Pine Tree Wrestling League

Ward finds mat calling, wins title in final middle school season

Eighth-grader pins down championship in second season in sport
By Zack Miller | Apr 13, 2018
Photo by: Zack Miller Medomak's Levi Ward.

Waldoboro — The early teenage years are a time for exploring interests, especially in sports. Youngsters want to know what is fun to play and intrigues them, and what does not.

For Medomak Middle School eighth-grader Levi Ward, it did not take long for the 14-year-old to find out what intrigues him, and what he is good at: wrestling.

Ward has been wrestling for only two years, and began during his seventh-grade year for the Riverhawks, when most student-athletes in the program had been wrestling for two years prior — or longer.

“In seventh grade I played football with coach Fritz Miller, and he was talking to us about wrestling and he got me and a couple friends to take up wrestling, and I was the only one who stayed with it,” Ward said. “Everyone else branched off and didn’t want to do it anymore.”

Ward not branching off turned out to be a wise move.

In his first year on the mats, Ward wrangled up a third-place finish at the East regional, and followed it with a fourth-place finish at the league meet the next week, which set the foundation for this year.

“He came back this year really focused and knew the deal this year,” said Riverhawk coach Trevor Readinger. “It was a goal of his to go to states and as he went through the season I think he knew that would be a possibility and he narrowed his focus, which was fun to watch.”

“Last year I wrestled a weight class higher so I hadn’t really wrestled any 170-[pound wrestlers] so I didn’t know who I was going to wrestle this year,” Ward said. “I expected myself to be good, but I was unsure of how exactly I would do.”

Ward performed pretty well this year, actually perfectly, to say the least. The eighth-grader compiled a 26-0 record, with nine pins, in a season that saw him wrestle at 170 and 195 pounds.

“[It’s a] different weight definitely,” Ward said. “At 195 kids tend to be taller and bigger around and a lot harder to maneuver. Doing takedowns are a lot harder because the kids are bigger and a lot harder to pick up.”

“He was one of the kids that was a leader on and off the mat, which is awesome to see,” Readinger said. “He went undefeated in the regular season. He wrestled 170 and 195 pounds and didn’t see much competition he couldn’t handle pretty easily. In the tournaments where he would get challenged a little bit more, it was a lot of fun to watch him have to actually wrestle.”

Despite wrestling back and forth between weight classes this season, Ward battled other 170-pounders in the regional meet, where he only had two matches. His first match saw Ward pin Brody Loiko of Erskine of South China, and then win by technical fall over Grayson Fernald of Bucksport to claim the regional title.

The next week, the Riverhawk toiled with three opponents, and, again, proved to be the best in his weight class, as he pinned Trevor McDaniel of Sugg of Lisbon, pinned Casey Mills of Cony of Augusta and outlasted Kaden Salley of Skowhegan, 7-5, in the championship match.

“Before I even wrestled [Salley] my brain was running, my chest was pounding, and when I went out there I got it off my mind and I just started wrestling,” Ward said. “There were a couple of things I could have done better on the mat. I had gotten a couple takedowns but then I messed up and he got two points on me. I think at that point he had a higher score than me, and then I got an escape, which brought my score higher, and there was about 30 seconds left on the clock and he was on the bottom. For the most part he was hopping up and trying to switch, and I was just holding for what I could.”

“He knew what was on the line,” Readinger said. “It was something he had made up in his own mind that [winning] was a goal. You could tell he had been working hard all season, but you could tell at the tournament that was something he really wanted to do. You saw that on the mat. He really put everything into it.”

“I was really excited [about winning],” Ward said. “I had never won first place in wrestling and it was a pretty exciting moment for me.”

“His grandfather was there to watch him, it was a pretty exciting day,” Readinger said. “You could tell he was nervous, but he stayed focused on the match. It was so much fun watching him win. Seeing the smile on his face afterward, seeing the smile on his grandfather’s face afterwards, those are what makes all the time worthwhile.”

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