Biddeford’s Josiah Garcia gets back points during his third-place match on Saturday afternoon. JASON GENDRON PHOTOGRAPHY

Biddeford’s Josiah Garcia gets back points during his third-place match on Saturday afternoon. JASON GENDRON PHOTOGRAPHY

NEWPORT — The finals of Saturday’s New England Qualifier featured the best wrestlers in the state and there were some thrilling title bouts, but the real drama at Nokomis Regional High School was in the third-place matches.
The top three wrestlers from each weight class qualified for this weekend’s New England Interscholastic Wrestling Championships, so the finalists on Saturday already knew they had a ticket to Providence. But the grapplers who made the consolation finals would have to get a win to secure their spot.
That was not a problem for local wrestlers as all six who battled for third place would get the W and earn a trip to New Englands. They will join four local champions and two second-place finishers in Providence on Friday and Saturday.
“It feels really good. I’m wicked happy, big smile on my face. It’s just wicked exciting,” said Massabesic freshman Noah Hernandez, who took third at 138 pounds to qualify.
Hernandez started the winning streak for locals in the consolation finals with a technical fall win over Oceanside’s Alex Fogarty.
Biddeford junior Josiah Garcia, who took fourth at Class A States last week, would follow suit with an 8-3 victory over Mt. Ararat/Brunswick’s Brett Raio at 145 pounds.
“I really wanted to go to New Englands so I pushed through and placed third today. It was tough,” said Garcia, who took advantage of a few no-shows. “A few wrestlers didn’t show up but it was still a really tough day.”
“Leave it all on the mat,” said Biddeford coach Steve Vermette on what he told Garcia before the meet. “There was a couple scratches today, I’m not going to deny that, obviously (Scarborough standout) Jeremy Sendrowski wasn’t here, that was a big one but Jo came to wrestle, he wrestled tough.”
Massabesic sophomore Matt Pooler didn’t waste any time in punching his ticket to New Englands as he picked up a 47-second fall in the 152-pound consolation final.
“It was pretty good. I wish my semifinals match was a little different but my overall goal was to make it to New Englands and I got there,” said Pooler, who had two-time state champ Quinton Richards on his back early in the semifinals before getting stuck in a spladle and pinned. “I thought I (had the pin), I mean I was getting ready to get all hyped up and everything.”
Hernandez and Pooler are thrilled to be heading to Providence together.
“He’s a really good wrestler. He’s definitely helped me a lot in the practice room. He’s the best practice partner you could have,” said Pooler of Hernandez.
The Massabesic duo will also be working out with Garcia this week as they prepare for the grueling tournament.
“It was such a help. They helped out last week, (they will) this week because it’s different when you wrestle with somebody new other than your same practice partners the entire season,” said Garcia.
Noble’s Hil Keisker earned his spot at New Englands with a 6-2 win over Dexter’s Tyler Beem in the 160-pound consolation final. It will be the senior’s first trip to Providence.
“I’m extremely excited. My goal was honestly to get our team to win at states and for me to place at states but I had no thought of New Englands in mind at the beginning of the year,” said Keisker. “Then when I realized in my own mind that I could do it, I just pushed myself, pushed myself and now I’m here and I’m so excited for it.”
Keisker got some advice from his older brother, Otto, who was a three-time New England qualifier for the Knights.
“I talked to him after my (third-place) match and he told me it’s just a different environment and you just have to go out there and honestly wing it. Go have fun, don’t have a set plan because the plan is going to get tossed out the window when you wrestle your first match,” Keisker said.
Wells seniors Mike Wrigley and Sean McCormack-Kuhman will also be making their first trips to New Englands after taking third at 195 and 285 respectively.
“It’s great. I took fourth the past two years actually … it’s kind of a theme, third time is a charm,” said Wrigley, who took second at Class B states twice before winning gold last weekend. “It’s the last hurrah I guess, it’s the last time wrestling ever so it would be great to go out there and wrestle my hardest and do well.”
“It’s a huge deal,” added McCormack-Kuhman, who earned a 59-second pin in the third-place match. “I mean even taking third it’s just a big deal to end my Maine career placing at All-States, ultimately going to New Englands and hopefully I can do well down there.”
Wrigley is excited to make the trip with McCormack-Kuhman and Nolan Potter, who won the 220-pound title on Saturday.
“Sean and Nolan are two of my best friends so it’s going to be great for all of us to go down there and compete,” said Wrigley, who won by fall in the consolation final.
The New England tournament will kick off at 5 p.m. on Friday at the Providence Career and Technical Academy. The finals are set for 5:15 p.m. on Saturday.
— Sports Editor Pat McDonald can be reached at [email protected] or at 282-1535 ext. 322. Follow the Journal Tribune Sports Department on Twitter @JournalTsports.

Massabesic freshman Noah Hernandez picks up back points during a match at Saturday's New England Qualifier. JASON GENDRON PHOTOGRAPHY

Massabesic freshman Noah Hernandez picks up back points during a match at Saturday’s New England Qualifier. JASON GENDRON PHOTOGRAPHY

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