school will be one of Lindsay’s primary challenges.
“A big thing for Matt will be to try to connect with the kids by recruiting within the school,” said Bisson, “especially those kids who don’t know a lot about wrestling.”
Lindsay also hopes to sell wrestling as a sport complementary in skill development to other sports offered at the school, including football.
“I told the kids on Day 1 that wrestling is one of the most difficult sports that you can do, but like (former Olympic gold medalist) Dan Gable said, ‘Once you’ve wrestled, everything else in life is easy,’” said Lindsay. “I told them I’ll get you in great shape, and you’ll learn that your body is capable of things that you didn’t think you could do.”
The Lynx continue their presesason schedule Saturday at a tournament hosted by Penobscot Valley at Howland, then open their regular season at home on Saturday, Dec. 10, with a meet against George Stevens Academy of Blue Hill, Lee Academy, Old Town, Penobscot Valley and Piscataquis of Guilford.
“The kids seem real excited about Matt being here, and he’s got a lot of energy and enthusiasm for the job,” said Bisson.
Furness to attend Bentley
Alex Furness, a 6-foot-6 guard from Wells now playing postgraduate basketball at Cushing Academy in Ashburnham, Mass., has signed a National Letter of Intent to continue his athletic career at Division II Bentley University in Waltham, Mass., beginning with the 2012-13 season, according to newenglandrecruitingreport.com.
Furness, who played at Cheverus of Portland as a high school junior before returning to Wells for his senior season, will join a growing Maine contingent at Bentley.
Sam Leclerc, a junior guard from Fayette and Winthrop High School, Jacob Moore, a sophomore from Hampden Academy, and Andrew Shaw, a freshman from Saco and Thornton Academy, already are on the Falcons’ roster.
Furness and current Cushing Academy teammate Tyler McFarland, the state’s 2011 Mr. Basketball and a former Bangor Daily News All-Maine first-team honoree from Camden Hills of Rockport, both will join the Bentley roster as freshmen next year.