Mount Desert Island’s Wilder Young tries to pin Penobscot Valley’s Dylan Kruger during a high school wrestling match Dec. 17, 2014, in Ellsworth. MDI, which last offered wrestling as a winter sport during the 2014-15 season, officially approved the program’s return for 2018-19 at the school district’s Nov. 13 board meeting.

MDI approves return of wrestling program for 2018-19 season

BAR HARBOR — Bunky Dow never got rid of the wrestling gear in the Mount Desert Island High School sports closet. With the winter season less than a month away, he’s about to bring it back out again.

No current athletes at MDI have ever worn the team’s dark-green singlets and headgear, but that doesn’t mean there hasn’t been a renewed interest in the sport. After a process that began a few months back finally reached its conclusion earlier this week, the athletics scene at Hancock County’s largest high school has become even bigger.

MDI on Tuesday made official the the return of the school’s wrestling program. The team is set to compete in Class B for the 2018-19 season, which will be its first on the mats since it dropped the sport from its offerings four years ago.

“We’re always trying to create as many opportunities as we can for our students to get involved with sports, even if there are sports we don’t have,” said Dow, the school’s athletic director. “We had a lot of interest in wrestling, and we were able to put it together in time.”

MDI, Dow said, held two meetings in October to gauge interest in bringing back the sport for the upcoming season. Those meetings drew a total of 15 students, most of whom were members of the football team during the fall.

After getting positive feedback from students, it was clear to Dow that the school had the infrastructure in place to field the team. In Tony Dalisio, who coached the varsity team at Winslow before moving to MDI with his family this year, the Trojans also had a prospective head coach.

Dalisio first approached Dow about the feasibility of bringing back the wrestling team late in the summer. Knowing the Trojans had sponsored a program in the past, doing so again seemed well within the realm of possibility.

“I love the sport, and I believe in the life lessons it teaches,” Dalisio said. “With them having a team before and wrestling being big nearby with Ellsworth and Bucksport, and I thought to myself, ‘Hey, I think I’ll ask.’”

With equipment available, athletes ready to compete and a private donation in place to fund a coaching salary, all that was left was to go over scheduling. The Maine Principals’ Association added the Trojans to several existing meets and tournaments, and wrestling’s return to MDI was official.

“I think we were always confident about our ability to put together a team, but I didn’t want to interfere with the fall season as it was still going on,” Dow said. “When we got that interest in those two meetings, we knew we were in a spot to make it happen.”

In its previous form, MDI’s wrestling program was relatively successful at the local and regional levels under former coach Chip Dugans. The Trojans had three wrestlers finish in the top four of their respective weight classes at the 2015 Eastern Maine championships and fielded teams with as many as 15-20 wrestlers.

“It isn’t like we’re adding a sport we’ve never done before,” Dow said. “We know from the past that we can build the success to sustain a team and be competitive.”

Despite that success, the school chose to discontinue the program following the 2014-15 season. Difficulties with practice times played the biggest factor in that decision, Dow said, as the Trojans were forced to hold most of their practices in the wee hours of the morning. This year’s team, he added, has arranged to practice in the afternoon.

MDI had yet to post this year’s schedule as of Tuesday evening, though Dow said that information would be released before the team’s first practice. Teams in Maine are eligible to begin practices Monday, Nov. 19, and can hold their first regular season matches Dec. 7.

“It’s really exciting because the season is right around the corner,” Dalisio said. “I’m really happy to see how many kids came out, and I’m ready for a fun year.”

Mike Mandell

Mike Mandell

Mike Mandell is the sports editor at The Ellsworth American and Mount Desert Islander. He began working for The American in August 2016. You can reach him via email at [email protected]

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