BUCKSPORT — The first Saturday in December has held significant meaning in recent years at Bucksport High School. This year was no different.
Before six wrestling teams took to the mat for this year’s edition of the Ryan Detour Memorial Tournament, all eyes were focused on the stage at the corner of the school gymnasium. There, several faces from the 2002 Bucksport wrestling team were lined up as they received a round of applause.
Fifteen years have now passed since Dec. 7, 2002, when Detour, 17, collapsed and died during a wrestling match in Caribou. Since then, Bucksport has dedicated its first preseason contest of December to hosting a wrestling tournament in his honor.
“This tournament means a lot to a lot of people,” head coach Dan Ormsby said. “Every year, we’re amazed at how many people come out here to support Ryan, his family and the sport he loved more than anything.”
Others on stage included Detour’s mother, Janet, some of his friends and his former head coach, Joel Pelletier. Pelletier in particular was emotional as he recalled the ways the former wrestler made an impact on his life.
Pelletier remembered a long bus trip to Fort Kent, during which Detour kept begging him for a sandwich. He played songs from Detour’s wrestling room playlist, many of which his teammates were singing with him by the time practice came to an end.
Detour’s passion, as Pelletier was quick to note, was wrestling. Detour knew the ins and outs of every wrestler around the state at tournaments, and, as Pelletier recalled, had the qualities of a coach himself with the tips he offered to teammates.
At times, Pelletier said, those tips and tricks came in the form of humor. It was Detour’s way.
“We’d come in for morning sessions in the weight room to work out, and Ryan would be on the bench telling us what we were doing wrong,” Pelletier said to laughs from the audience. “Day in and day out, he was our chief.”
Perhaps the most iconic image of the day came in the form of the logos printed on black shirts several Bucksport wrestlers and fans worse to the tournament. The logos featured the Detour’s initials in a matter that resembled the “GB” insignia members of the coaching staff wear on their polo shorts during meets and tournaments.
“We wanted to do something different for him this year,” Ormsby said as he held up one of the shirts. “Ryan was a part of us and who we were as a team. We thought these shirts would be a cool way we could remember that.”
As far as the wrestling on the mat was concerned, Detour would’ve been proud of his alma mater’s success. Despite being down five wrestlers as a result of injuries and illnesses, Bucksport came within 11 points of first place in a field that included some of the state’s strongest teams.
“Ryan loved everyone, and everyone loved Ryan,” Pelletier said. “He had a laugh and a smile that were just unbelievable. … He was a big guy with a lot of heart, and we’ll never forget him.”