Cody Hughes has proven he is among the top high school wrestlers not only in Maine but in New England.
With three state titles, a national sophomore championship and three top-six finishes at the New England championships on his resume, the Marshwood High junior also proved he could accept the lone loss of his junior season, learn from it and move on.
Hughes was 49-0 this season when he went to the mat for the 160-pound final last Saturday at the New England championships. He competed with the Massachusetts champion, Jonathan Viruet, to a 1-1 tie through regulation and the first 1:56 of overtime. Then, with four seconds left in the second 30-second segment of the second overtime, from a restart, Viruet executed a quick escape for the winning point.
“I’ve watched that finals match already so many times,” Hughes said a few days later. “I have to be honest with myself. The reason I lost the New England title is he did a quick escape and got out. I let go of him and end of story.
“You’ve got to be able to face that and correct it, and not make the same mistake twice.”
Mistakes were few for Hughes this season. He dominated opponents at both 170 and 160 pounds, where he won his third straight Class A title, and rolled through Maine’s top Class B and C wrestlers while winning Maine’s first New England qualifier.
He also won prestigious tournament titles at the Noble Invitational, the Spartan Wrestling Tournament in Sanford and in Essex Junction, Vt.
Hughes’ tactical skill and devotion to his sport make him the Sunday Telegram Wrestler of the Year.
“It means a lot,” Hughes said when told of the honor. “I know how much work I put in, going to practice every day of the week during the season and most days in the offseason. If people are starting to recognize that and seeing me as one of the better individuals, you know what you’re doing is paying off.”
Marshwood Coach Matt Rix pointed to Hughes’ increased work in the weight room as bringing an added strength element to an already sharp game, honed by offseason training and competing.
“He searches out practices and continues to challenge himself,” Rix said.
Other top contenders for the award were Gardiner’s 113-pound sophomore Peter Del Gallo and Wells’ 195-pound junior Michael Curtis.
Del Gallo, like Hughes, was unbeaten in Maine, suffering his first career loss at the New Englands, where he finished fifth. Curtis, the Class B champ, went 50-2 overall and placed third in New England.
Hughes has a career record of 149-9 and has been part of three straight Class A championship teams.
Hughes, fellow three-time champ Jackson Howarth and two-time champion Brett Gerry will be back next season as seniors to lead the quest for a fourth title.
“I can’t say I would do as well without the team,” Hughes said. “Without Jackson and Brett and Justin Stacy, without Coach (Matt) Rix and Coach (Pat) Howard, it wouldn’t be the same. It’s not just an individual or two.”
Rix said Hughes sets the tempo on a daily basis. The veteran coach said on the morning of the Class A state championships, Hughes was the first wrestler to arrive at 6 a.m. As each of his groggy teammates entered, Hughes hit them with high-fives and screams of encouragement.
“I knew by the energy in that locker room the morning of states that it was going to be a great day,” Rix said.
Steve Craig can be reached at 791-6413 or at: