ELLSWORTH, Maine — Ellsworth High School had a breakthrough wrestling season last winter, scoring a surprise victory at the Penobscot Valley Conference championships for its first win at a major meet since earning back-to-back Class B state titles in 1981 and 1982.
Now the Eagles are trying to build on that success, and the early reports are optimistic — both on the mat and off.
“There’s more talk about wrestling around school now since we won the PVCs,” said Ellsworth coach Travis Hardison. “We’ve got kids coming out we hadn’t seen before, and hopefully that helps us develop a winning tradition.”
Ellsworth had a 10-2 record entering Tuesday night’s meet at Old Town against the Coyotes and Penobscot Valley of Howland, with the only losses coming against perennial Class B power Camden Hills of Rockport.
“Camden Hills is very strong,” said Hardison. “Other than that, we’ve done pretty well.”
Like many other teams, Ellsworth is having some difficulty filling all 14 weight classes, but Hardison said the Eagles have most of the weights covered.
“Our numbers are up, but we’re still a little light in the lower weight classes,” he said. “We have a lot of duplicates in the weight classes, and we’re going to struggle to fill the 120-pound class but hopefully we can spread the rest out to cover most of the classes.”
Ellsworth graduated a solid senior class led by Brandon Gonclaves, the Eastern Maine and state runner-up at 119 pounds, but will blend a returning cast led by Michael Phillippon at 170 pounds and Michael Garland at 220 with a seven-member freshman contingent up from the city’s middle-school program.
“We’re still a young team,” said Hardison. “We’ve got a handful of upperclassmen and we’ve also got a big class of freshmen, but we’re making progress.”
Foxcroft Academy, which finished second to Ellsworth at last year’s PVCs before going on to win the Class C state championship, is considered the favorite to win the conference crown this winter.
But buoyed by a solid start to its season, including a victory over traditional Class B contender Belfast, Ellsworth believes its time in the Eastern Maine wrestling limelight may not be short-lived.
“Our goals for the season are to be in the top three at PVCs and top three in the regionals,” said Hardison. “I think those are realistic goals for us.”