BELFAST, Maine — Wrestling epitomizes the rugged nature of sport, with strength, quickness and aggression among the basic tools for success.
But so, too, does a tool seemingly quite opposite from those more physical of attributes — coolness under pressure.
For Brent Waterman, that latter trait proved invaluable in helping the Belfast Area High School junior cope during his run last weekend to the 132-pound title at the 48th annual New England Interscholastic Wrestling Championships held at the Providence Career and Technical Center in Providence, R.I.
Waterman, a three-time individual Class B state champion for the Lions, went unbeaten in four matches to earn his first New England crown — but his second bout went to double overtime and his championship final wasn’t decided until the final seconds.
“I had been in the New Englands the last two years, but I never placed,” said the 16-year-old Waterman, a three-time individual Class B state champion under longtime Belfast head coach Ted Heroux.
“From the last couple of years at New Englands I learned not to get so nervous and just stay as calm as I could.”
Waterman nearly placed at the New Englands last year, going 2-2 in the 125-pound class and coming up one victory short of earning All-New England honors — which go to the top six finishers in each weight division.
He returned to the regional championships this year confident of further success.
“I always try to keep things positive when I go into a meet,” he said. “I keep my mind focused and tell myself I’m going to win no matter who I’m wrestling. Going into a match my mentality is that I’m going to win.”
After drawing a first-round bye, Waterman decisioned Gil Sa of Framingham, Mass., 6-2 in his first tournament match Friday night, then pinned Mike Stewart of Dracut, Mass., with one second left in the second overtime Saturday morning to advance to the semifinals.
“It was 3-3 after the third period, but I wasn’t really nervous at all,” Waterman said. “In the first overtime he got a shot on me, but I didn’t freak out, I stayed calm and got through it.
“In the second overtime I took him down first and then got a reversal and back points and I knew I had the match.”
Waterman went on to score a 15-5 major decision over Mike Murphy of Providence, R.I., in the semifinals to avenge a 4-2 loss to Murphy at the finals of January’s Sanford Redskin Invitational tournament and reach the championship match.
There he scored a takedown followed by a three-point near-fall in the final 20 seconds of the third period to outlast Massachusetts Div. 1 champion Mizam Tamaradze of West Springfield, Mass., 10-7.
“It was pretty cool to come back like that,” said Waterman, who trailed 5-2 entering the third period.
Ironically, Waterman became the first Maine wrestler to win a New England championship since former Belfast star Kote Aldus won the 160-pound regional title in 2008.
Waterman’s season will continue later this month at the National High School Coaches Association junior national wrestling championships at Virginia Beach, Va.
“Brent’s a strong kid and quick, he’s very athletic,” said Heroux, who last weekend was inducted into the New England Wrestling Association Hall of Fame. “He’s very well conditioned, and he’s been very dedicated to the sport since middle school.”
Waterman gives much of the credit for his success to his parents, Brent and Kristen Waterman, for providing him opportunities to wrestle in different locales and be exposed to some of the best competition and coaches from around the country.
“Brent has been exposed to about every tournament around the state and a lot of tournaments out of state,” said Heroux.
Last summer, for example, Waterman competed at the national freestyle and Greco-Roman championships in Fargo, N.D., and also traveled to Puerto Rico to wrestle.
“My parents have helped me a lot,” he said.
Waterman already has surpassed 100 career victories, including a 32-2 record this winter while winning Kennebec Valley Athletic Conference, Eastern Maine Class B and state titles for the third-straight season before earning his New England crown.
“I think I’ve become more technically better with my moves, and my strength has gotten better,” said the 5-foot-6 Waterman.
Waterman has moved up a weight class each of his first three years at Belfast, winning the Class B individual state title at 119 pounds as a freshman and 125 pounds last winter before claiming the 132-pound crown this February.
“With three state championships already, he’s been wrestling at the top of his weight classes for quite a while now,” Heroux said. “That experience helps you get mentally prepared for the matches, and once he’s out there Brent doesn’t make many mistakes. He’s very good on the mat.”