Depth lifts Foxcroft to third straight PVC wrestling crown

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HOWLAND — Developing quality depth has been at the core of a generation of wrestling success at Foxcroft Academy.

But the Ponies may have taken that skill to a new level Saturday, Feb. 3 while capturing their third consecutive Penobscot Valley Conference championship at Sereyko Gymnasium on the campus of Penobscot Valley High School. The Ponies also won the conference title for the fifth time in six years.

Foxcroft churned out 174 points to top second-place Mattanawcook Academy of Lincoln by 40 points in the 14-school field. Ellsworth (128), Dexter (117) and Bucksport (60) rounded out the top five.

Thirteen of the 14 Foxcroft wrestlers who competed earned top-four finishes in their respective weight classes, including two junior varsity wrestlers pressed into varsity duty just this week.

Sophomore Jake Ireland’s fourth-place finish at 145 pounds and freshman Sam Robinson’s fourth at 170 magnified the numbers game that has combined with considerable individual talent over the years to key the Ponies’ consistency near the top of the Class C and now Class B rankings under veteran head coach Luis Ayala.

“Going in we had no idea what to expect,” said Foxcroft senior R.J. Nelson, who pinned his three opponents on the day to win the 132-pound class and now has more than 150 career victories for the Ponies. “We had some setbacks during the week so we weren’t at full strength but we had a couple of JV guys step up that normally aren’t in the starting lineup and they placed, they did a great job.

“We thought it was going to be close, but we made it happen.”

Ireland dropped his opening match to three-time defending state champion Peyton Cole of Ellsworth but came back through the consolation bracket to win two matches before falling to Caribou’s Evan Michaud in the third-place bout.

Robinson similarly dropped his first match to eventual tournament runner-up Josiah Brown of Washington Academy in East Machias before rebounding to reach the consolation final at 170.

“Here we were looking at kids we really weren’t counting on today and they really stepped up,” said Ayala. “It was great to see. We’re a very young team but we’ve really come a long ways. I can’t tell you how proud I am of these kids.”

Ayala said early in the week one wrestler was suspended due to a school infraction and the team quickly had to adjust the lineup. “This was not a normal week for us,” he said. “As a coach for a high school team is more than just teaching the sport. You also teach life lessons. You are teaching kids that their actions have consequences.”

Nelson and Isaiah Ames at 182 pounds won individual championships for the Ponies while Rico Ayala (113), Dustin Simmons (160) and Joshua Whittemore (195) captured runner-up finishes.

The Ponies got third-place efforts from Austin Jackson (106), Grady Reardon (120), A.J. Atkinson (152) and Jared Atkinson (285) and additional fourths from Brandon Weston (126) and Garrett Cooley (220).

Mattanawcook and Ellsworth each had a meet-high three individual champions on the day. MA got firsts from Deagan Eastman at 126 pounds, Dominic Libbey at 152 and Ben Fiske at 285, while Ellsworth’s individual champions were Cole at 145, Logan Lord at 138 and Christopher Barnes at 195.

Second-place finishes by Travis Mushero at 132 and Dakota Page at 220, along with a third from Clyde Carr at 113 and a fourth from Dakota Doane at 138 helped Mattanwcook edge Ellsworth for second place.

“To be honest, Dexter and (Foxcroft) were watching each other so I hoped we could be that darkhorse that slipped in between without anybody seeing us, and we did all right,” said MA coach Matt Lindsay. “It was a good motivational boost for my guys. The last few weeks we’ve been plagued with some injuries and I had one still out today with a concussion, so I thought we wrestled really well today.”

As the tournament begin MA held an early lead over Foxcroft for the first two rounds. “There were a lot of upsets at this tournament, more than I remember from previous years,” Ayala said.

Some of those upsets were made by Ireland and Robinson. The pair came in the tournament seeded last in their group but both ended in fourth place. “I am so proud of Jacob and Sam and how they stepped up at PVCs to help the team win,” Ayala said, “In the wrestling room we always talk about working hard to get better and to be ready for anything. Their hard work paid off at PVCs.”

Dexter and Penobscot Valley each crowned two individual champions, with Caleb Weeks (120) and Tyler Beem (160) victorious for Dexter while Codi Sirois (113) and Joseph Tuulima (220) topped the podium for PVHS.

Other weight-class winners were Travis Hutchinson of Bucksport (106) and Zachary Wilson of Piscataquis (170).

“When working with teenagers you never know what you are going to get,” Ayala said. “Going into this tournament the whole team was worried, but they stayed positive and focused all they long on the task ahead, a conference championship.”

By the consolation finals Foxcroft pulled ahead by 38 points. The Ponies had seven wrestlers competing for third and fourth place, and five grapplers wrestling for a title in the finals. Foxcroft entered 14 wrestlers in the tournament and 13 received medals by finishing top four in their weight class.

