State champion again has nice ring for Camden HillsWindjammer depth pays dividends en route to third straight crown
Bath — Asked during the state Class B championship meet on Saturday, Feb. 15 at Bath Middle School if Camden Hills could defend its crown for the second time in three years, veteran Windjammer assistant coach Perry Goodspeed thought it might be a "long shot," but said, as he has learned over the decades, anything was possible.
And, again, when it comes to the historically championship-driven Windjammers, even in a season in which they appeared a little younger and inexperienced, they found a way to rise to the occasion and, ultimately, the top.
Camden Hills used its talent and especially its overall depth to win the state championship for the third straight year.
The Windjammers did what they have done many times during their amazing 41-year mat history — namely, win league, regional and state titles in the same season.
In the program's history, Camden Hills/Camden-Rockport has captured 15 state titles (and been state runners-up seven times), 12 Kennebec Valley Athletic Conference crowns and 19 Eastern Class B championships.
On Saturday in Bath, Connor Winchenbach won the 152-pound championship and was the lone Windjammer titlist.
In the past, the Windjammers have cemented state team titles by having a bundle of wrestlers in the championship finals. But, on Saturday, it was the persistent student-athletes battling for points in the consolation rounds who paid huge dividends for the Camden Hills.
In fact, the Windjammers won 11 of 14 matches in the final two rounds of the consolation bracket to hold off Mountain Valley of Rumford.
The team scores were: Camden Hills 124, Mountain Valley 113, Ellsworth 100, Foxcroft Academy of Dover-Foxcroft 89.5, York 79, Wells 73, Belfast 52, Fryeburg Academy 50, Mount View of Thorndike 39, Erskine Academy of South China 38, Hermon 34, Gardiner 27.5, Winslow 26, Maine Central Institute of Pittsfield 24, Oak Hill of Sabattus 22.5, Medomak Valley of Waldoboro 19, Caribou 10, Morse of Bath 5, Oceanside of Rockland/Thomaston, Lincoln Academy of Newcastle and Mount Desert Island no score.
Interestingly, the Windjammers lost regular-season dual-meets to Ellsworth and Foxcroft Academy, but beat those opponents when it mattered most — at the state meet.
Foxcroft Academy moved up to Class B after winning the state Class C title the previous three years.
The following is a synopsis of finishes for top-four Midcoast wrestlers:
Camden Hills —Connor Winchenbach (1st at 152 pounds), Brian Jones (2nd at 182), Zac Annis (3rd at 113), John Underhill (3rd at 132), Eli Smith (3rd at 145), Elvis Bowen (3rd at 160), Jared Gilbert (3rd at 195) and James Archer (4th at 120).
Medomak Valley — Cyril Miller (2nd at 170 pounds).
Belfast — Austin Merando (3rd at 106 pounds), Walker Roberts (3rd at 138), Brendan Bruns (4th at 113), Michael McFadden (4th at 145) and John Capella (4th at 160).
Mount View — Job Mesaric (3rd at 220 pounds), James Blanchette (4th at 126), Jarryd Fonger (4th at 132) and Chris Cole (4th at 285).
Veteran Windjammer coach Patrick Kelly said it was the combination of the team's coaching staff and fortitude of the young student-athletes who ultimately made winning another state title possible.
Mountain Valley looked strong for awhile and pushed the Windjammers to the end. Five Falcons were seeded first in their brackets, and each advanced to the championship round. The Falcons also did well in their head-to-head matches against the Windjammers.
But the Windjammers simply never quit no matter where they were positioned in the consolation or championship brackets. Camden Hills won six of seven matches in the consolation semifinals and won five of six consolation final matches, compiling a bundle of points.
The team made up about 50 points late in the meet to overtake the Falcons.
"What this team has done for the past two years, being so young and inexperienced, is nothing short of miraculous," said Kelly. "This team is, in itself, an amazing story."
He added, ""Wow. What a day for Camden Hills wrestling. We showed up, weighed in and battled to a third straight title. This state title is so sweet for it was a complete team effort, whereby each wrestler understood their performance on the mats directly related to the team's success."
Kelly said, "We had a very, very rough championship semifinal round, winning only two of eight matches and we found ourselves 50 points behind Mountain Valley," but the team battled back.
"This wrestling team is amazing ... and everyone in attendance witnessed a relentless pursuit for victory by each wrestler as they battled match by match back to a position to win the title and they did just that. Wow."
Kelly said the behind-the-scenes work and guidance of the team's coaching staff was key. "The incredible coaching performance of True Bragg was insightful, patient and, most of all, effective. Coach Goodspeed is one-of-a-kind. He is so awesome with the entire team. Coach Paul [Smith] is steady and always there to do what needs to be done. The coaching staff has always gotten a free ride upon the strong backs and efforts of the wrestlers that make up Windjammer wrestling and we thank them for the wonderful journey."
