University of Southern Maine senior Mike Risti (right) battles freshman Jake Peavey during a practice this week. Risti, who is a former Massabesic High School standout, will be a leader for the Huskies this year. PAT McDONALD/Journal Tribune

GORHAM — The University of Southern Maine wrestling program has been making plenty of noise over the last few seasons — and the Huskies are not going anywhere.
USM heads into the 2018-19 season with what head coach Mike Morin believes may be the strongest team in program history.
“We’re excited. The goals are high for this year. I think we have, on paper, probably the most talented group this program has ever seen,” said Morin, who is entering his fourth season as head coach.
The Huskies bring back national qualifiers Pete Del Gallo and Austin Shorey as well as seniors Brendan Weir and Mike Risti, who have been knocking at the door of the NCAA Division III tournament the last couple years.
When you add in former Marshwood High standout Brad Beaulieu, who transferred in from Division I Old Dominion, it’s not a surprise that expectations are sky high in Gorham.
Morin knows that even with all the talent in his room, the Huskies will have to put in the work to accomplish their goals.
“It’s great that that’s the case, but we still have to go out there and wrestle matches. It’s a long season. Like I said, from a talent standpoint, we have a lot of talent, but we just have to make sure we stay healthy and continue to get better. I think if we do that, good things will happen,” Morin said.
The USM lineup will feature arguably the top lightweight group in the Northeast Region. Del Gallo returns at 125 pounds and Beaulieu steps in at 133. Shorey is back at 141 and Weir returns at 149.
“I would put that 125 through 149 up against any other lightweight group in the country at the Division III level,” Morin said.

USM wrestlers Pete Del Gallo (white shirt) and Brad Beaulieu (gray shirt) drill as Austin Shorey looks on during a practice this week. PAT McDONALD/Journal Tribune

Del Gallo had an impressive 40-3 record last year, including a 1-2 record at the NCAA tournament. The junior enters this season ranked fifth in the nation.
“He’s capable of winning a national title if he’s wrestling well and things go his way,” said Morin of Del Gallo.
Del Gallo, who won four state titles and two New England crowns at Gardiner, believes having guys like Beaulieu and Shorey in the room will help get him ready for a big season.
“It’s awesome having practice partners that are on the same level. It’s good being able to work hard every day with people who are like-minded,” Del Gallo said. “We all have the same goals. We are all going to win nationals — that’s the goal.”
Beaulieu is certainly happy to have guys like Del Gallo and Shorey in the USM room.
“It’s a brutal room, especially at my weight with Peter and Austin — there’s no easy go, there’s no off (days),” Beaulieu said. “We push each other every day in live drilling to try and make each other better. There will be days where none of us get a takedown during live (drilling) and we’ll go for 30 minutes.”
Shorey echoed that sentiment.
“So far it’s been awesome. Last year I had Pete which was amazing. I hadn’t had a drill partner like that. So having Pete and then adding Brad is just awesome. I’m learning a lot,” said Shorey.
The first three guys in the USM lineup know each other pretty well as they were all rivals in high school.
“I never thought it would happen, but I always wanted it to happen because I knew at the time we were all the best kids in Maine and why go anywhere else when we can come support Maine here and meet our goals,” said Del Gallo.
“It’s something you can’t imagine (back in high school), but it happened and I’m thankful for it. I’m happy that I’m here. It’s such a great room with these guys,” added Beaulieu.
Morin believes Beaulieu will make some noise in his first year at the D3 level.
“He had a year in a D1 room and he transferred in. He’s the type of guy who will make an immediate impact. I think it won’t be long before we see him nationally ranked — and I usually don’t say that about many guys,” Morin said.
Beaulieu, who won four state titles and one New England gold at Marshwood, has high expectations for his first season at USM.
“For me personally, I want to be number one in our conference. We have a pretty good conference, especially with Johnson & Wales and Roger Williams being good teams,” said Beaulieu. “I want to be a national champ. I know all the guys in the national rankings. I’ve known them throughout high school and just who they are in general, so I think a national championship is definitely what I’m going for.”
Shorey made history last year as the first-ever USM freshman to make nationals. The former Noble High School standout is hoping to improve in his sophomore season.
“For this year, the goals are obviously do better than last year. The feeling in the room right now is pretty good. We all know we did good last year and we just all want to keep going up from there,” Shorey said. “We haven’t really hit our peak, so that’s what we’re aiming for now.”
Morin believes in his sophomore 141-pounder.
“Austin probably had the best freshman year (in USM history) as far as he’s the only freshman to ever qualify for nationals in a USM singlet. That was history right there being made by him and he’s just a gamer. He goes out and scores points and doesn’t care who he’s wrestling,” said Morin.
While the lightweights will certainly lead the way, USM also has a standout on the back end of the lineup in Risti. The former Massabesic standout will once again hold down the heavyweight spot for the Huskies — and he is looking to make the most out of his senior campaign.
“Definitely the last couple of years I’ve come up short, but this year’s my senior year and I’m just going to leave it all on the mat and do what I can,” said Risti.
Morin believes Risti can make some noise this year.
“He’s a monster. With him, we just have to put it together at the right time. He has beaten guys who have been on the podium at nationals. He’s beaten guys who qualified for nationals. He is that good,” said Morin. “He just needs to put it together at the right time of the year and if he does that I think he can get to the NCAA tournament and he can be on the podium.”
Another name that local wrestling fans will see in the Huskies’ lineup this year will be former Sanford state champ Sam Anderson. The freshman will likely get his chance early on to prove himself at the college level.
“I think the plan is to wrestle him this weekend against Bridgewater,” said Morin. “He will definitely see some action in the starting lineup this year.”
Anderson has been adjusting to the college level, but he is happy to have a room filled with leaders to help him in his freshman campaign.
“The atmosphere is unbelievable. It’s just a lot of guys who aren’t settling for less. A lot of guys who have the same vision. Every single one of these guys is passionate about the sport,” said Anderson.
Risti is happy to see a ton of Maine guys like Anderson, Beaulieu, Del Gallo and Shorey in the USM wrestling room.
“It’s definitely a good atmosphere to have a lot of kids from Maine come onto the team. Everybody’s been working hard so far. We should have a great team this year,” said Risti. “I think it’s really cool. It’s kind of the move now. A lot of Maine kids are coming here and it’s really good to see (us) keeping everybody home.”
NOTES: The Huskies will open the 2018-19 season with a trip to Bridgewater State today … Former Massabesic standout Leo Amabile is expected to start at 125 pounds today as most of the lineup will be bumped up a weight for the first week of action.
Sports Editor Pat McDonald can be reached at [email protected] or at 780-9017. Follow the Journal Tribune Sports Department on Twitter @JournalTsports.

Comments are not available on this story.

filed under: