Thanks to the generosity of local businesses, three young Rockland wrestlers got the opportunity to compete in the Ohio National Tournament of Champions April 16 at the Hyatt Regency Convention Center.

Connor McGonagle, Ben Ripley and Bennett Penney participated in the largest one-day wrestling tourney in the country, an event that attracted nearly 3,000 young athletes.

To participate in the tourney, one must have placed at one of the “qualifying” events throughout the United States. For the Rockland boys, it was the Marshwood New England Classic April 2.

At the New Englands, McGonagle placed second in the 73-pound Novice Division, while Ripley was second in the 69-pound Midget Division and Penney first in the 77-pound Midget Division. Ripley also finished first in peewees at this year’s state meet and McGonagle was first in the New Englands last year.

The young athletes were invited to participate on the New England Mavericks club team so they could have the opportunity to wrestle in the team duals, as well as the individual tournament, at the nationals. The team was organized by Bob Weiss of Belfast and the elementary squad was coached by Bob Craig of Farmington and Jason Yates of Rockland.

Craig’s son, Jake, finished first in his division at the national tournament and may be the first child from Maine to do so. Children from Connecticut, Rhode Island and Massachusetts also participated on the Mavericks.

The Mavericks elementary team placed fourth in the national team duals. McGonagle won two matches in the individual tourney and two in the duals, while Ripley won three matches in the individual event and two in the duals. Penney won two matches in the individual tournament and one in the duals.

Rod Penney, father of Bennett, said the Rockland Wrestling Club thanks the local businesses that donated money “to help these three boys and their families make this trip possible. Asking businesses for this type of sponsorship during tax time was something that was difficult to do. The following businesses came through for us in a huge way to make this trip possible during these tough economic times.”

Rockland Savings and Loan, Art’s Marine Service, Best Rates Towing, Hallock Construction, Jake Barbour Inc., Cushing Diesel, F/V Gale Raye, Eureka Counseling, Bouchard Painting, South End Grocery, Corson’s Auto Supply, Knox Bros., Custom Coatings, Brooks Trap Mill, Domino’s Pizza Rockland, Midcoast Marine Supply, Penobscot Island Air, Eastern Tire Service, Park Street Laundry, Master Clean, Knight’s Marine Service and O’Hara’s.

VillageSoup sports staff can be reached by phone at 207-594-4401 or by email at