Gage Stone’s wrestling postseason didn’t get off to a great start, but it’s on a much higher trajectory these days. The junior from Dexter Regional High School is set to leave Thursday for Providence, Rhode Island, the site of this weekend’s New England interscholastic championships.
Stone last weekend was named most outstanding wrestler at the state’s New England qualifying meet after winning the 152-pound weight class. The top three finishers in each of the 14 weight classes there earned their way to the New Englands that starts Friday and continues Saturday.
Other North region champions from the New England qualifying meet included Jackson Sutherland of Mattanawcook Academy of Lincoln (113 pounds), Mark Ward of Mount View of Thorndike (145), Cole Dunham of Oxford Hills of South Paris (160), Eric Benner of Medomak Valley of Waldoboro (220) and David Gross of Bucksport (285).
Second-place finishers at the qualifier included Noah Dumas of Cony of Augusta (106), Brycen Kowalsky of Mt. Ararat/Brunswick (113), Dawson Allen of Camden Hills of Rockport (132), Logan Lord of Ellsworth (138), Noah Lang of Camden Hills (145), Elias Miller of Medomak Valley (160), Zac Wilson of Piscataquis of Guilford (170), Brady Mitchell-Damms of Mt. Ararat/Brunswick (195) and Jeff Worster of Oxford Hills (220).
Among those qualifying for the New Englands with third-place finishes were Eric Andrews of Camden Hills (106), Ahmad Ahmad of Cony (113), Landon St. Peter of John Bapst of Bangor (120), Tucker Nicholas of Mt. Blue of Farmington (160) and Joe Tuulima of Penobscot Valley of Howland (285).
Stone, a Class B state runner-up at 132 pounds as a sophomore at Dexter, was poised for a strong start to his 2019 postseason. Just seconds away from victory in the 160-pound final at the Penobscot Valley Conference championships, Foxcroft Academy’s Dustin Simmons rallied to win a 6-5 decision as time expired.
“It was tough,” said Stone of the sudden reversal, which helped Foxcroft edge Dexter by 4 1/2 points for the team title.
Stone quickly regrouped, winning a wrestle-off the following week to compete at 152 pounds and since then winning nine straight matches to capture individual titles at the Class B North regional, state meet and the New England qualifier.
That effort also helped coach Andrew Levensalor’s Tigers top all of their North competitors at states, where Dexter placed second behind only South power Wells, which captured its third straight Class B state crown.
Stone was joined as an individual champion at states by teammate Caleb Weeks at 132 pounds, while other key contributors included runners-up Justin Wing (138) and Isaiah Hesseltine (160) and fourth-place finishers Nathan Schobel (145), Gus Irwin (170) and Eric Bennett (220).
“We wanted to make top-two at states because we were a little disappointed with how we did at PVCs and regionals,” said Stone.
Stone’s path to qualifying for the New Englands went through three of the top four finishers at the Class A state meet.
He opened with an 11-4 decision over fourth-place Dillon Worster of Oxford Hills, then edged Class A state runner-up Noah Beal-Hernandez 7-5 in the semifinals to ensure this weekend’s trip to the New Englands.
Stone then squared off against Class A state champion David Spinney of Marshwood of South Berwick in the 152-pound final and prevailed by 4-2 decision.
“I wanted to make top three,” said Stone, who also plays football and baseball at Dexter. “After I got that, I was more relaxed going into that last match.”
With that victory over Spinney, Stone became the first Dexter wrestler to win his weight class at the New England qualifier, also known as the Maine all-class meet.
And while that meet has been in existence for only six years, Stone is proud to take his place among the school’s notable wrestlers — a history he knows well thanks to his research of that topic as part of his participation in Sports Academy, an elective course at his school.
“Dexter has had a lot of great wrestlers and a lot of great teams over the years,” he said.