There also will be a qualifier for the New England tournament on Thursday, Feb. 20 at Nokomis High School in Newport. The top three finishers in each weight class will qualify for the New England championships on Saturday and Sunday, March 8-9 at the Providence Career and Technical Center, Providence, R.I.
State individual results
The individual state results for Midcoast wrestlers were:
106 pounds — Austin Merando, Bel, pinned Cullen Cummings, Wells, at 5:37; lost by technical fall to Danny Buteau, OaH, 16-2; beat Hilary Merrifield, CH, 11-5; and beat Cameron Grass, EA, 9-4, in the consolation final. Merando finished third.
Hilary Merrifield, CH, lost by major decision to Jon Mackaman, York, 12-0; pinned Marcus Parsons, MDI, at 1:33; and lost to Austin Merando, Bel, 11-5.
"Hilary Merrifield wrestled well as she battled a tough field of 106-pound wrestlers in her bracket," Kelly said. "Hillary is an amazing competitor and her best days in wrestling are yet to come."
113 pounds — Zac Annis, CH, pinned Zach Cloutier, OaH, at 3:09; was pinned by Caleb Austin, MountVal, at 1:43; won by technical fall over Caleb Chase, Wells, 17-1; and beat Brendan Bruns, Bel, 8-5, in the consolation final. Annis finished third.
Brendan Bruns, Bel, beat Caleb Chase, Wells, 6-0; lost by technical fall to Peter DelGallo, Gard, 19-1; beat Noah Robidoux, Ells, 6-2; and lost to Zac Annis, CH, 8-5, in the consolation final. Bruns finished fourth.
"Zach Annis was deliberate as he battled to a third place," Kelly said. "He looked so good."
120 pounds — James Archer, CH, pinned Isaac Taylor, EA, at 1:39; lost to Ethan Boucher, MountVal, 5-3; pinned Joshua Wright, Ells, at 2:55; and lost to Antonio Ayala, FA, 12-8, in the consolation final. Archer finished fourth.
Zachary Sheafe, Bel, was pinned by Ethan Boucher, MountVal, at 1:25; and was pinned by Isaac Taylor, EA, at 2:26.
"James Archer was the ultimate teammate as he wrestled with a 'never-give-up' attitude to take fourth place," Kelly said. "I am so proud of James for being a class act in the face of defeat."
126 pounds — James Blanchette, MtView, lost by major decision to Robert Banner, Ells, 13-0; pinned Zac Collins, CH, at 2:41; beat Eli Olson, FA, 12-6; and lost to Robert Banner, Ells, 9-5, in the consolation final. Blanchette finished fourth.
Zac Collins, CH, was pinned by Jacob Thornton, MountVal, at 0:34; and was pinned by James Blanchette, MtView, at 2:41.
"Zac Collins made the journey to the state and wrestled tough and gained much experience as a result," Kelly said.
132 pounds — John Underhill, CH, pinned Conor Smith, FA, at 2:32; was pinned by Brandon Gill, MountVal, at 1:37; pinned Luke Fredette, Win, at 5:15; and beat Jarryd Fonger, MtView, 4-2, in the consolation final. Underhill finished third.
Jarryd Fonger, MtView, beat Tanner Littlefield, MCI, 5-3; beat Isaac Whittemore, FA, 4-2; and lost to John Underhill, CH, 4-2, in the consolation final. Fonger finished fourth.
Kelly called Underhill a "warrior" who took a "commanding" third. "John is the type of wrestler that makes a statement each time he take to the mat ... and that is impressive."
138 pounds — Walker Roberts, Bel, beat Joe York, EA, 10-4; lost to Colin Sevigney, Wells, 3-1; pinned Riley McCollett, Med, at 2:21; and won by major decision over Joe York, EA, 15-4, in the consolation final. Roberts finished third.
Riley McCollett, Med, lost by major decision to Eddie DeRoche, MountVal, 14-4; beat Patrick Hopkins, Win, 8-4; and was pinned by Walker Roberts, Bel, at 2:21.
Taylor Crosby, CH, was pinned by Colin Sevigney, Win, at 3:24; and was pinned by Joe York, EA, at 1:15.
"Taylor Crosby made the trip to the states and gave his all for the team and that is what we ask of our wrestlers," Kelly said.
145 pounds — Eli Smith, CH, won by technical fall over Anthony Barnard, MtView, 21-5; lost to Josh Smith, York, 6-4; pinned Ryan Buzzell, FA, at 2:14; and won by major decision over Michael McFadden, Bel, 14-5, in the consolation final. Smith finished third.
Michael McFadden, Bel, pinned Ryan Buzzell, FA, at 2:44; lost to Dakota Jacques, MountVal, 3-2; won by major decision over Anthony Barnard, MtView, 15-1; and lost by major decision against Eli Smith, CH, 14-5, in the consolation final. McFadden finished fourth.
