The University of Southern Maine’s wrestling program enjoyed its greatest success this winter, setting a record for most dual-meet wins (16) and sending two wrestlers to the upcoming NCAA Division III championships.

Huskies Coach Joe Pistone said the seeds of that success were planted a long time ago.

“A lot of it was our preparation in the summer, with lifting and running and wrestling,” said Pistone, who’s been head of the program since 2003. “We had some pretty strong goals and objectives at the end of last season that carried over.”

He noted the Huskies also had a strong recruiting class that brought talent and attitude to the program.

“Every objective we made, short-term and long-term, was met,” said Pistone. “It’s a very exciting time for the USM Huskies.”

Senior Jonathan Deupree of Ozona, Florida, and sophomore Daniel Del Gallo of Gardiner can make it even more exciting. The two will compete in the NCAA championships Friday and Saturday at the Giant Center in Hershey, Pennsylvania. Deupree defended his Division III Northeast Regional title at 184 pounds earlier this month, and Del Gallo finished second at 149 pounds.

Two other USM wrestlers received all-Northeast Region honors after finishing in the top five in the regional meet.

“It was a lot of hard work,” said Pistone.

Deupree is an interesting story. He is 26 and came to USM after wandering through colleges, jobs and training to be a mixed martial arts fighter. He grew up in Florida and attended the University of the Cumberlands in Williamsburg, Kentucky – an NAIA school that offered him a wrestling scholarship. He left after a year, attended a couple of community colleges and, he said “kept moving around.”

“I wasn’t focused, I didn’t have any direction in life,” he said. “Then I moved to Maine and I met the coaches here. They kind of gave me direction, which is what I needed. Wrestling has helped me finish school and achieve the things I always wanted to do.”

Deupree met USM assistant coach Mike Morin at a gym and the two got to talking. That led to him enrolling at the school. He’ll graduate in May with a degree in business administration.

Pistone said having Deupree on the team has been invaluable – and not just because he is a great wrestler.

Deupree, who is going to the NCAAs for the second straight year, is ranked second in the 182-pound weight class, according to d3wrestle.com.

“Jon has seen the world,” said Pistone. “He’s a role model to our kids, he really is. He can talk to them about life choices and decisions. He tells them that everything they do in their life now matters. It matters in five days, it matters in five years.

“He brings that perspective to academics and athletics. He has that mind frame. There are not many kids who can have that day in, day out influence.”

Deupree, who went 13-3 in dual meets and 6-0 in tournaments this year, said his three years at USM have been incredibly special.

“I can see the growth in this team,” he said. “I think a lot of it has to do with the coaching staff. They’re putting a lot more time in teaching basic technique, and because of that, the wrestling has gotten better.”

He’s looking forward to his second venture to the nationals and hopes to do better. “I want to win,” he said. “I want to win every time I step on the mat.”

Del Gallo (24-1 in dual meets, 8-1 in tournaments) is making his first trip to the nationals. Pistone is not surprised.

“After Daniel committed to USM, he came to our summer camp,” said Pistone. “This was between his senior year in high school and freshman year here. We had a bunch of NCAA champions and All-Americans conducting the camp. And he asked us, ‘What can I do to become an NCAA champion like them?’ ”

He got his instructions and obviously paid attention. Last season’s loss in the regionals – “the first time he had ever lost in a tournament,” said Pistone – fueled his success this year.

Carl Luth, a sophomore from Milford, Connecticut, finished fifth at 157 pounds in the regionals, and Sean Fagan, a senior from Arlington, Massachusetts, was fifth at 197 pounds. “To be recognized in the top six is a huge accomplishment,” said Pistone, who sees great things ahead for his program.

“We’ve got some wonderful young men in the program who go above and beyond in representing the state and the university.”

BASKETBALL

Marist College freshman guard Allie Clement of Falmouth (McAuley) was named to the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference women’s all-rookie team. Clement averaged 5.8 points, 1.3 assists and 1.4 rebounds. The Red Foxes lost to Quinnipiac in the MAAC championship Monday, but did earn a berth in the National Invitation Tournament.

Freshman forward Tiana-Jo Carter of Naples (Lake Region) was named to the America East all-rookie team. Carter averaged 6.7 points, 5.7 rebounds and 1.1 blocks for the Albany, which plays Hartford in the conference title game Friday.

INDOOR TRACK

USM is sending nine competitors to the NCAA Division III championships in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, on Friday and Saturday. It’s the largest contingent in school history.

The men’s team is sending five athletes, including junior Jeremy Collins of Standish (Bonny Eagle) in the 400 meters, senior Kevin Desmond of Monmouth in the 800 and senior Jamie Ruginski of Buxton (Bonny Eagle) in the long jump and triple jump.

Zach Miller of Rochester, New Hampshire, and junior Dan Webb of Acton (Sanford) will join Desmond and Collins in the 1,600-meter relay.

Ruginski is the defending champ and No. 1 seed in the triple jump with a season-best mark of 49 feet, 113/4 inches. He’s also seeded second in the long jump (23-113/4).

Collins is the 13th seed in the 400, Desmond the 15th seed in the 800, and the relay team is seeded fourth.

The women’s team will be represented in individual events by junior Nicole Kirk of Scarborough in the 200 and senior Peyton Dostie of Standish (Bonny Eagle) in the pentathlon. They will be joined by junior Hannah Damron of Windham and senior Anna Whitaker of Cumberland (Greely) for the 1,600 relay.

Dostie, who qualified in three events (60 hurdles, 400 and pentathlon), scored a school-record 3,444 points in her qualifying pentathlon in the New England Division III championship meet. Kirk is the eighth seed in the 200. The relay team is seeded 10th.

 Bates is sending seven men and five women to the NCAA championships. Among the men is senior Mark McCauley of Cumberland (Greely), who will run the 800 leg (third) of the distance relay, where the Bobcats are seeded 11th. On the women’s side, sophomore Jessica Wilson of Cumberland (Greely) will run the 1,200 leg (first) of the distance medley, where the Bobcats are the eighth seed.

 Tufts junior Mitchell Black of Brunswick is seeded first in the 800. He became the fourth runner in Division III history to run a sub-1:50 when he turned in a 1:49.16 at Boston University on Feb. 13. He was third in last year’s indoor championships.

 Ithaca senior Emilia Scheemaker of Scarborough is seeded 11th in the women’s triple jump (38-6).

SOFTBALL

Sophomore third baseman Katelyn Lebreux of Biddeford and sophomore pitcher Carinn Burns of Kennebunk are among the starters for Bentley University. Lebreux had two hits and three walks, along with two runs, in the Falcons’ first three games. Burns pitched a complete game in a 3-1 loss to Southwest Minnesota, allowing six hits and one walk in her first collegiate appearance.