Medomak Valley High School has crowned several state championship athletic squads over the years and Matt Lash, the Maine School Administrative District 40 athletic director, wants to honor the members of all those teams.

Lash began that mission in the fall with the recognition of the 1989 Panther girls cross-country team and continued earlier this winter when the 1977 and 1980 Panther boys basketball squads were recognized in the ceremonies at the school.

Now it is the 1991 Panther wrestling team’s turn to jump back into the spotlight. That will happen on Saturday, Jan. 23 in Medomak Valley’s final regular-season quad-meet, when the Panthers host Camden Hills, Mountain Valley of Rumford and Morse of Bath. The ceremony will be held after round two of the meet around 1 p.m.

Among those expected to attend are Doug Libby, who started the wrestling program at MVHS and coached the 1991 team. Libby also was the school’s athletic director for 23 years.

The wrestlers from that team were Ward Benner, Jesse Tucker, Harold Anderson, Kevin Pelletier, Gary Beverage, Gabe Elwell, Mike Libby, Tony Lee, Bruce Winchenbach, Andy Jankovich, Stan Rintz, Nathan Miller and Robert Souza. The managers were Julie Simmons, Angela Guisani and Jen Ahlemeyer. The head coach was Libby and the assistant coach was Jon Thurston.

The team’s regular-season wins from that year came against: Belfast 33-26, Morse 42-30, Gardiner 56-10, Oxford Hills of South Paris 47-25, Mountain Valley 49-19, Marshwood of Eliot 31-30, Winslow 39-20, Bucksport 42-25, Lincoln Academy of Newcastle 43-24, Cony of Augusta 43-20, Camden-Rockport 35-24, Skowhegan 60-13, Foxcroft Academy of Dover-Foxcroft 52-15, Portland 57-18, Mount Blue of Farmington 42-19 and Fryeburg Academy 39-18.

“This was a very special team,” said Lash. “Not only by what they were able to accomplish, but by how hard they worked. They were so commited. As a student-athlete at the time, I recall watching their practices in the auxillary gym. The level of competition in practice was incredible. The support they had was tremendous. They would fill the gym at home meets. It was fun to witness.”

Libby said that 1991 team, which ultimately tied Camden-Rockport High School for the state Class B crown, was a “dream season.” The team finished the regular season 16-0 and finished 8-0 in the Kennebec Valley Athletic Conference championship meet, winning the league crown as a Class B school against both Class A and B opponents. The Panthers then finished second in the Eastern Class B tournament and won the state crown.

Interestingly, the next year, in 1992, MVHS crowned three individual state champions, one runner-up, and two who placed fourth. The Panthers finished second in the state meet that year.

Members of the 1991 Panther squad who placed in the state tournament were: Pelletier (4th at 135 pounds), Rintz (2nd at 140 pounds), Winchenbach (3rd at 152 pounds), Jankovitch (1st at 160 pounds), Miller (3rd at 189 pounds) and Souza (3rd at 275 pounds).

“What made it such a special season was the kids that made up the team,” Libby said. “They were dedicated, motivated and made sacrifices that I probably don’t know about to this day. Coaching that team was also special because of the character of all members of the team. As I remember, about 75 percent of my team were on the honor roll. Although I have forgotten many of the aspects of that particular year, I will never forget the quality of that team. They earned the rewards of their hard work and perseverance.”

Libby started the Panther wrestling program in 1969 and coached the team for 30 years. “Competing in what I believe to be the strongest league in the state, we compiled a record of 301-210-7,” Libby said. “We had 20 [individual] KVAC champions, 32 [individual] regional champions and 13 [individual] state champions. As a team we finished seven times in the top five in the KVAC (the league started tournaments in 1981), 18 times in the top five in regionals and 16 times in the top 10 in the states.”

Libby was KVAC coach of the year in 1980, 1989 and 1991 and Wrestling USA’s “Man of the Year” in 1997

“Wrestling has brought me much pleasure over the years, to include coaching my two sons,” Libby said. “Now I am sitting back and watching Michael, my youngest son, coaching a high school team of his own. It is very rewarding to see young people grow and develop skills necessary to succeed at a demanding sport. Those lessons carry over to aspects of everyday life. I would like to think that I have helped a few during my career.”

Libby, who was athletic director at MVHS 1980-2003, was inducted into the Maine Amateur Wrestling Alliance Hall of Fame in 2001.

Village NetMedia Regional Editor/Sports Director Ken Waltz can be reached at 207-594-4401 or by e-mail at kwaltz@villagesoup.com.