Winchenbach delivers on promise — to himselfAs eighth-grader, Windjammer vowed he would win state crown
Rockport — As an eighth-grader, Connor Winchenbach made a promise to himself that he would win an individual state wrestling championship in high school.
Talk about cutting it close.
It took him all the way to his final high school wrestling match, but Winchenbach, now a senior for the Camden Hills wrestling team, made good on his vow on Saturday, Feb. 22 in Bath as he won the 152-pound weight class.
The 17-year-old Winchenbach nabbed the only individual state title among Windjammer grapplers, which helped push his team over the top and to its third straight state Class B title.
In his final state match, Winchenbach earned a 10-2 win over Ellsworth's Connor Petros to claim the crown.
“It felt really good to get up there [on the podium as the champ],” he said. “I thought it would feel so much differently after I won, but it was so anticlimactic for me. It just felt like another match, it just had a different label on it.”
Winchenbach said neither he nor Petros scored points in the first period, but he managed a takedown in the second and handled his opponent throughout the rest of the match.
“When [the referee] raised my hand, I just felt relief,” Winchenbach said. “I set that goal for myself back in eighth grade to win a state title.”
Winchenbach has won the regional championship in his weight class the last three years, but the state crown had eluded him until this year. At the previous states, he finished third at 103 as a freshman, fourth at 120 as a sophomore and second at 138 as a junior.
Camden Hills coach Patrick Kelly said Winchenbach “is every opponent's nightmare and every coach's dream.”
“Connor was truly dominating on his way to a state title,” said Kelly. “He was focused and prepared and that makes him a dangerous competitor.”
Kelly said Winchenabach is “big and strong” and “his opponents at the state meet were outmatched by his strength and skill.”
“Connor is cerebral in his approach to his wrestling,” said the veteran coach. “From his diet, to training, to rest and mental preparation. He was a cut above this year and that is what put him over the top."
Winchenbach was 37-4 this season and ended his high school career with a mark of 147-41. He also qualified for the New England Wrestling Championships, held March 7-8 at the Providence Career and Technical Center in Rhode Island.
At the New Englands, Winchenbach finished 3-2 in five matches.
At 152 pounds, he lost by major decision to Chris Sullivan, Canton of Massachusetts, 10-0; received a bye; beat Jim Nolan, Plymouth of New Hampshire, 8-2; beat Bryan Burnette, Holy Cross of Connecticut, 3-1; beat Joseph Grenier, Noble of Maine, 7-3; and lost to Emmanuel Borsay, Hope of Rhode Island, 5-3.
Winchenbach was seeded third for Maine in his weight class.
Winchenbach said this year's state team title was the sweetest of the three straight he's been part of. While he was the only individual state champion, Camden Hills won 11 of their 14 matches in the consolation rounds, scoring valuable team points, to help put the Windjammers over the top.
“It really shows how hard we worked,” he said.
Winchenbach, who also plays soccer and lacrosse for Camden Hills, said wrestling is, by far, his favorite sport.
“Once you get out on the mat [you're on your own],” he said. “Sure, your score matters to the team, but it's just you and him [your opponent].”
Winchenbach had no aspirations as a young child to get into wrestling. In fact, he only gravitated toward the sport by chance.
“I was doing nothing in the winter [during midde school] at the time,” he said. “I was skiing a little, but not really. Then I was hanging out with my friend after school and he said, 'I have to go to wrestling practice.' So I said, 'Oh can I come too? I'm bored.' And it just kind of stuck with me.”
Winchenbach started Crossfit, a fitness program, a year ago after assistant coach True Bragg had him give it a shot. The Windjammers said “it has helped my conditioning tremendously.”
Winchenbach gave a great deal of credit to the coaching staff, led by Kelly and Bragg. However, several alumni and former coaches typically are in the mix at practices and in attendance at meets, giving the Windjammer grapplers more support.
Winchenbach compared those alumni, along with his teammates, as a second family.
“I would not be where I was at the end of the season without them,” he said of his coaches. “I see good wrestlers [at other schools] and I think, 'Wow, I wish they went here.' Brian Jones, he's a senior, this is his second year wrestling and he made it to the state finals.”
Winchenbach said he aspires to get his doctorate in physical therapy and to perhaps wrestle at the collegiate level.
Name: Connor Winchenbach.
Grade: Senior at Camden Hills Regional High School.
Parents: Steve and Caroline Winchenbach.
Favorite athlete: Josh Bridges.
Favorite personal moment in sports: Winning the individual and state Class B team wrestling championships.
Favorite course in school: Cooking.
TV show you never miss: The Walking Dead.
Favorite phone/computer app: None.
What do you listen to on your iPod before competing: "Eye of the Tiger" by Survivor.
Favorite movie: Jeremiah Johnson.
Food you pig out on: All the food I haven't been able to eat (while training).
Favorite book: “Hatchet” by Gary Paulsen.
Hobbies: Being outside, doing Crossfit and staying active.
Vehicle you wish you were driving: GTO.
Person you most want to meet (dead or alive): Dave Schultz.
Most influential people in your life: My parents and my grandparents.
Future plans: To get a doctorate in physical therapy and maybe wrestle in college.