High school wrestling has struggled for years to maintain a foothold in Greater Bangor because of limited participation, but an effort to build support for the sport at the youth level is working to gain traction in the Queen City.
Bangor Area Wrestling has grown from 25 participants during its inaugural season in 2014 to 75 wrestlers in three age groups last winter. For their efforts, four people heavily involved in that organization have been named “People of the Year” by the Maine Amateur Wrestling Alliance.
Bangor Area Wrestling founders Kristie Miner and Aaron Hoshide, and two middle school-level coaches in the program, Jordan Fogg and Daniel Considine, will be honored for their efforts during the MAWA’s annual hall of fame induction ceremony on Aug. 18 at the Hyde School in Bath.
“The wrestling community throughout the state has been very supportive of us from the beginning,” said Miner, the Bangor Area Wrestling president. “Everybody has always been excited when we’ve gone to a tournament. They’ve said, ‘What? Bangor’s here? That’s great,’ because they all want more competition around the state.
“We’ve always felt supported and getting this recognition just raises that level.”
This past season, Bangor Area Wrestling, based at the Bangor Parks and Recreation Department, served 20 youngsters in the grades K-2 division, 40 children in grades 1-5 and 15 middle schoolers, with some overlap depending on the level of individual development.
Typically 60 percent of the participants are from Bangor with 40 percent from outside the city, including young wrestlers last season from neighboring Brewer, Hampden, Old Town and Hermon, and from as far away as Ellsworth and Unity.
“A big thing is just being out there helping the kids feel their way through the moves but also having a lot of fun with it,” said Miner, who is a speech therapist at Community Health and Counseling Services and the mother of two young wrestlers.
Bangor Area Wrestling began with five coaches and now typically has double that number, all volunteers seeking to boost the sport as an option for youngsters looking for a first athletic activity to pursue or as a new endeavor.
“The problem with youth sports is you lose all the late bloomers,” Miner said. “The model we’ve adopted is to be very inclusive because everyone has something to contribute. Our coaches know it’s a grind, it’s long-term development, but we can break things down and make small goals, and even if your kid may not be No. 1 out there he’s still learning and growing.”
That inclusion, Miner said, also involves youngsters with disabilities.
“Parents come up to me and say, ‘You don’t understand, my child cannot be successful in any field sport because of their attention deficit disorder,’ or ‘My child is on the autism disorder spectrum,’” she said. “We don’t know any of that when they’re on the mat.
“We don’t need a unified wrestling program, we can have an integrated program with wrestling. Kids can participate in the same program as the kids who do not have disabilities. We don’t have enough opportunities like that in the public school system and wrestling affords folks that opportunity.”
The Maine Amateur Wrestling Alliance also will induct four new members into its Hall of Fame during its Aug. 18 event: Carlin Dubay, a New England champion in 2009 and three-time state champion from Caribou; fellow former state champions Chris Smith and Dave Giroux; and former coach, Maine director of USA Wrestling and wrestling writer Terry Devereaux.
Matt Rix, who recently retired after 34 years as the head wrestling coach at Marshwood High School in South Berwick — where he guided the Hawks to 10 state championships — will be honored as MAWA coach of the year. Peter Del Gallo of Gardiner and the University of Southern Maine (college wrestler of the year) and Samuel Anderson of Sanford (high school wrestler of the year) also will be recognized.
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