Anthony Barnard, MtView, lost by technical fall to Eli Smith, CH, 21-5; pinned Axios Gerakaris, Car, at 3:58; and lost by major decision against Michael McFadden, Bel, 15-1.
"Eli Smith had an amazing day," Kelly said. "Even though he endured a very tough loss in the championship semis, he refined his mental focus to take a commanding third-place finish."
152 pounds — Connor Winchenbach, CH, pinned Ben Abbott, Win, at 2:11; won by major decision over Trevor Kitchin, MCI, 14-4; and won by major decision over Connor Petros, Ells, 10-2, in the championship final. Winchenbach finished first.
"Connor Winchenbach was absolutely dominating as he won a state title," Kelly said. "He was in complete command all day long. He has spent four long years in the practice room for this state title. I am so very happy for him."
160 pounds — Elvis Bowen, CH, was pinned by Connor Elsemore, York, at 1:10; beat Zach Isbell, EA, 4-2; pinned Raz Baltazar, Mor, at 5:47; and beat John Capella, Bel, 6-3, in the consolation final. Bowen finished third.
John Capella, Bel, won by major decision over Zach Isbell, EA, 13-5; was pinned by Connor Elsemore, York, at 1:07; pinned Austin Smith, Ells, at 3:31; and lost to Elvis Bowen, CH, 6-3, in the consolation final. Capella finished fourth.
"Bowen wrestled in a word — tough," Kelly said. "He got caught in a tough move in his first match againt the eventual champion from York. He toughened up to take third place. This young man works so hard and has such a bright future in this sport."
170 pounds — Cyril Miller, Med, pinned Corey Lent, Mor, at 2:48; pinned Tyler Azevedo, EA, at 3:12; and lost to Joe Wright, Ells, 8-2, in the championship final. Miller finished second.
182 pounds — Brian Jones, CH, pinned Jacob Truman, Gard, at 4:11; pinned Zach Cross, MountVal, at 0:45 in overtime; and lost to Trevor Henschel, FA, 12-5, in the championship final. Jones finished second.
Matthew Smith, Bel, was pinned by Zach Cross, MountVal, at 1:01; and was pinned by Jacob Truman, Gard, at 2:00.
"Brian Jones battled to ovetime in a head-to-head match with Mountain Valley's Zach Cross in the championship semis," Kelly said. "Jones pinned him in a dramatic finish. This match changed the destiny for the team title."
195 pounds — Jared Gilbert, CH, pinned Anthony Boucher, MountVal, at 3:41; was pinned by Michael Curtis, Wells, at 2:30; pinned Andrew Doody Veilleux, Gard, at 4:42; and pinned Matthew Manter, Car, at 1:24 of the consolation final. Gilbert finished third.
"Jared Gilbert endured a tough loss as he faced one of Maine's premeir wrestlers, Michael Curtis from Wells, in the championship semis," Kelly said. "But just like last year, Jared showed why he is one the most talented wrestlers to come through this program in a very long time. He, yet again, pinned his way to third place."
220 pounds — Job Mesaric, MtView, beat Craig Chambers, FA, 1-0; was pinned Michael Garland, Ells, at 4:41; pinned Angel Escalante, FA, at 3:12; and beat Chuck Taylor, Wells, 5-3, in the consolation final. Mesaric finished third.
285 pounds — Chris Cole, MtView, beat Jared Bragg, Ells, 6-1; was pinned by Aaron Lint, Win, at 1:03; pinned Briar Bussell, MCI, at 0:43; and was pinned by Luke Potter, Her, at 0:53 in the consolation final. Cole finished fourth.
Kaylo Littlejohn, CH, was pinned by Aaron Lint, Win, at 3:03; beat Jared Bragg, Ells, 8-6; and was pinned by Luke Potter, Her, at 2:26.
"Kaylo Littlejohn wrestles all out each time he takes to the mat," Kelly said. "Kaylo is very determined to be a state champion in his senior year."
Coach Kelly said Wyatt Parra and Bryan Clement were aternates to the state meet, had strong seasons and have goals to make states next year.
"To all the other Windjammer wrestlers: Kaden Harrison-Billiat, Josiah Farrell, Christian Fisk, Gabe Salo, Brian Gunn, Alex Copeland and "Kentucky," you all are as equally important to this team as any other member. Your individual efforts to make our program what it is today is appreciated," coach Kelly said.
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Ken Waltz has been member of the media 30 years and has received hundreds of Maine Press Association and New England Press Association awards for his writing, photography and page design. He studied journalism at the University of Maine in Orono. He lives in South Thomaston with his wife, Sarah. The couple has an adult son, Brandon.
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