BAR HARBOR — Gathered in a dimly lit cafeteria, a group of six Mount Desert Island High School athletes stood with hands on knees Monday evening as they breathed deeply, their hair and clothing both drenched in sweat.
Just moments earlier, the group had gone through a fair but exhausting conditioning workout on the green mats they had set up on the cafeteria floor. Yet even though they were tired, the students remained energized as they took a break from the action to rest, regroup and hydrate.
“You feeling it yet?” a voice shouted from across the room. It was Tony Dalisio, coach of the recently revived MDI wrestling team.
“I was feeling it 10 minutes ago,” replied one of the students, Baylor Landsman.
The workout was unlike any Landsman, the MDI football team’s starting quarterback, and the other five athletes had ever done. Yet with the first competition less than a week away, the team has no time to waste.
“I don’t think I could be happier with the first day and how it went,” Dalisio said. “It’s all new for these kids, and they’re still learning, but you see that enthusiasm and see that commitment, and that’s what you need to start building something.”
MDI last fielded a wrestling team in 2014-15, but the Trojans brought the sport back earlier this month following interest from several football players and the appointment of Dalisio, who previously coached at Winslow before moving to the MDI area with his family.
The first practice included a variety of conditioning exercises before Dalisio showed the wrestlers a slew of techniques.
None of the current Trojan wrestlers can boast any previous varsity experience. But that provides Dalisio with an opportunity to mold the team himself. With his wrestlers hailing from a variety of different sports, primarily football, the athleticism he needs is already in place.
“The challenges are the fun part because they’re a big step in that learning process, which is an important stage,” Dalisio said. “Most importantly, it’s about cementing the life lessons we learn in athletics and developing the comprehension of the sport, but I tend to think of those things as the best part rather than thinking of them as challenges.”
Dalisio stressed the importance of developing a “wrestling body,” which he said would be unlike any his athletes had before. By the end of the year, the coach said, the Trojans would have “new hips” and “new quads” as well as building new muscles in places they didn’t think possible.
“A wrestling body starts with a steeled mind, a mind that is capable of believing in what you don’t know is possible yet,” Dalisio said. “It stresses the importance of being limber, flexible, strong — whatever you ask of your body, to be able to do it.”
MDI will compete as a team for the first time this year at a preseason tournament at 10 a.m. Saturday, Dec. 1, at Penobscot Valley High School.
“We’re going into the fire right off the bat,” Dalisio said. “We’re going to have fun, and it’ll be a good time to go up there, give the kids some experience and see where we’re at.”