BUCKSPORT, Maine — Corbyn Bruce bided his time for nearly seven hours Saturday before finally getting his chance to wrestle.
But the Foxcroft Academy junior made the most of that long-awaited opportunity, delivering the decisive victory of the day as the Ponies captured their second straight Penobscot Valley Conference title.
Foxcroft, the two-time defending Class C state champion, was locked in a two-way battle for the conference crown with Dexter, a rival coach Luis Ayala’s club edged by a single point at last year’s PVC meet.
The 182-pound championship bout featured Bruce against Dexter’s Carl Snow in a matchup of two of three competitors in the lightly contested division.
Bruce had yet to fight after drawing byes in his first two matches, but to secure advancing points for those byes he needed to win his actual match against Snow — otherwise he would provide his team no points for the day.
Snow, who also drew a first-round bye, secured the advancing points for that match by defeating the only other competitor in the weight class, Jacob Burby of Caribou, in the semifinals.
Bruce could earn 14 points with a win by decision over Snow in the final, while Snow could add five points to Dexter’s point total with a victory by decision while keeping Bruce scoreless.
So when Bruce earned a hard-fought 4-3 decision over Snow, the 19-point swing went Foxcroft’s way — and the Ponies edged Dexter by 17.5 points, 216-198.5.
“I knew if I would have lost [Dexter] probably would have won because my coach had talked to me before the match about it,” said Bruce. “It was a really tough match, a lot like the other ones I had with him this year, but I went out and did my best and came out on top.”
Bruce had won two earlier meetings this winter against Snow, one in overtime.
“We just wanted him to go out and focus on the match and not worry about what needed to be done for the team, and that’s where wrestling as an individual sport comes in,” said Ayala. “Corbyn right from the beginning knew it would be tough so he concentrated on his match, and in the end he helped himself by getting first place and he helped the team in a big way.”
Bruce was one of four individual champions for Foxcroft along with juniors Brooks Law (126 pounds) and Todd Francis (160) and freshman Antonio Ayala (113).
Four other Ponies placed second in their weight classes: Eli Olson (106), Forrest Law (138), Corey Bjornson (195) and Caleb Atkinson (285).
“There’s a couple of guys that I would have like to seen do better, but we got first and that’s all that matters right now,” said Brooks Law, the defending Class C state champion at 113 pounds. “We’ve got two more weeks [regionals and states] so we’ve just got to take these next two weeks and maybe work a little harder. Practices are going to be a little longer so we can work on the things we didn’t do so well, and from here we’ll take it one week at a time.”
Dexter advanced six wrestlers to the championship round, getting individual titles from Dylan Hanscom (106), Tyler Salsbury (120), Andrew Levensalor (145) and Andrew Adams (152) and second-place efforts from Snow and Zach Caron (126).
“We did great,” said Dexter coach Brian Salsbury. “We had six kids in the finals and won four of those. Last year we lost by one point and we were hoping to pull it out this year, but it’s tough because they’ve got the numbers.”
Ellsworth finished third in the 18-school competition with 114 points, with Caribou (73) and Fort Kent (47) rounding out the top five.
Ellsworth was led by 220-pound champion Michael Garland and runners-up Jack Weeks (132) and Jake Poors (170).
Caribou’s Brendan Wood placed first at 132 pounds, while teammate Tre Caudill was second at 113. Fort Kent’s Josh Pelletier won the 170-pound title, while the Warriors’ Jeremy Voisine placed second at 152.
The victory of the day may have belonged to Jordan Lord of Blue Hill’s George Stevens Academy. Lord, a senior who finished fourth at the Class C state meet in his weight class each of the last two years, survived a wild third round against Foxcroft’s Forrest Law in the 138-pound final in which each fighter scored a reversal and near-fall in the final 30 seconds, then scored a reversal in the third overtime period to secure an 11-9 victory over the reigning Class C state champion at that weight.
“I had way better energy today,” said Lord. “I thought since I already lost to him once this year that I had nothing to lose, and it went my way.”
Other individual champions were KP Hilaire of Bucksport at 195 pounds and Hermon’s Luke Potter at 285.