“The victory was truly a full team effort,” Ayala said.

The PVC wrestling teams will move on to the Class B North regional next Saturday at Mount View High School in Thorndike, with the Class B states to follow Feb. 17 at Wells High School.

Ayala contributed to this story.

1. Foxcroft 174 2. Mattanawcook 134 3. Ellsworth 128 4. Dexter 117 5. Bucksport 60 6. Caribou 50.5 7. Penobscot Valley 48.5 8. Piscataquis 48 9. Bangor Christian 29 10. John Bapst 27, 11. Washington 18 12. Calais 16 13. Hermon 16 14. Lee Acad. 3
Championship finals
106: Travis Hutchinson (Buck) pinned Landon St. Peter (Ells) 5:40; 113: Codi Sirois (PVHS) pinned Rico Ayala (FA) 5:43; 120: Caleb Weeks (Dex) pinned Oakley Dugans (BC) 3:38; 126: Deagan Eastman (MA) dec. Ashton James (Cal) 3-1; 132: R.J. Nelson (FA) pinned Travis Mushero (MA) 4:52; 138: Logan Lord (Ells) maj. dec. Gage Stone (Dex) 11-0; 145: Peyton Cole (Ells) pinned Devin Darveau (Buck) 5:09; 152: Dominic Libbey (MA) pinned Isaiah Hesseltine (Dex) 0:27; 160: Tyler Beem (Dex) dec. Dustin Simmons (FA) 10-3; 170: Zachary Wilson (PCHS) pinned Josiah Brown (WA) 5:03; 182: Elijah Ames (FA) pinned Augustus Irwin (Dex) 5:01; 195: Christopher Barnes (Ells) pinned Joshua Whittemore (FA) 1:33; 220: Joseph Tuulima (PVHS) pinned Dakota Page (MA) 1:35; 285: Ben Fiske (MA) dec. Romeo Mellits (Her) 2-1
Consolation finals
106: Austin Jackson (FA) tech. fall Rylee Saucier (Car) 15-0; 113: Clyde Carr (MA) pinned Matt Reid (Ells) 1:27; 120: Grady Reardon (FA) pinned Caleb Robbins (Car) 1:53; 126: Justin Wing (Dex) pinned Brandon Weston (FA) 0:47; 132: Jacob Emery (JB) tech. fall Jacob Nadeau (PCHS) 16-1; 138: Cory Jandreau (Car) pinned Dakota Doane (MA) 2:26; 145: Evan Michaud (Car) pinned Jacob Ireland (FA) 1:37; 152: A.J. Atkinson (FA) dec. Richard Perkins (Buck) 10-6; 160: Andrew Brown (Ells) pinned Derick Robbins (Buck) 2:12; 170: Sam Horne (Ells) pinned Sam Robinson (FA) 0:27; 182: Chuck Hughes (Ells) pinned Matthew Griffith (PCHS) 2:11; 195: Eric Bennett (Dex) pinned Kirtis Jandreau (Car) 4:40; 220: Jared Smith (JB) pinned Garrett Cooley (FA) 1:53; 285: Jared Atkinson (FA) pinned Jacob Bowen (BC) 1:17

Photo courtesy of Angela Ayala
PVC WRESTLING CHAMPS — For the third consecutive season and fifth time in six years, the Foxcroft Academy wrestling team captured the Penobscot Valley Conference championship during the Feb. 3 competition at Penobscot Valley High School in Howland. The Ponies scored 174 points to finish 40 ahead of runner-up Mattanawcook Academy of Lincoln. Foxcroft, Dexter, PCHS and the rest of the conference will head to Thorndike on Saturday for the Class B North finals as the wrestlers aim to qualify for the state competition a week later in Wells.

Photo courtesy of Angela Ayala
182 POUND-CHAMP — Elijah Ames of Foxcroft presses the advantage against Dexter’s Augustus Irwin in the 182-pound final of the Penobscot Valley Conference wrestling championships held Saturday at Howland. Ames earned the pin at the 5:01-mark, helping the Ponies finish in first place and capture the PVC crown for the third year in a row and fifth time in the last six seasons.

Photo courtesy of Angela Ayala
ONLY ONE WILL LEAVE AS THE CHAMP — Foxcroft Academy’s R.J. Nelson works for the advantage against Mattanawcook Academy’s Travis Mushero in the 132-pound championship match during the Penobscot Valley wrestling championships at Penobscot Valley High School in Howland on Feb. 3. Nelson pinned Mushero at 4:52 to win the title.

Photo courtesy of Angela Ayala
HEAVYWEIGHT CLASH — Jared Atkinson of Foxcroft pins Thomas Folckemer of Bucksport in a 285-pound bout during the 2018 Penobscot Valley Conference championship on Feb. 3 in Howland. Atkinson would finish in third place in the weight class.

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