BUCKSPORT — For the past three years, coaching on the Bucksport wrestling team has been a team effort. Come next season, that team will have a new leader.
Since the start of the 2015-16 season, Bucksport has operated using a four-man coaching staff led by a former state heavyweight champion, Dan Ormsby. Although Ormsby will not return to coach another season next year, the Golden Bucks had another championship winner waiting in the wings.
Bucksport named Dave Gross its newest head wrestling coach at the Regional School Unit 25 Board meeting Tuesday. The decision came three months after Ormsby told The Ellsworth American he would be stepping away from the team, which will remain in the hands of a program legend.
“It’s a dream come true for me,” Gross said. “This is the place I wrestled as a kid and the place that made me, and to get the chance and to have this opportunity here, it’s absolutely incredible.”
Gross and Ormsby, who spent six seasons as Ellsworth’s head coach from 2008-14 before returning to his hometown, were pieces of a strong coaching staff that also included Robby Perkins and Shawn Costigan. That group that helped Bucksport establish itself as a strong program in Class B as the team saw a massive increase in numbers.
Following Bucksport’s most recent season, though, Ormsby announced he would not return to coach the team in 2018-19. He wanted to use his master’s degree in education to get further into administration, and when he received an over to become dean of students for elementary and middle schools at Searsport-based RSU 20, he decided to accept it.
“I decided that 10 years of head coaching was enough,” Ormsby said. “I wanted to spend some more time watching my daughter’s last two years in high school. It was a good run, and hanging up the shoes was the best choice.”
For Ormsby, Gross becoming the next head coach seemed the logical next step in the process. Although Ormsby himself was not personally involved in the final decision, he had a strong feeling his former partner would ultimately be the man to take the reins.
“Dave is really good with kids, and he’s been a big part of building the core values of our program and creating that foundation for a good team culture,” Ormsby said. “He was who I figured would take over when I said I would be stepping away.”
Gross was crowned heavyweight state champion in 1996 when he pinned Jason Mowry of Wells at the end of the second period. An inspired Ormsby won a heavyweight title of his own four years later when he pinned Dexter’s Ethan Hight in 1 minute, 43 seconds.
Yet Gross isn’t the only member of his family with a championship pedigree. His older son, David, won the heavyweight state title as a freshman in 2017 in front of his home crowd at Bucksport High School, and his younger son, Jaxon, was middle school state champion this past season.
“He’s been working hard his whole life, and he’s always driving me to be great and supporting me no matter what,” David said. “Wrestling is a big part of my family, and even though he’s coached me a long time, it’s going to be so awesome to have him as head coach now.”
Gross will spend time as one of numerous assistant coaches on the Bucksport football team this fall, but come winter, his No. 1 focus will be wrestling. With talented seniors returning and an accomplished feeder program established at the middle school level — Bucksport was 1 1/2 points short of the Pine Tree Wrestling League title this year — the Golden Bucks are set up well for the years to come.
“I think we’ve accomplished a lot as a program these past few years, and I’m definitely hoping to build on that even more,” Gross said. “This is my hometown. I wrestled here, and now my kids were raised here. To get this job is a blessing, and I hope to do some great things.”
Bucks appoint football assistant, JV coaches
Bucksport made three other coaching appointments at the board meeting. Dale Tozier was named an assistant coach for the football team, and Rich Rotella and George Watkins were named head coaches of the junior varsity softball and boys’ soccer teams, respectively.
“We are very excited to find such great coaches at BHS,” the school said in a statement last Tuesday. “We know they are just as excited [as we are] to get started.”