SOUTH BERWICK – Tyler Davidson has good timing.
Consider his introduction to wrestling.
“I was in a school play in the eighth grade and we had to go pick up my younger brother at wrestling,” Davidson said. “I was kind of doing the play just to stay busy. I didn’t even get into sports until seventh grade.”
If the rehearsal had run a few minutes later or wrestling had ended early, Davidson might have just seen an empty, boring mat. Instead he saw an opportunity. Being a young man already in search of new things, wrestling called to him that day. He went from the stage to the mat soon after.
There were only a couple of meets left but it was enough time to make an impression — on Davidson and Marshwood High Coach Matt Rix.
Rix was at a middle-school meet when he spotted Davidson’s natural talent — “Good hips. He moved without getting off balance or going down on his knees,” Rix said — and told Davidson he should join Rix’s summer freestyle wrestling program.
Fast-forward nearly four years and Davidson is now a wiry, deceivingly strong 5-foot-8 senior captain for the reigning Class A champion Hawks with a chance to join an elite fraternity of four-time Maine state champions.
For three straight seasons he’s used in-season losses as learning lessons to improve and alter his style. Each season his timing has been impeccable. He’s wrestled his best when it mattered most.
His first two state titles came at 103 pounds. Both times he was able to avenge losses to Iain Whitis of Cheverus in the state tournament, including in the final as a sophomore after losing to Whitis at the regional final. As a junior Davidson moved up to 120 pounds and capped “a pretty solid year,” as he termed it, with a 4-0 final win against John Swett of Skowhegan.
“It’s amazing because his freshman year was his first year wrestling and he was a state champ,” said fellow senior captain Elliott Allen, Davidson’s primary training partner when they were freshmen and sophomores. “He has the most self-discipline, too.”
This year Davidson is gunning for the 120-pound title. As in past years he’ll go in with blemishes on his record. In fact, this season he’s lost eight matches.
“If you watch me wrestle you might think, ‘Wow, how is this kid a three-time state champion?’ ” said Davidson, 18, who won his 100th career match as a junior at the New England championships. “I use a loss as a really good push and motivator to work harder. I still have a lot to learn. That’s why I want to wrestle in college.”
The eldest of Michelle Davidson’s five sons is awaiting word on admission into the Naval Academy Prep School with the intention of then proceeding to the Naval Academy. This past fall he received a congressional nomination from Sen. Olympia Snowe.
“I think he’s going to flourish if everything works out for him. The academy will be lucky to get him,” Rix said.
Similar to wrestling, Davidson is not a straight-A student. Rather he’s a self-motivated learner who challenges himself with tough classes (honors-level throughout high school, advanced placement calculus and physics this year) and accepts setbacks as temporary.
“I’m getting a C in AP calculus,” Davidson said. “Most often my grades are in the A, B range. That C bothered me at first. Then I realized I’m still learning and going through the same processes and knowing the information. In 10 years it’s not going to matter that I got a C in high school calculus.”
But Davidson is keenly aware that being average won’t cut it on the mat. Not if he wants to become the 15th wrestler from Maine and second from Marshwood (Jon Hussey, 2005-08) to win four state titles. Belfast’s Brent Waterman, last year’s Class B and New England champion at 132 pounds, is also in position for a fourth state title.
“One thing I’ve always wanted to do with my life is to leave a legacy behind,” Davidson said. “So that would be a great start in high school.”
He said he still has a chance to go into the Western A regional as the top seed if he can defeat Massabesic’s Lucas Dion in an upcoming dual meet. Dion beat Davidson handily, 7-2, in the consolation final at the Spartan Wrestling Tournament in Sanford on Jan. 4.
“He’s learning from every one of his losses,” Rix said. “He does very well with the mistakes he makes from his matches. For some guys it’s just a blur what happens out on the mat.”
Davidson said he’ll be working to eliminate mistakes, and improve his quickness and efficiency in the neutral (standing) positions. What won’t change are some of the traits that have made him effective from his early days.
“When he gets a grip, it’s almost impossible to break and he’s definitely good at getting his cradles. That’s like his signature move,” said Allen, a state runner-up as a junior.
Regardless of how his senior season ends, Davidson said the time will be right to move on.
“Honestly, if I was to win for my fourth year, I don’t think I’d end up dwelling on it very long before I’d move on to some future goal.”
Staff Writer Steve Craig can be contacted at 791-6413 or at: