NORTH BERWICK — The wrestlers at Noble High School don’t have to look too far for inspiration.

First, there are the 12 state championship banners hanging on the wall at one end of the gym. Then, there’s the spotlight that illuminates the wrestling mat with the names of all the school’s state champions emblazoned on its housing.

“When we’re in the gym and not wrestling, I’m always looking at the light and the banners,” said Ben Valencia, one of four reigning state champions in the Knights’ starting lineup. “It’s kind of a motivation thing.”

Kip DeVoll, in his 26th season as Noble’s wrestling coach, doesn’t spend much time talking about the history of his program.

“We don’t talk about what we did,” he said. “(The wrestlers) know where we’ve come from to get where we are.

“But it’s a new season. We’ve always been that way about it. What we did last year has nothing to do with it. You need to prove yourself again.”

For a long time, the Knights — who have won the past two Class A state championships and 10 state titles in the last 12 seasons — have been a tough act to follow.

“If that puts some pressure on them, I really haven’t seen that from any of our guys,” DeVoll said. “We go out and try to have fun.

“At the same time, we’re working hard. It’s not about repeating. It’s about getting it done now.”

Past teams at the North Berwick school provide plenty of motivation for the current group of wrestlers.

“Ever since I was in peewees I’ve been watching the high school program,” said Joey Badger, the reigning Class A state champion at 140 pounds. “My brother went through it. I was always at the meets, and they were always state champions or runners-up. It gave me a lot to work for because I knew when I got into high school, I wanted to do that and keep the tradition going.”

Badger’s older brother, Jake, graduated from Noble in 2007 after winning two individual state titles.

“I feel I have to keep at least up to his standards, and it gives me something to work for, to be as good as him or better,” Badger said.

Valencia and Badger, plus reigning state champions Jake Bagley and Tyler Beaudet, are part of an experienced, talented group of wrestlers that should keep the Knights in contention for a third consecutive Class A team title.

Kayleigh Longley, the only girl on the squad, returns for her third season at 103 pounds. Two years ago, she finished second in that weight class at the state meet.

Rob Quimby, a junior who finished third at 112 pounds at the last year’s state meet, is expected to move up to 119. Shane Shibles, a junior who missed all of last season because of a knee injury after finishing third at the state meet in the 119-pound division as a freshman, could compete at 145.

“We’re not like some teams who are good only some years,” Badger said. “We’ve been good every year. You can’t slow down or change some things because people expect us to be good. It’s definitely a good thing. It motivates us.”

 

Staff Writer Paul Betit can be contacted at 791-6424 or at: [email protected]