BAR HARBOR — High school wrestling is back in Maine, and for Mount Desert Island, the new year marks a fresh start.
From the head coach to the wrestlers, the (masked) faces on the mats are (almost) entirely different for the MDI wrestling team this year. It’s a new era for the Trojans, and it comes in the midst of an everchanging pandemic that’s still affecting the sport as well as a late coaching change that delayed the team’s season by a week.
Nevertheless, MDI is more eager than ever with the 2021-22 season now underway. On Saturday, the Trojans’ small contingent of wrestlers got a taste of the Maine high school wrestling circuit as the first competitive meet held in the state of Maine since February 2020 took place in Bar Harbor.
“It felt so refreshing to be back,” said MDI’s Logan Blanchette. “I missed the sport a lot last year, and it was good for us to get back into the flow of things and to be able to experience the sport again.”
Blanchette led the way for MDI on Saturday with two contested wins and one forfeit win. The senior defeated Ellsworth’s Grayson Mote via fall (1:38) at 145 pounds, beat Caribou’s Brody Hotchkiss in an 8-2 decision at 138 pounds and won via forfeit against Foxcroft at 138.
Elsewhere for the Trojans, Nick Jacobs, who wrestled at 152 pounds for MDI, won via forfeit against Bucksport and Dexter. At 285 pounds, Ashton Thomas won via forfeit against Ellsworth.
Entering Saturday’s meet, Blanchette was the only MDI wrestler with any varsity experience. For the team’s newcomers, observing and competing in a countable competition served as an excellent introduction to the sport.
“Other than Logan, this was everyone’s first match to even see, so they came having not quite seen what wrestling culture is all about yet,” Rogers said. “Now that they’ve gotten to see up close how intense it gets and how everything can change on a dime, they’re even more excited.”
With no wrestling last season, there was certainly some rust to be kicked off for wrestlers from all six competing schools. As the day progressed, though, those wrestling found things starting to feel a little bit more natural again.
“I was definitely a bit rusty, but the further I got into the meet and the more matches I had, I could feel my muscle memory start to kick back in,” Blanchette said. “I was getting some moves that I had forgotten, and I could feel that rust start to come off.”
MDI was more than excited for their first meet under Rogers, who was an assistant under previous head coach Tony Dalisio in 2018-19 and 2019-20 before the pandemic forced the cancellation of the 2020-21 season. Rogers wrestled as a high-schooler in Wisconsin and had his passion for the sport reignited in his tenure as an MDI assistant.
“Tony is a wrestling genius, so it was great to relearn so many aspects of the sport from him,” Rogers said. “I’m carrying my experiences and obviously a lot of his knowledge into this, and it’s been a lot of fun. These kids are awesome, and it’s fun working with them.”
MDI was set to participate in a four-team meet with Ellsworth, Bucksport and Washington Academy on Tuesday evening at Bucksport High School. The Trojans will return to Bucksport for the Ryan Detour Memorial Tournament at 9:30 a.m. Saturday, Dec. 18, before hosting their second meet at 5 p.m. Wednesday, Dec. 22.
Although only three Trojans wrestled Saturday, the team is still growing in size. MDI now has six wrestlers listed on its roster, and the new competitors are sure to get match opportunities in the month ahead.
“We have some really intelligent kids, so that’s helping me move through everything quicker,” Rogers said. “We’re focused on learning and having fun for right now, but I know these kids are going to pick it up as the season goes on.”