The Thornton Academy/Saco middle school wrestling team is pictured after the first-ever home wrestling meet at Thornton Academy’s Linnell Gymnasium last Thursday evening. DOUG SHOFNER PHOTOGRAPHY

SACO — The road to getting a varsity wrestling program at Thornton Academy began three years ago when the Trojan Youth Wrestling club was created.
The dream moved one step closer to reality this year as the Thornton Academy and Saco middle schools formed a co-op middle school wrestling team.
“It’s been a long road. We started with the youth program, we’ve had that going now three years, and this is our first year starting with the middle school program,” said Roger Souliere, who coaches the middle school team alongside Daryl DeWitt.

Thornton Academy seventh grader Dyllan Davis gets his hand raised after winning a middle school match last Thursday. DOUG SHOFNER PHOTOGRAPHY

“We’ve had a good turnout this year. I believe we have 17 or 18 kids on the team, which is a good number for a middle school wrestling program. It’s pretty exciting.”
The new TA/Saco middle school team made history last Thursday when the Trojans hosted the first-ever wrestling match inside historic Linnell Gymnasium on the campus of Thornton Academy.
“For Allen Berube and some of these folks who created this club program here a couple years ago, the vision was for us to grow enough so we could eventually down the road have our own high school program,” said Thornton Academy Athletic Director Gary Stevens. “The bridge between the youth and the high school program is a school-based middle school program.”
The Thornton Academy/Saco Middle School wrestling team welcomed in teams from Scarborough and York for a tri-meet — and Stevens was impressed with what he saw from the new squad.
“They have done a wonderful job. I was very impressed with the participation numbers, but also the caliber of the athletes. They obviously have a passion for wrestling,” said Stevens. “They obviously have been very well coached and they have a good technical basis. I can see some real enthusiasm and a strong foundation for wrestling here at Thornton in the future.”
The longtime TA athletic director believes the school could add a varsity program very soon.
“We have a process for adding new sports at the high school. We have to collect data about the interest, the need, the readiness of the program. Essentially what (Thursday’s meet) gives me an idea of is what we have currently for interest at the various grade levels … so that we can project what’s the best time for the high school program,” Stevens said. “Although we don’t have a specific date yet, I would say that it’s imminent and within the next couple years certainly.”

Austin DeWitt gets a pin during one of his matches last Thursday. DOUG SHOFNER PHOTOGRAPHY

Wrestlers from Thornton Academy currently compete with the Biddeford High wrestling program. Souliere believes a large number of Trojans will wrestle for the BHS team next season — and he’s hoping that will prove that TA is ready for its own program.
“I believe next year we will have 10 to 12 kids wrestling in that co-op program and hopefully that will really show that we’re ready for a high school team,” Souliere said.
Stevens credits DeWitt, Souliere and Berube, who founded the youth club along with Marty Adams, with blazing the trail towards a varsity wrestling program.
“These folks have already built the foundation and this is that next step to being able to have a high school program,” Stevens said.
— 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.