Saturday, July 19, 2003

Maine Wrestling Hall of Fame 2003

Banquet/Ceremony: Saturday, July 19th, at the Hyde School in Bath.

6-9:00pm     Tickets $12.50 and $6.00 for kids ... available at the door.

There's no higher accomplishment than to be recognized for excelling in competition, so former Rumford High School standout Larry Gill and Jim Coffin who coached at Morse are among those selected for induction in to the Maine Amateur Wrestling Hall Of Fame in 2003.

The others include wrestlers Brian Walch of Westbrook; Dennis Sprague of Belfast and Mark Perkins of Mount Ararat.

The five individuals will be formerly inducted on July 19 at the Hyde School in Bath. The inductees bring the total to 36 who will have been enshrined in the MAWA HOF since 1993.

Gill was certainly unique because he was one of the first-ever freshmen to start at Rumford in 1973. Gill won the first of four Class A regional crowns and finished fourth at 112-pounds on the 1974 state championship team.

During a stellar four-year career, Gill set numerous records and when he graduated held school records for takedowns, pins and reversals. Gill had a career record of 96-13-1, however, he only lost three matches the final three years.

The Peru native won state championships in 1976 and 1977, and was a New England finalist as a senior. In that era, Gill was and is still considered one of the best schoolboy wrestlers from the state.

Gill had stepped on the mat with absolutely no previous experiences about the sport. Some of the features that enabled Gill to master his craft, related to his dedication and tireless work ethic.

Gill will be the fourth member of the 1974 Rumford state team in the HOF, joining coach Jerry Perkins, Steve Nokes and this reporter.

Gill and HOF Kevin Gilmore of Morse are the top two Maine wrestlers with international experience. In ?, they were both members of the A.A.U. team that competed in Germany, Austria and Switzerland. Gill competed in both Freestyle and Greco Roman, compiling a 4-4 record. Gill also wrestled against teams from Poland, Austria and the Dutch that toured the state.

Coffin coached in the 'Pit" at the Bath-based school for over two decades and earned the respect and appreciation of those who met him. The Shipbuilders had some solid team' and countless outstanding individuals, however, Coffin considered winning to be almost secondary. That's because there were several important facets associated with the sport that could be taught and hopefully be carried over through out life.

Coffin, a fisherman from Harpswell, had a devoted passion about trying to instill those strong values on each young student-athlete. Every new lesson taught would hopefully be able to provide each individual with the strength to draw from later in life.

Walch established himself on the mat by having outstanding careers at both Westbrook H.S. and at Ithaca College in New York. Walch compiled a 130-27-1 record in high school, while competing in four different weight classes.

After placing third in the Class A state meet as a sophomore, Walch was unbeaten and won state championships as a junior and senior. He also competed in Nebraska in 1992 in the Friendship Series.

"He was the best mat wrestler I've ever seen in this state." Westbrok Coach Dennis Walch said. " He was not outstanding on his feet till he wrestled at Ithaca College."

The elder Walch enjoyed wearing two hats as both a father and coach.

The younger Walch competed at Ithaca four years and was a member of the 1994 Division III national championship team. He earned was a two-time Academic All American and was All-NY state twice.

Sprague also was a fierce competitor who was advanced to three state finals, winning championships as a junior and senior. The former Lion was known for his pins and was 25-0-1 en route to winning a New England title as a senior. The championship erased a bitter sweet memory because Sprague had been a N.E. finalist as a junior, but lost on riding time. Sprague' nephew Troy won two Class B state crowns at Belfast in the 1990s.

Perkins completed a dream season by going unbeaten and winning a Class A state championship in the mid-1980s. The former Eagle wrestler had gained some momentum after having upset the top-seed in the regional.

Bob McPhee