BUCKSPORT — One Saturday in December always means just a little bit more to the Bucksport wrestling team.
With the exception of last year’s pandemic-canceled season, Bucksport’s Ralph Jewett Gymnasium has been host to the Ryan Detour Memorial Tournament every year since 2003. The tournament is held in memory of its namesake, Ryan Detour, a Bucksport wrestler who tragically passed away during a match in 2002.
“Ryan meant so much to this program and this community,” Bucksport head coach Dave Gross said. “He was a great kid, and he was the perfect teammate. He was the type of kid every wrestling program wanted to have around, and he was always supporting everybody, whether it was our team or another school.”
In this early season meet, then, Bucksport wrestlers always seem to leave everything they have on the mats. That was no different this year as a series of solid efforts through the day propelled the Golden Bucks to a strong team finish.
Bucksport took runner-up honors Saturday in the 18th Ryan Detour Memorial Tournament at Bucksport High School. The Golden Bucks crowned three champions and finished second to Mattanawcook Academy overall in the team’s final home meet of the calendar year.
In the lower weight classes, Bucksport got a fourth-place effort from Jazmyne Rines at 126 pounds and a third-place win from Dhane Smith at 145 pounds. At 138 pounds, the Golden Bucks’ Kaleb Nightingale made it all the way to the championship bout before falling to Nathan Bock of Piscataquis.
Bucksport soon would get its first weight-class champion as Paige Anderson pinned Dexter’s David Race to win the 195-pound final. With the win, Anderson became the first girl in Bucksport wrestling history to win a title in the tournament.
“It’s hard to take in because it’s a lot, but I’ve worked so hard outside of school to make myself better in here,” Anderson said. “I could not be more proud of myself. There’s been so much blood, sweat and tears put in on my part, and it’s so incredible to see it all paying off.”
After an evenly matched first 30 seconds, Anderson got a firm grasp of Race and was able to take her opponent to the floor. Anderson then had her Dexter counterpart in pin position for 20 or so seconds before the referee slapped the mat to declare her the winner.
“I heard him grunting, and at that point, I was telling myself, ‘I want this more than him,’” Anderson said. “I was feeling confident, so I settled myself back and went chest to chest. Then, when I saw his back, I just said, ‘OK, I’ve got this.’”
Anderson’s win would be the first of three consecutive championship match victories for Bucksport. The Golden Bucks’ next title win would come at the 220-pound level, where junior Jaxon Gross pinned all three of his opponents in less than a minute to breeze to first place.
At no weight class, though, was Bucksport as dominant as it was at 285 pounds. The heavyweight division saw the Golden Bucks’ Jacob Coghill defeat teammate Grayson Fernald in the title bout, and Wyatt Weaver pinned Dexter’s Josh Legassie in the third-place match to give Bucksport a sweep of the top-three podium places.
“With the 285s, I’ve said this all year long, and I’ll stand by it: I think the best 285s in the state are in our wrestling room,” Gross said. “It’s awful that we can’t enter two of them into the Northern Maine [meet] for regionals because that would be big for us.”
Ellsworth, which finished sixth overall, sent five different wrestlers to the podium. The Eagles got a second-place effort from Ridge Weatherbee (152 pounds), third-place finishes from Josh Fissette (132 pounds) and Luke McKinney (182) and fourth-place efforts from Gianna Anderson (132) and Grayson Mote (138).
Ellsworth’s success Saturday came despite the Eagles entering the meet with a very young roster. Seeing a team comprised primarily of freshmen and sophomores wrestle the way it did came as a welcome surprise to head coach Dakota Jewett, who has been over the moon with how far his fledgling squad has come already this year.
“I was telling them in the mat room, ‘This is our goal, to get people onto the podium,’ and in our first tournament, we’re there,” Jewett said. “To see five different kids do that for us, it blew me away. On a week-to-week basis, they’re improving so much.”
Bucksport and Ellsworth will compete at 7 p.m. Wednesday, Dec. 22, at Mount Desert Island High School. That will be the last meet until the new year for Bucksport, though Ellsworth is scheduled to compete at Caribou High School at 11:30 a.m. Dec. 29.