One of the state’s top wrestling powers during the past three decades hopes to cap off a notable comeback Saturday when the Class A state championship meet is held at Cony High School in Augusta.
Camden Hills of Rockport, which captured 15 Class B state titles and seven second-place finishes between 1987 and 2015, will vie for its best finish at states since being moved up to the large-school ranks in 2016.
The Windjammers are coming off victories at both the Kennebec Valley Athletic Conference Class A and Class A North regional meets, edging the Mt. Ararat of Topsham/Brunswick cooperative entry at both events.
“We’ve scratched our way here,” longtime Windjammers’ coach Patrick Kelly said. “I don’t think anybody anticipated us being here but we sure did.”
Camden Hills qualified nine wrestlers for the state meet, where the Windjammers anticipate a close competition with Mt. Ararat/Brunswick, South region champion Noble of North Berwick, Kennebunk and Marshwood of South Berwick, which won last year’s state Class A title with a relatively modest 117 points.
“No team’s is going to run away with it, and I’m going to make a prediction that I don’t think it’s going to take much more than a hundred points to win the state championship and that’s unheard of,” said Kelly, whose team placed ninth at the 2018 state meet with 43 points. “I’m not sure who’s going to do it, but it might as well be us if it’s going to be that close.”
Camden Hills’ rise back toward wrestling prominence has been fueled by blending talented veterans with promising younger competitors in order to build high-quality depth to challenge the deeper Class A rosters.
“We were the only B team in the East that moved up, and what I found out quite quickly was that while you can definitely see a nice equilibrium where the top-tier wrestlers from A and B can be quite competitive with each other, Class A simply has more of the talent so when you get down to third and fourth place in the region you’re looking at guys who could be state champions, and you don’t see that in B.
“The coaching staff and I have kind of been building for the last two or three years by looking at the freshmen coming in and coupling that with the juniors and seniors I had this year. You’ve got to have that mix of veteran leadership and veteran ability on the mat along with the newer wrestlers coming in.”
This year’s veteran presence is led by senior Noah Lang, the defending 145-pound Class A state champion and this year’s top North seed.
“Noah Lang is a cut above, a 200-match winner in high school now who is just dominant,” Kelly said. “We’ve been taking it meet by meet at this point but we have big goals for him.”
Lang is joined as a 2019 regional champion by junior Ian Henderson at 138 pounds, part of a Camden Hills squad that has qualified wrestlers for states at the seven lightest weight divisions from 106 pounds through 145.
That group also includes sophomore Eric Andrews (106 pounds), junior Joshua Saucier (120) and senior Dawson Allen (132), all regional runners-up; junior Devin Hutchinson (third at 113) and junior Kristina Kelly (fourth at 126).
Kristina Kelly is a first-year wrestler for the Windjammers and a two-time Maine high school soccer All-American who has 110 career goals through her first three years in that sport at Camden Hills. She scored 39 goals last fall while leading her team to a third straight Class A state championship.
Kelly, the niece of the Windjammers’ head coach, is one of three fourth-place regional qualifiers for states from Camden Hills along with freshman Harry Pharris (170 pounds) and senior Justin Secotte (182).
“If you hang in there you can be competitive and part of what I think is the idea of Camden Hills wrestling,” Patrick Kelly said. “That’s obviously being part of a team but also the idea that if you show up each and every day to wrestle and are willing to pay the price you can push yourself to your limit.”
Wells, Foxcroft among B contenders
Two-time defending state champion Wells and four-time reigning North region title holder Foxcroft Academy loom among the favorites for Saturday’s Class B state meet to be held at Mattanawcook Academy in Lincoln.
Both schools qualified 11 wrestlers for states, with the Wells contingent including five individual champions and four runners-up from last week’s B South regional at Fryeburg Academy.
Wells’ regional winners were Michael Ducharme (106), Jacob Scott (120), Josh Burgess (132), Nathan Curtis (170) and Jonah Potter (182).
Foxcroft which is seeking its first state team championship since 2016, scored two individual titles at last week’s North regional from Dustin Simmons at 160 pounds and Lucas Ames at 195. Rico Ayala added a second for the Ponies at 120 pounds.
Regional runners-up Dexter (North) and Medomak Valley of Waldoboro (South) also are expected to contend for top honors at states.