WELLS — Maddie Ripley knew it would be newsworthy if she became the first girl to win a Maine high school individual state wrestling championship while competing against boys.

But three days after her historic victory, with a pin against Nick Allen of Wells in the Class B 106-pound final on Saturday, Ripley admitted she’s surprised by just how much people seem to care.

“I wasn’t expecting it to go so far,” she said. “I’ve had a lot of texts and the story has been reposted so many times. It’s kind of nice to see that it’s finally getting out there. Maybe we’ll get more girls into wrestling.”

The 16-year-old junior at Oceanside High in Rockland spent Tuesday doing what she has done since she was a preschooler. Wrestling. But this event was different. Ripley was one of 48 high school girls from virtually every corner of the state competing in the Maine Principals’ Association-sponsored state girls’ wrestling championships, held at Wells High.

Ripley captured her second girls’ title, winning the 107-pound division with a 14-4 decision in the final against Mt. Blue freshman Brooklynn Webber.

There was one tense moment late in the first period. With Ripley working hard for the pin, she readjusted and got herself out of position. Webber, who was Mt. Blue’s varsity starter at 120 pounds and had cut weight for the girls’ event, sensed the opportunity and reversed the position, briefly exposing Ripley’s back to the mat.


Ripley quickly got herself back into a safe position and controlled the rest of the match.

Webber said she intends to use Ripley as an example.

“I was hoping to do better my freshman year and it didn’t really work out as well as I wanted but I’m going to work because I want to do exactly what Maddie did,” Webber said.

Maddie Ripley, top, wrestles against Brooklynn Webber of Mt. Blue in the 107-pound finals of the state girls’ wrestling championships at Wells High on Tuesday. Gregory Rec/Staff Photographer

For many other girls, Ripley is also paving the way.

“It’s really cool to see girls standing on that higher level now,” said Hannah Perro, a talented freshman wrestler at Noble High who won the 100-pound division Tuesday. “I feel like boys look down on (girl wrestlers) and that just proves girls are able to do the same thing.”

It won’t be easy. When Ripley won the Class B South championship as a sophomore in 2022, it was just the fifth time a girl had won a regional championship against boys. Ripley lost in the final match that year at the state championships.


York senior Alissa Caltagirone was at the Class B meet on Saturday at Mattanawcook Academy in Lincoln. In fact, she was beaten by Ripley’s twin brother Gavin, 8-0, in a 132-pound semifinal. Caltagirone was able to wrestle back through consolation bouts to finish fourth. Next year, she will wrestle as a scholarship athlete at Northern Michigan University, a NCAA Division II program.

Caltagiorne said Ripley’s victory was “amazing,” because of “the support from everyone in the room,” and “Maddie pinned her way through the tournament. That’s amazing.”

News of Ripley’s victory spread quickly. Lisa Nowak Wilkins heard of it while on vacation with family.

“When my phone lit up I just burst into tears,” she said.

As a freshman at Mt. Ararat High in 1995, Lisa Nowak was the first girl in Maine to try to wrestle with boys. However, she only got to compete in three matches. That’s because the principals’ association had a rule at the time that allowed boys to refuse to wrestle a girl in competition. If a boy refused, the girl’s team would be forced to substitute a male wrestler or forfeit the match.

Nowak and her family filed a complaint with the Maine Human Rights Commission. The agency overturned the MPA rule in 1996. That made Maine the 20th state to approve co-ed wrestling. Nowak got her matches and, she says, plenty of unwanted abuse for challenging the status quo.


Nowak, whose last name is now Nowak Wilkins, 41, was at Wells High to present the Most Outstanding Wrestler trophy, which is named in her honor. The award, fittingly, went to Ripley.

“To see the entire state celebrating Maddie Ripley’s win,” Nowak Wilkins said.

Then Nowak Wilkins paused, her words briefly caught in a gulp of emotion.

“I’m sorry but thinking about what I went through and that everyone was against me and now to be here where everyone is supporting. It’s taken 30 years obviously to get here but it’s really beautiful to be here. To see all this I get filled with emotion.”

Right now, Ripley still needs to keep her emotions a bit in check, and keep focused on the rest of the season.

On Friday she will compete in the state’s New England Qualifier, also against boys. The top four finishers in each weight class from both Class A and B will gather at Camden Hills for the competition. A top-three finish at the event secures a spot to the New England Interscholastic Championships on March 3-4 in Providence, Rhode Island.


Oceanside Coach Jason Yates, who is also Ripley’s stepfather, said he is unaware of any girl from Maine competing at New Englands.

“I feel like I can definitely place third but there are some good kids this year,” Ripley said.

Ripley comes from a wrestling family. She and Gavin learned the sport while rolling around on the mat while older siblings Shannon and Ben were competing for Oceanside and training in the family barn, which is outfitted with a full-size wrestling mat and fitness equipment.

Maddie Ripley is 41-3 this season. Her only loss at 106 pounds was to Class A runner-up Brody Simons of Hampden Academy. She has not faced Class A champ Noble freshman Brady Ouellette.

Maddie Ripley greets a well-wisher while walking down a hall in Wells High. Ripley knew when she became the first girl to win a state title wrestling against boys it would be newsworthy but says,  “I wasn’t expecting it to go so far.” Gregory Rec/Staff Photographer

Among the fans in attendance at the girls’ championships on Tuesday were some of the best boys’ wrestlers in the state, including Class A champions Derek Cote of Noble, Aidan Clark of Skowhegan, James Blood of Sanford and Ouellette. As they sat around a cafeteria table, they discussed Ripley’s chances of making the New England championships. The consensus? She’s good enough to do it.

Ripley said she’s better prepared to meet the challenges as a junior than she was a year ago. As a sophomore, Ripley served notice that she was a legitimate threat by becoming the first girl to win at the Kennebec Valley Athletic Conference meet, and then winning the Class B South regional title, both at 113 pounds.


“But last year I was nervous all the time,” Ripley said. “I don’t know why. … Now I’m a year older and I’ve settled down more. I’m going into matches more confident and not really psyching myself out.”

Regardless of the outcome on Friday, there is still plenty of wrestling in Ripley’s future. There’s still her senior year at Oceanside, where she also plays field hockey and softball. Ripley intends to wrestle in college and pursue a nursing degree.

“I could definitely get a scholarship for it, which would be nice, get my college paid for,” Ripley said. “I don’t enjoy cutting weight but I enjoy wrestling a lot.”

Her sister Shannon won a National Collegiate Wrestling Association women’s championship in 2018 while competing for Husson University.

“I just followed in her footsteps,” Maddie Ripley said.

Now it’s Maddie Ripley forging a path for others to follow.

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