ROCKLAND — It’s midway through practice on a Wednesday night inside tiny South Elementary School, and the state’s barrier-breaking wrestler is hard at work.

Maddie Ripley is pushing through drills with 10 of her fellow Oceanside High School wrestlers. They run around the school, storming up and down stairs. They run sprints on the gymnasium floor and push through a core muscle workout.

At no point does Ripley struggle.

“I feel in shape,” she said. “I had a field hockey season (in the fall) and I played center-mid. That’s nothing but running and sprinting for an hour, so it helped.”

Ripley, a senior, is just 10 months removed from making history, when she became the first girl in Maine to win an individual state wrestling championship while competing against boys. She accomplished that feat by pinning Nick Allen of Wells in the Class B 106-pound division on Feb. 18 in Lincoln.

Ripley also won the 107-pound title in the girls’ state championship last season and placed fourth at the New England Qualifier.


As she prepares for her final high school wrestling season, Ripley grapples with the following question: What’s next?

“I’m planning on competing at 113 (pounds), but who knows, I may drop down, I’m not 100% sure yet,” said Ripley, whose brother, Gavin, is the defending Class B champ in the 132-pound division. “I know I’m going to start out there. I’m hoping to win states at 113, to win (a title) at two different weight classes.”

Added Oceanside Coach Jason Yates, who is also Ripley’s stepfather: “(Maddie’s) looking to make it to New Englands for the first time and repeat as state champion. Further on, we’re looking at winning Virginia Beach (at the high school nationals in April). You’ve got to set your goals high. Even if you miss, you’re still pretty high.”

Ripley made her debut in the 113-pound division at the renowned Westlake Wrestling Tournament on Dec. 2 at Morse High in Bath. She finished runner-up in her division, falling 12-0 to Evan Kowalsky of Mt. Ararat/Brunswick in the final.

The match tested her physically, as well as mentally.

Oceanside wrestler Phoenix Martinez, left, grapples with Maddie Ripley during a practice Wednesday at South Elementary School in Rockland. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal

“It’s always hard,” Yates said. “There’s always a lot of pressure coming in, because now you’ve already done it and you’re supposed to repeat. We just flush it. We just (focus) on each match, take it one at a time and don’t get too stressed about that.”


Maintaining focus, Yates said, challenged Ripley last season, and will again this winter.

Ripley agreed, saying her fourth-place finish at the New England Qualifier – she lost the consolation final in overtime – was tough.

“The week after (the Class B state championship), it was pretty hard to focus back up,” she said. “It just blew up, in a way I didn’t think it would. I was just kind of all over the place. I don’t think I wrestled my best (after states). …  Now, I’m just working on my technique a little bit, and in real matches, try not to worry about what’s going on around me.

“That’s definitely hard, now that everyone knows (who I am). Just to focus, I definitely need to focus more.”

At practice Wednesday, under the watchful eyes of Yates, no time was wasted. Between the cardio drills, Oceanside wrestlers worked on escapes, takedowns, headlocks and waistlock takeovers.

Phoenix Martinez is Ripley’s partner during practice. A junior, Martinez said practicing against Ripley helps make him a better wrestler.


“It’s really fun (during practice), she really pushes me to my limits,” Martinez said. “Both of us really drive each other. It’s tough (to practice against her), but it’s fun, I have a good time. She’s a really good sparring partner for me.

“It’s really her drive (that stands out), it’s her sheer will,” Martinez added.

Again, Ripley showed no signs of struggle during drills.

“I lift quite a bit,” she said. “I put on a lot of size since last year, with muscle. I normally lift before or after every practice. Then, this year, I started taking ice baths, and it helps so much.”

Added Yates: “It’s going to be impossible to top last year. Last year was incredible. Her twin brother (Gavin), he won a state title. For us as a family, it was unbelievable. But for us as a team, it was also (great). … It was just a good year, good feeling. … They set goals for themselves very high and they put the effort in. Most nights, we go home, and (Maddie) wants to lift. Gavin tries to run two miles every day. They’re both just putting the work in and it shows. You’ve got to put offseason work in because everyone is going through two hours of practice. If that’s all you do, that’s great. You’ll be the same as everybody else. If you want to go to that next level, you go after practice and put the work in.”

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