BELFAST, Maine — Just two seniors stood among the 14 wrestlers that represented Camden Hills of Rockport at Saturday’s Eastern Maine Class B wrestling championships.
But the quality of that youthful depth lived up to the Windjammers’ recent era of domination on the mat — a run that has produced 11 state titles in the last 16 years.
It wasn’t easy, but coach Patrick Kelly’s club qualified 12 wrestlers for next week’s state meet including nine regional finalists as Camden Hills edged Ellsworth 203-194.5 to win its fifth consecutive EM crown.
“This was really the first time all year we’ve had all 14 wrestlers together for the same meet,” said Kelly, whose team will seek the program’s third straight state championship next Saturday at Morse High School in Bath.
Three-time defending Class C state champion Foxcroft Academy — which boasted a meet-best five individual champions — finished third in the 10-school field with 159 points, followed by Belfast (89), Caribou (65), Maine Central Institute of Pittsfield (64), Hermon (50), Medomak Valley of Waldoboro (43), Mount Desert Island (22) and Oceanside of Rockland-Thomaston (10).
Camden Hills built a fairly sizeable early lead and held a 188-161 lead over Ellsworth heading into the consolation finals.
But the Penobscot Valley Conference-champion Eagles went 4-1 in their third-place matches while Camden Hills settled for three fourth-place finishes, reducing the Windjammers’ lead to 188-181 entering the championship matches.
Camden Hills won three of its finals, but Ellsworth was unable to make inroads despite getting considerable help from Foxcroft, which went 4-0 in head-to-head championship matches against the Windjammers.
Ellsworth went 3-4 in its championship finals, and Camden Hills was able to sustain its lead to the finish.
“I thought as long as everyone wrestled the way they were capable of that we could win this and we could beat Ellsworth,” said Brian Jones, a senior captain for the Windjammers who placed second at 182 pounds. “We are a young team and at the beginning of the season it was looking a little shaky, but everyone stepped up and now we’re here.”
Individual champions for Camden Hills included sophomore Hilary Merrifield, who won her first two matches by pin and then defeated Belfast’s Austin Merando in the 106-pound final by a 10-1 major decision.
Junior Zac Annis, the EM champion at 106 pounds last winter, edged Belfast’s Brendan Bruns 5-4 in the 113-pound final, while senior Connor Winchenbach, who won the 152-pound title by injury default over Ellsworth’s Connor Petros.
Joining Jones with runner-up finishes for the Windjammers were James Archer (120 pounds), John Underhill (132), Eli Smith (145), Elvis Bowan (160) and Jared Gilbert (195).
Ellsworth also qualified 12 wrestlers for the state meet, led by regional champions Dagan Berenyi, Jack Weeks and Michael Garland.
Weeks was voted wrestler of the meet for his come-from-behind 12-9 decision over Camden Hills’ Smith in the 145-pound final. Weeks trailed 7-3 entering the final period, then still was behind in the final minute before scoring a reversal and near fall to secure the victory.
Berenyi, a sophomore who won the 126-pound EM title while attending Belfast last year, secured the 132-pound crown with one pin and two victories by technical fall. Garland edged Hermon’s Alex Urquhart 8-6 in a hard-fought 220-pound final.
Placing second in their weight classes for Ellsworth were Petros, Robert Banner (126) Joe Wright (170) and Jared Bragg (285).
“I think the kids wrestled well throughout the day,” said Dan Ormsby, who shares head coaching duties at Ellsworth with Travis Hardison. “I think that going through the rounds we had some stuff stacked against us at the beginning, we had a lot of byes and the byes took 22 points away from us.
“We’re coming for a state title, that’s what we want,” he added. “This hurts, but it only stings until Monday when we get back to practice.”
Foxcroft won all of its championship matches, beginning with reigning Class C 113-pound state champion Antonio Ayala outpointing Camden Hills’ Archer 14-12.
Another 2013 Class C state champion from Foxcroft, Brooks Law, scored an 11-3 major decision over Belfast’s Walker Roberts in the 138-pound final while the Ponies’ Todd Francis (160), Brandon Brock (182) and Corbyn Bruce (195) also won their weight classes.
Other Eastern Maine championships were Dylan Dahlbergh of MCI at 126 pounds, Cyril Miller of Medomak Valley at 170 and Hermon’s Luke Potter at 285.