PITTSFIELD, Maine — Camden Hills of Rockport wrestlers placed among the top four individuals in a dozen of the 14 weight classes, including four champions, and propelled the Windjammers to the Eastern Maine Class B team championship Saturday at Maine Central Institute’s Wright Gymnasium.
Camden Hills scored 182 points to outdistance Kennebec Valley Athletic Conference rival Belfast, which had three individual titlists and racked up 138.5 points. Ellsworth, which also had three champions, finished a point behind Belfast, and Caribou took fourth with 99 points.
Rounding out the team scores for the 10-school event were MCI with 61, Medomak Valley of Waldoboro 60, Mount Desert Island 44, Hermon 42, Oceanside of Rockland/Thomaston 35 and Central of Corinth 25.
The top four individuals in each weight class — the winner and runner-up in the final and the winner and runner-up in the consolation final — plus an alternate, if there were enough competitors in a class, advance to the state final Saturday at the Augusta Civic Center.
Each school represented in Saturday’s event had at least one wrestler qualify for the state championships.
As the defending state Class B champion, the number of top-four finishes and the title are results that might be expected of Camden Hills. But Windjammer coach Pat Kelly wasn’t sure he would have a dozen wrestlers this year, let alone 12 qualifiers for next Saturday’s state tournament at the Augusta Civic Center.
“We graduated 11 seniors, and we had 12 in the [Eastern Maine] finals [last year],” said Kelly.
When this season started, the Windjammers had only seven returnees, so he and his staff went recruiting.
“We went up and down the halls of the school. We asked kids if they had thought about wrestling,” Kelly said.
Many came out, swelling the ranks to 22 or 23, according to Kelly. A few dropped out, but most stuck with it.
“We’re about 18 strong,” said Kelly. “The future looks great.”
Ten of the team members are freshmen or sophomores. The average age of the team is 15, Kelly said.
“We’ve done a lot of teaching,” said Kelly. “In the end, we focused on the journey we’re in.”
Kelly pointed to sophomore Zach Annis as an example. Annis, one of his returnees, earned a 9-3 decision over Noah Robidoux of Ellsworth at 106 pounds.
“Zach was sick all week. He had the flu and strep throat,” said Kelly. “He came in with a focus and mat sense that I hadn’t seen from him all year.”
Among the Windjammers’ other finalists, individual titles came from Connor Winchenbach (138), Coleman Powers (145) and Jared Gilbert (170), while John Underhill (120) and Chris Weiss (126) were runners-up in their classes.
Winchenbach, Powers, Gilbert and Underhill are also among the returnees.
Winchenbach pinned Robert Caudill of Caribou 1:07 into the second of the three two-minute rounds, Powers pinned Michael McFadden of Belfast 55 seconds into the second round and Gilbert pinned Jake Poors of Ellsworth with 12 seconds left in the opening round.
“Because of the quality of the kids we found, we found some stickers,” said Kelly. “They’re students of the sport and enjoy it.”
Belfast, which coach Rick Kelley said has overcome a lot of adversity, came in on an upswing. The Lions were led by titlists Dagan Berenyi at 126 pounds, Brent Waterman (132) and Peter Kelley (195).
“We’re that close to where we want to be,” said Kelley, holding his thumb and forefinger close together. “Today was a big step in that direction.”
Because he sees a lot of parity among the top teams in Class B, the Lions’ coach has hopes for his wrestlers at the state meet..
“High school athletics is 90 percent mental and 10 percent physical,” he said. “It all comes down to confidence. To do well in a meet like this puts the wind in your sails.”
Ellsworth’s champions were Joe Wright of Ellsworth (152), Michael Garland (220) and Jared Bragg (285).
The other individual winners were Dallas Ball of Oceanside (113 pounds), Dylan Dahlbergh of MCI (120), Paul Young of Central (160) and Cyril Miller of Medomak Valley (182).