ELLSWORTH — Forgive Foster Ashmore if he felt the wrestling universe had conspired against him. Throughout the 2017-18 season, it’s often seemed as if that were the case.
The senior on the Bucksport wrestling team had been chasing his 100th win for much of the year, but between weather postponements and opponent scratches, it took forever. Last Wednesday, it finally appeared as if Ashmore would reach that milestone in the best way possible: at a tournament at Bucksport High School on his 18th birthday.
Unfortunately, more bad weather stepped in the way. The first of Bucksport’s two home tournaments was postponed for a second time, and Ashmore was left to wait once again.
“It was definitely disappointing at the time,” Ashmore said. “It would’ve been ideal to win it back at my home gym, and I was looking forward to it for sure.”
Three days later, though, Ashmore finally got his moment. Even after another opponent was scratched at the last second, the third of the Bucksport standout’s four wins on the day earned him a spot in school history.
Ashmore became the 28th member of Bucksport’s 100-win club when he defeated Foxcroft Academy’s Brandon Weston at Saturday’s round-robin tournament at Ellsworth High School. The win highlighted an excellent day for local wrestlers, who won the majority of their matches throughout the seven-hour tournament.
After wins in Ashmore’s first two bouts, Bucksport fans in attendance expected to hear his name called as matchups were announced for the third set of round-robin competition. Yet as the names were called, Ashmore, whose opponent had been scratched, instead had to watch as other wrestlers in the 126-pound class took to the mats.
“It was hard when I didn’t get to wrestle right when I wanted to,” Ashmore said. “The anticipation was there for me to go out and get it done, but then I had to wait another round.”
When the time did come, Ashmore was ready. So too were his teammates, coaches and fans, many of whom gathered around the ring holding up “100” signs in celebration of the victory that was about to come.
Ashmore took control of the match early, but Weston, who himself reached the 100-win milestone in December, made him work hard for the victory. Late in the second period, Ashmore finally pulled off the winning pin and sent the purple-clad corner of Katsiaficas Gymnasium wild.
“He deserves this so much,” Bucksport head coach Dan Ormsby said. “He’s been one of the hardest workers on the team for all these years, and everyone wanted this for him.”
The day was also memorable for Ellsworth, which honored seniors Chris Barnes, Andrew Brown, Peyton Cole and Sam Horne. Although Horne didn’t wrestle, his fellow seniors combined to win all but two of their matches.
Kyle Gillespie furthered Ellsworth’s excellent performance with an undefeated showing at the 132-pound level. Freshman Landon St. Peter also starred for the Eagles at 106 pounds with four victories.
As the tournament used a round-robin format, teams did not place or receive scores. Instead, wrestlers were divided into two separate brackets to create a massive tournament that featured 228 total bouts.
“We wanted to give wrestlers at every weight class new opportunities against new opponents,” Ellsworth head coach J.F. Burns said. “In a lot of these tournaments, you have the same people making it to the end. It was good to have a tournament that avoided that and gave wrestlers a shot against different competition.”
Many wrestlers for both teams didn’t get that chance. Ellsworth’s Logan Lord and Bucksport’s Keigan Riccard and David Gross led a long list of unavailable wrestlers for the two Hancock County teams, which have had to deal with numerous injuries throughout the season.
“When you have that many wrestlers who can’t go for you, it really takes a toll,” Ormsby said. “Still, we have some quality kids, and we’re going to make some noise.”
Ashmore, who spent much of the next half-hour posing for pictures with a commemorative plaque and receiving congratulatory messages from the entire Bucksport contingent, will make sure of that. With three events left in the regular season and regional and state championships still to come, there will be more opportunities for him to make an impact.
Two of those competitions will be at home, where Ashmore hoped to earn his milestone win a week ago. Even after he graduates this June, his name will soon be a permanent fixture at Ralph Jewett Gymnasium when it gets added with a banner listing the 27 other Bucksport wrestlers to reach the 100-win milestone.
“I can’t wait to see my name up there,” Ashmore said. “Getting it at home on my birthday would still have been ideal, but that doesn’t take away from the accomplishment. I still had everyone here cheering me on, and it’s a special feeling.”