ELLSWORTH — The wait was no more than a minute, but for David Gross, it was the longest of his life.
Two minutes remained in the Bucksport freshman’s 285-pound title bout against Erskine Academy’s Jakob Peavey, but there was some confusion on the mat. As the previous period had ended, both coaches were unsure of what the score should have been. Unfortunately for Gross, who just wanted to get on with it, the result of the dispute put him down 6-3.
It was a controversial decision that temporarily stalled the match, but the freshman’s head coach, Dan Ormsby, wasn’t fazed.
“Go get him,” Ormsby said. “You’ve been training for this your whole life. Give it everything you’ve got.”
Neither wrestler had much energy left after a long day and a hard-fought first two periods, but Gross had just enough to make it count. Less than 45 seconds into the final round, he took control of his opponent and didn’t let go to make the home fans proud and become Bucksport’s first state champion in almost 20 years.
“It’s the greatest feeling in the world,” Gross said. “To fight back and get that win with everyone watching and become a state champion, you can’t get better than that.”
Gross’s 10-7 victory over Peavey on Saturday capped off a wild day of wrestling at the Class B state championships in Bucksport. It was a day on which he and Ellsworth’s Peyton Cole and Trent Goodman won individual state titles.
“This was one of the best days ever for Bucksport wrestling,” Ormsby said. “It’s really special to be able to host such an amazing tournament. Plus, we got to see one of our own become a champ, and he did it as a freshman heavyweight.”
Wrestlers came from as far north as Fort Kent and as far south as Wells, which won the tournament. Fans from Bucksport, Ellsworth, Dexter, Maine Central Institute, Mountain Valley and elsewhere throughout the state lined the gymnasium ceiling with posters of their favorite wrestlers, and most fans stayed for the entirety of the event.
Both Bucksport and Ellsworth had to wait a while to take their turns on the mat once the tournament started, but the Eagles came firing out of the gate once they did. Each of the five wrestlers Ellsworth sent to the tournament won at least one bout.
Of those five, Logan Lord, Josh Wright, Peyton Cole and Trent Goodman reached the finals. Lord and Wright lost, but Cole and Goodman finished off undefeated seasons for the Eagles with by becoming champions at 152 and 170 pounds, respectively. Cole beat Dirigo’s Hunter White 6-0, and Goodman pinned Wells’ Michael Wrigley.
Cole and Goodman have been two of Ellsworth’s most dominant wrestlers for quite some time. Their respective title wins were the third in a row for each, and the duo finished the year undefeated despite wrestling at several different weight classes. Goodman was so dominant that he finished the season without giving up a single point in any of his matches.
“We’ve got so many guys on our team who can go deep into tournaments like this,” Goodman said. “You can’t take something like that for granted. I wouldn’t want to have spent my wrestling career with anybody other than these guys.”
Bucksport, on the other hand, struggled more than usual early in the day. The Golden Bucks were not about to have their top wrestlers be outdone, though; as Gross was on his way to ending his day with a win, Brody Boynton was, too. Boynton lost to Dirigo’s Bryce Whittemore in the 160-pound semis but bounced back to win the consolation bracket.
As the referee slammed the mat to signal Boynton’s consolation title win over Winslow’s Patrick Hopkins, the senior pumped his right fist and hugged Ormsby as his parents cheered from a few feet away. For the Golden Bucks’ most experienced wrestler, it was a great way to end his last match at Bucksport High School.
“If there’s anyone who’s been the rock for our program the past few years, I’d say it’s been Brody,” Ormsby said. “He was here with Bucksport wrestling when we only had several kids on the team, and he’s stuck through the good times and the bad with us.”
From there, Bucksport had a long wait until Gross was able to compete for his title. As the lights dimmed for the championship round, the senior sat on a balcony overlooking the gym with his Bucksport teammates. Of all the wrestlers competing for a state title, he would have to wait until last.
That wait — and the additional one that came between the second and third periods — was worth it in the end. Minutes after the crowd roared, the lights flipped back on and Gross stood atop the podium, his family members and others in purple-and-gold clad gear had tears in their eyes.
Everybody in attendance seemed to have a message for the champ, but there was one who was speechless. It was Gross’s father, Dave, an assistant coach who won a heavyweight championship for Bucksport in 1996. The win meant as much to him as anyone, but he couldn’t find quite the words to describe it.
Then, a few minutes into a post-tournament interview, he finally found them.
“Unbelievable,” he said. “It doesn’t get better than this.”