Levi Rollins and the eight seniors on the Camden Hills wrestling team hope to go out on top together Saturday.
Rollins, the Windjammers’ fifth-year head coach, is leaving that post after this season to spend more time with his young family, which includes a 4-year-old son and 2-year-old daughter.
“I’ve coached this team pretty much all the way up through, especially the seniors,” said Rollins, a 2003 Camden Hills graduate and a three-time individual state champion during his own wrestling days. “My thought was that hopefully we could go out on top and then I’d come back and coach again some day.”
All signs point to a successful swan song given the Windjammers’ dominance this winter heading into the Class B state championships at Fryeburg Academy.
Camden Hills flourished at several of the of the major multiteam meets early in the season. The Windjammers placed second by four points to Western A champion Marshwood of South Berwick at the Atlantic Invitational in Wells, then defeated Marshwood by 32 points at the Noble Invitational in North Berwick.
Camden Hills followed those efforts by finishing as the top Maine team at the Redskin Invitational in Sanford and besting Marshwood in that meet by 36 points, since going 27-0 in dual-meet competition before winning the Kennebec Valley Athletic Conference and Eastern Maine Class B championships by more than 100 points each.
The Windjammers’ roster includes six wrestlers with more than 100 career victories, and nine individuals who have won at least a conference or regional championship in their weight classes this winter.
Rollins can’t say for sure that this year’s team is the best he’s coached at Camden Hills, because the bar that has been established in the school’s wrestling room has been set pretty high, with the Windjammers already winning a state championship in 2010 and finishing second in both 2009 and 2011 under his guidance.
But he’s optimistic it’s the case.
“I’ll find out this week if it’s the best team, but so far I’d say yes,” said Rollins. “It’s the first team that’s gone undefeated and it’s the best team, I think, in the entire state in Class A, B and C.
“Some people may disagree with that, but we lost to Marshwood by four at the Atlantics missing two guys, and then we beat them at the Noble Invitational by a lot but they were missing some kids. Down at the Redskin [Invitational], we had the toughest competition and we were 20 or 30 points ahead of the next Maine team.”
Camden Hills is the heavy favorite to win the 14th state championship in program history, with 13 wrestlers having qualified for the state meet based on their top-four finishes at last weekend’s regional.
“This is the best team I’ve ever wrestled with,” said senior Tom Cassidy, the 138-pound regional champion and the 2011 Class B state champion at 130 pounds. “We had 12 out of 14 kids in the [Eastern B] finals, and just to have almost our whole team out there lined up on one side was amazing to see.
“We’ve been working the hardest I’ve ever seen us work. Every kid could be a state champion, I think, every kid in our lineup.”
Classmate Rhett Chase, the KVAC and Eastern B champion at 220 pounds, credits much of the team’s success to Rollins and his staff, including top assistant Brian Cassidy.
“I’d have to say it’s the coaches, to be quite honest,” said Chase. “Every day we go into practice, the coaches are ready to go, they’re happy, and there’s not one dull moment in that practice room. It really helps us in every single match.”
WHILE CAMDEN HILLS in Class B and Marshwood in Class A are favored to win their respective state meets, there could be a little more intrigue in Class C, which also will be held at Fryeburg Academy.
Defending state champion Foxcroft Academy is coming off a strong performance in winning the Eastern C regional, as coach Luis Ayala’s Ponies qualified all 14 of their wrestlers for states while winning eight individual championships.
Western C champion Dirigo of Dixfield, which split two regular-season dual meets with the Ponies, has 13 state qualifiers, while regional runners-up Bucksport (West) and Dexter (East) also could figure prominently in the final scoring.
Bucksport is sending six individual regional champions and seven wrestlers overall to the state meet while Dexter crowned four individual EM champions and qualified 13 wrestlers for states.