NEWPORT — Michael Curtis of Wells, the Class B champ, was in pain from a pulled rib and trailing an opponent he considered his toughest in the 195-pound division – Mike Risti of Massabesic, the Class A champ.
A year ago both would have already secured a berth in the New England high school championships as class champions.
This year, Maine’s three representatives in each weight class were determined on the mat in Thursday’s first Maine New England qualifying tournament, held at Nokomis High.
That meant Curtis vs. Risti in the semifinals was for the right to wrestle in Providence, R.I., on March 7-8. The loser would have to win two more matches to get that opportunity.
“My coach tried to convince me to stop,” Curtis said. “I said I wanted one more chance and he let me. I felt (horrible). It hurt, but I’m glad the way it ended.”
Curtis went on to pin Risti, then emphasized his New England worthiness by pinning Christopher Wilson of Nokomis.
“It’s good to see who is really on top,” Curtis said.
Risti came back to pin two foes and qualify by finishing third.
“This is a great first step for us,” said Noble Coach Kip DeVoll, the coaches’ liaison to the MPA wrestling committee. “There are some bugs to work out, but the main thing is we’re going to be sending our best kids down there to New Englands. And you’re seeing the (Class) Bs and Cs getting their share, too.”
Twenty-five of the 42 qualifiers were from Class A, with 14 from Class B and three from Class C. All three qualifiers at 106, 120 and 182 are Class A wrestlers.
None of the brackets had the full complement of 12 wrestlers. Thirty-one wrestlers scratched.
“I think it’s really cool we have an all-state (meet) this year. I hope it stays,” 120-pound champ Tyler Craig of Skowhegan said.
Craig, who was fifth at the New Englands a year ago, got his 150th career win, pinning Josh Marks of Marshwood in the final.
The other champions from Class A: Cody Craig, Skowhegan, 106; Tyler Everett, Massabesic, 126; Dominick Day, Biddeford, 138; Kaleb Brown, Skowhegan, 145; Jackson Howarth, Marshwood, 152; Cody Hughes, Marshwood, 160; Malik Geiger, Oxford Hills, 170; and Brett Gerry, Marshwood, 182.
Class B champs, in addition to Curtis: Peter Del Gallo, Gardiner, 113; Dagen Berenyi, Ellsworth, 132; Michael Garland, Ellsworth, 220; and Aaron Lint, Winslow, 285.
Lint, who is 50-0 this season, said, “This is how you qualify for New Englands. They should have this every year.”
Del Gallo, the New England champ at 106 last year as a freshman, is 99-0 for his career after a 3-1 win over Bradley Beaulieu of Marshwood in the final.
“We’ll have a true top three in each weight,” said Del Gallo. “(Beaulieu) will definitely place at New Englands and probably make the finals.”
A Class C wrestler, Stewart Buzzel of Monmouth Academy, is making his third New England trip after placing second in the 145-pound division. Buzzell, 132-pound runner-up Zach Caron of Dexter and 160 runner-up Jesse Hutchinson of Dirigo were the Class C qualifiers.
Buzzell was beaten by the meet’s outstanding wrestler, Kaleb Brown of Skowhegan, 7-2.
“You’re definitely going up against the best in the state. I’m definitely representing not only my team and my town but my class as well,” Buzzell said.
For several wrestlers, the qualifier was a second chance.
“Without this tournament I wouldn’t have gone to New Englands,” said Brown. “This gave me a chance to continue my season. I think it’s a great idea. It allowed a lot of wrestlers who didn’t win a state title a chance.”
Other wrestlers who were in consolation rounds at their state meets but are now going to the New England meet include Portland’s Kidayer Aljubyly and Jaime Lones-Martinez, and Noble’s foursome of Joe Grenier, Josh Grenier, Austin Shorey and Otto Keisker.
Steve Craig can be reached at 791-6413 or at: