Massabesic’s Noah Hernandez (left) and Noble’s Jon Grenier drill together during a practice on Tuesday. PAT McDONALD/Journal Tribune

Massabesic’s Noah Hernandez (left) and Noble’s Jon Grenier drill together during a practice on Tuesday. PAT McDONALD/Journal Tribune

PROVIDENCE — Rivalries can be intense in high school sports — and wrestling is no different.

But when it comes to wrestlers training for the annual New England Interscholastic Wrestling Championships you can pretty much throw the rivalries out the window.

“It’s huge … just getting all these guys together, being on the same page and knowing that it doesn’t matter who we went against (the last few weeks), all that matters is this weekend now and how we represent the state,” said Sanford senior Sam Anderson on wrestlers from different teams working out together before New Englands.

Anderson, Biddeford’s Josiah Garcia, Massabesic’s Noah Hernandez and Matt Pooler and Portland’s Zack Elowitch all made the trip to North Berwick this week to train with Noble wrestlers Josh Cote, Sam Martel, Jon Grenier and Hil Keisker.

“It’s really cool to see all the other teams walk in and really feel like it’s all one team, Maine is all one,” said Keisker on hosting other schools for practice. “It’s just amazing to see all these guys come together and we’re all ‘rivals’ until right now. After the All-State tournament we are all one. We are all going for the same goal.”

“It’s been really fun. I have buddies on other teams so it’s pretty cool to see them and get to practice with them,” added Hernandez. “We’re definitely really good buddies now instead of rivals trying to beat each other and trash talking.”

The rivalries don’t go away entirely, according to Grenier, but they are definitely put on hold for the New England meet.

“There’s definitely still some team rivalries up here in Maine, but for the most part it’s mostly ‘Team Maine’ I think,” Grenier said. “We’re all working to represent our state.”

If you head to Providence this weekend you will probably see a rare thing — Noble wrestlers cheering on someone with a Marshwood singlet on.

“I mean Noble culture, and every school, is raised to kind of have that one rival but even when we’re down there you’ve got to cheer on Marshwood,” said Keisker. “You’ve got to cheer on everyone because it’s your home state and you’re rooting for your state through and through.”

Kennebunk junior Alden Shields spent a couple days this week practicing at Marshwood High School with the Hawks.

“It’s fun to go to other practices, and see how they work and see how their practices are run differently from ours,” said Shields. “It’s cool to know that after we’re all done competing with each other we are all still buddies.”

Shields, who is making his second trip to Providence, was happy to get some work in with Marshwood qualifier Liam Coomey and All-State fourth-place finishers Sean Moriarty and Carsen Goodwin.

“It’s a better experience being able to work with different wrestlers and not needing to wrestle the same exact person every single day. They also had (wrestlers) who are close to my weight so it benefits me a little more,” Shields said.

Shields knows the New England meet will be his toughest challenge to date, but he is hoping to secure two big goals this weekend — his 100th career win and a spot on the podium.

“I know what to expect. I know the competition down there is really, really good,” said Shields. “I’m shooting for placing. I’m looking for a win (in my first match) and then being able to relax, and that will be my 100th … it would be awesome to start off the tournament on a high note.”

Anderson also has some lofty goals as he heads to Providence for the final time.

“I think with the kids in my bracket, and knowing what I know, I think I can make top three. I will have to work and battle really hard, but getting third and bringing a plaque home would be big,” said Anderson.

The Sanford senior was inspired watching Skowhegan’s Cody Craig and Marshwood’s Brad Beaulieu win New England titles last season.

“I think just seeing Cody and Brad win it last year was huge for Maine wrestling — just knowing the same kids that you wrestled with are (New England) champions,” Anderson said.

Garcia, who will be making his first trip to New Englands, got a heads up about what this weekend will be like from Biddeford coach Steve Vermette.

“My coach told me a little bit about it. He told me I’m going to see a lot of huge kids,” said Garcia, who has one simple goal. “I want to stay the night, so I’ve got to win one match.”

Keisker turned to his older brother — three-time New England qualifier Otto Keisker — for advice as he heads to Providence for the first time.

“He didn’t win a match until his senior year going down there. He emphasized to me that the reason why he didn’t was because he got out there and he froze up. That was because he was so afraid that all these kids were so good that he wouldn’t compare,” said Keisker, who is a senior. “But (he was) just like us … I’ve gone out there and wrestled kids out of state and everything and these are just the same people. They’re no different. It’s just another day, another competition. You can’t take them any lighter, but you also can’t take them anymore seriously at that point.”

For Grenier, this weekend’s tournament will be his last hurrah in wrestling — and he is hoping to make some noise on the way out.

“I don’t know, we’ll see what I can do down there,” said Grenier. “I’ve never been to the New England tournament so hopefully I can make a name for myself outside of the state.”

NOTES: There were originally 12 local wrestlers heading to Providence but Massabesic sophomore Matt Pooler will miss the tournament due to an illness … Wells seniors Mike Wrigley, Nolan Potter and Sean McCormack-Kuhman will also be competing this weekend … The tournament is set to begin tonight at 5 p.m. at the Providence Career and Technical Academy. The finals are scheduled to begin at 5:15 p.m. on Saturday evening.

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.


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