Mt. Ararat girls basketball head coach Julie Petrie, left, sets up a drill as players warm up on Monday at Mt. Ararat High School in Topsham. Eli Canfield/The Times Record

The high school winter sports season opened for most teams Monday, and the excitement was palpable amongst wrestlers.

While many high school sports were able to hold some sort of season during the coronavirus pandemic last winter, wrestling did not.

“It’s like riding a bike, you just have to feel comfortable and you’ll be fine,” said Brunswick/Mt. Ararat senior wrestler Spencer LeClair. “I think everyone is ready to go. Considering how last season went, we want to make sure we give it our all this season.”

Monday marked the first time wrestling teams practiced in anticipation of a season since 2019.

Of course, there will be changes to the sport this winter.

The Maine Principals’ Association on Thursday announced it was recommending masks, vaccinations and pooled testing for all participants. However, vaccinations will not be required for high school wrestlers — instead they will be required to wear masks in order to compete. The stance is a reversal from an MPA decision earlier this month to require vaccinations for wrestlers.

“We thought we were going to lose about 30% of our roster, maybe more,” said the Brunswick/Mt. Ararat head coach Erick Jensen. “We got all our numbers back and we’re excited about that. We think we have a great group of guys who have stayed committed through the past couple of years.”

Brunswick/Mt. Ararat is focused on contending for championships this winter.

Members of the Brunswick boys basketball team warm up during their first practice of the season on Monday at Brunswick High School. Eli Canfield/The Times Record

“I think we have a lot of potential on this team, we have a lot of guys with some good experience,” said Brunswick/Mt. Ararat wrestler Kaleb Thompson. “Our seniors and underclassmen are ready to lead the younger guys. It might take some time at first, we’re going to be rusty, but hopefully, we can find that niche that we’re looking for.”

Basketball teams also kicked off their seasons on Monday as well. The Brunswick and Morse boys basketball teams worked through conditioning drills and fundamentals. Morse boys coach Chris York said he has about 40 kids trying out.

“We’re really excited to get going,” said Brunswick head coach Ben Clark, who replaced longtime head coach Todd Hanson. “This is a day I’ve been waiting to come for a long time. We’re ready to attack every day this season.”

The Mt. Ararat girls basketball team also got going Monday, with coach Julie Petrie emphasizing high energy.

“It’s awesome to be here,” she said.

Brunswick, Mt. Ararat and Morse are still requiring all participants be masked.

“We have to learn and adapt to wrestling with masks on, but that’s something we’re going to deal with,” said Jensen. “It’s a challenge, but if it means we get to have a season then we know we have to get used to it.”

The first countable events for all winter sports teams, except girls ice hockey, are set for Dec. 10. Girls ice hockey teams can begin playing countable games on Nov. 26.

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