BIDDEFORD — Dennis Bishop has done it all in the sport of wrestling. From competing as a high school athlete in the 1960s, to coaching and officiating from the time he was 21, until now.

The Biddeford High School graduate, who has spent much of his coaching and officiating career in mid-Maine, will wrap up a 41-year stint as a wrestling referee this year ”“ and he wanted one last match back where his love of the sport began.

That’s why on Dec. 17, Bishop was back in the Biddeford High School gym to officiate a tri-meet between Noble, Kennebunk and his alma mater.

“I started wrestling here in ’63, right in this gym. A lot of blood, sweat and tears … good times and good friends,” said Bishop, who was inducted into the Maine Amateur Wrestling Alliance Hall of Fame in 2005. “I’ve been involved ever since, non-stop, competing, coaching or officiating.”

Bishop started his coaching career at Biddeford when he was just 21 years old ”“ and despite a few bumps in the road ”“ he would never look back.

“I was lucky enough to have a state champion my very first year,” said Bishop, who said it wasn’t all smooth sailing that first year. “I made every mistake in the book and invented a few new ones.”

Gary Duranceau, who was on one of Bishop’s first teams at Biddeford, has remained close with his former coach to this day.

“We get together four or five times a year and it’s all about wrestling and talking about what’s happening. He just loves working with kids,” said Duranceau.

Bishop went on to coach at Kennebunk, Hyde School, Mt. Ararat and Morse ”“ and he said he enjoyed every minute of it.

“The young men, the kids that I coached, they made it special,” said Bishop.

When he wasn’t coaching wrestling, you could still find him on the mat ”“ only wearing stripes and with a whistle around his neck.

His four-decade run as a wrestling official was also a lot of fun, according to Bishop, but coaching was always his calling.

“Probably the coaching was my favorite thing, but I’ve done a lot of officiating too and it’s been a great way to give back,” said Bishop.

Whether it was coaching or officiating for more than 40 years, you really have to love the sport to stick around that long.

“Either that or be crazy,” joked Bishop.

Bishop is “pretty sure” this is going to be his last year on the mat, which is the reason he wanted to return to Biddeford one last time.

“That’s why I requested a Biddeford meet, to get to come back home. It’s pretty cool … it’s actually a very special feeling,” said Bishop.

Duranceau knows how much the sport has meant to Bishop ”“ and he knows how much Bishop has meant to the sport in Maine.

“I knew the effort and time that he has put in the last 45 to 50 years has been amazing. Obviously, most of his years have been in mid-Maine, but being in the wrestling hall of fame, I see his love and passion for the sport,” said Duranceau. “He was a great coach and he’s going to be sorely missed.”

Bishop said he is grateful for his time in and around the sport of wrestling, and would encourage anyone that loves the sport to get more involved.

“Stay involved, because you will get more out of it than you’ll ever realize ”“ just by giving back,” said Bishop.

Sports Editor Pat McDonald can be contacted at 282-1535 or [email protected]

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