ELLSWORTH, Maine — The Ellsworth High School wrestling team began Saturday in a most benevolent mood — donating $5,000 to the Beth C. Wright Cancer Resource Center as the culmination of a season-long fundraising effort.
The Eagles then took the Penobscot Valley Conference championship meet by force, crowning six individual champions and scoring 13 top-three finishes in the 14 weight classes at Katsiaficas Gymnasium to win the league crown for the second time in four years.
But while the team’s 2011 PVC crown featured an unabashed celebration of the re-emergence of a program that last won a state championship in 1982, Ellsworth’s post-match reaction this time was proud but more muted.
The Eagles fully expected to win this championship and are aspiring to much greater heights with the Class B regional and state championship meets coming up the next two weekends.
“Success breeds success, and that’s just the whole story,” said Travis Hardison, who shares head coaching duties at Ellsworth with Dan Ormsby. “Winning some matches and winning a few tournaments here and there makes kids want to be a part of that success so we’re seeing a lot of kids coming out for the team and now we’re able to pick from a bigger group of kids.
“And as the kids get better they help each other get better.”
Ellsworth finished with 238.5 points, well ahead of Foxcroft Academy of Dover-Foxcroft, the three-time defending Class C state champion that was reclassified by enrollment to Class B beginning this season.
The Ponies finished with 146.5 points to top third-place Dexter, the top Class C finisher in the 15-school field. Dexter scored 121 points, while Caribou (80) and Bucksport (62) were next.
Ellsworth’s Michael Garland was voted the meet’s outstanding wrestler after winning the 220-pound crown with three straight pins, the final one a 2-minute, 54-second stoppage of Hermon’s Alex Urquhart in their championship match.
Other individual winners for the Eagles were Noah Robidoux at 113 pounds, Robert Banner (126), Dagan Berenyi (132), Jack Weeks (145) and Joe Wright (170). Ellsworth also got runner-up finishes from Josh Wright (120), Connor Petros (152) and Austin Smith (160), while Landon Scott (106), Scott Parr (138), Jeff Weeks (182) and Sid St. Peter (195) each won his consolation final to score a third-place finish.
The Eagles won in convincing fashion despite having two standouts — highly regarded freshman 138-pounder Trent Goodman and senior heavyweight Jared Bragg — sidelined by injury and illness, respectively.
“We’ve come a long way, not just in the past two or three years, but from the start of this season,” said Jack Weeks. “The overall experience level is pretty high, and a lot of the guys have been wrestling during the summer and improving that way, too.”
Foxcroft and Dexter each advanced five wrestlers to the championship finals. Antonio Ayala (120), Brooks Law (138) and Corbyn Bruce at 195 were individual title winners for Foxcroft, while Brandon Brock (182) and Devin Madigan (285) each placed second.
Dexter got titles in back-to-back weight classes from Seth Blais at 152 pounds and Bryce Salsbury at 160, while Dillon Garnett (113), Zach Caron (138) and Matt Mower (170) each finished second.
Other individual champions were P.J. Crawford of Penobscot Valley of Howland at 106 pounds, Bucksport’s Nic Bishop at 182 and Luke Potter of Hermon at 285.
The title-winning Ellsworth wrestlers donned the same pink and black singlets for the meet that they have been wearing throughout a season they have dedicated to raising money for the Beth C. Wright Cancer Resource Center.
That Ellsworth facility, created as a source of information, social services and compassion for cancer patients and their families throughout Hancock, Penobscot and Washington counties, is named for the mother of Eagles’ wrestlers Joe and Josh Wright and late wife of assistant coach Wayne Wright, who lost her life to breast cancer in August 2000.
Ellsworth wrestlers secured individual and-or corporate sponsors from within the community, with some giving set amounts to be donated to the center while other contributions could increase depending on a wrestler’s number of wins and pins.
The team also sold T-shirts and held 50-50 drawings, leading to the generous donation made during a brief ceremony just before the start of Saturday’s matches.
“It’s absolutely amazing to know that we’re all doing this for each other and for the Beth C. Wright Cancer Center,” said Joe Wright. “That was my mom, and every single time I’m out there wrestling I think of her and I think about all the people I’m doing it for.
“I like to believe that she’s up there and she’s helping me out on the mat. I’m just honored.”