Deering wrestling is unique to a sport whose competitors are often labeled as ''dumb jocks,'' said Coach Al Kirk. A show of hands in the training room, located in the bowels of Deering High School, revealed over half the team is on the honor roll.
One of those athletes is Chris Smith, a senior who competes at 119 pounds. A three-time Class A state champion with 150 career wins, Smith will head to Northern Illinois University next year, joining fellow senior Danton Weimer in a long line of Rams who have moved on to Division I competition.
For now, Smith is focused on winning his fourth championship. Grabbing his first team title wouldn't be bad, either.
What was the Division I recruiting process like?
It was cool to visit a lot of places. It came down to Northern Illinois, Air Force and East Stroudsburg. The whole military thing wasn't what I was looking for. Northern Illinois was always a top choice. I've always wanted to live in Chicago.
What will the competition be like at Northern Illinois?
I plan on getting beat up the first year. Right now I'm the best in our room, but out there I'm a nobody.
Are you worried about getting an opportunity to wrestle?
No, that's the best thing about wrestling: you choose your own destiny. The coach can't bench you because each week you have a wrestle-off for your spot. The coaches don't pick who is a varsity athlete, you do.
Is wrestling in the shadow of other sports?
We don't get as much credit as we should. We run 3-4 miles a day like a track team. We lift weights like a football team. Then we do all our wrestling drills. Our typical practice is from 2 to 5:30 p.m.
Who is your favorite wrestler?
I look up to Cael Sanderson (2004 Olympic gold medalist) and Rulon Gardner, who beat undefeated (Alexander Karelin) in the 2000 Olympics. All the greats are Olympians.
With such little publicity, how do you follow wrestling?
They don't televise it so you have to travel. It's better watching it live anyway. It's not hard to follow who wins a match, that's on the Internet. But watching a match is hard to do.
What drew you to the sport?
My mom baby sat for the junior high coach. She came home one day and found my dad and I wrestling and had an idea. I started competing for the Westbrook Wolfpack (a peewee program) in second grade.
What is your biggest strength?
A combination of technique and speed. I'm definitely not the strongest at 119. I wrestle from the waist down. The bigger kids get tired fast.
Is wrestling a team or an individual competition?
It's individual because you perform with yourself in mind, but getting a pin is good for the team. Our team is close.
THE FIRST Maine High School Girls' State Wrestling Invitational will be held at noon on Feb. 20 at Mt. Blue High School in Farmington. Weight classes will be determined by grouping entries, and all seedings will be drawn. The tournament will award first- and second-place medals in each weight class and will crown a team state championship. Entries are due by Feb. 1 and the field is limited to Maine high school competitors. For more information, contact Arvid Cullenberg at 778-4971 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
— The state wrestling championships will have a new look this season. Three new looks, to be precise.
After years of rotating between the Bangor Auditorium and Augusta Civic Center, this year's championships will be Feb. 16 at three sites -- Class A at Cony High in Augusta, Class B at Mountain Valley in Rumford and Class C at Foxcroft Academy in Dover-Foxcroft, all starting at 9:30 a.m.
''All three classes at the Bangor Auditorium weren't working,'' said Jeff Sturgis, an assistant director with the Maine Principals' Association. ''We could only get six mats in the auditorium, unlike Augusta, where we could get eight.''
Also, the weigh-in room in Bangor was too small and next to the concession stand -- not the best place if you're a wrestler who has to make weight.
Overall, Sturgis said, ''It became too difficult to run a meet of that magnitude at the Bangor Auditorium.''
Augusta will hold the state meet during odd-numbered years, and high schools will hold it in even-numbered years.
''It was pretty well accepted,'' Sturgis said. ''In fact, the movement came from the coaches. The coaches let us know it wasn't working for them. Taking that input, the wrestling committee made the decision.''
ADELE ESPY of Waynflete made a name for herself this season in cross country. Now she's continuing that success in Nordic skiing, which she considers her first sport.
''I skied before I started competitively running,'' said Espy, who skied in her first Nordic race as a seventh-grader. ''I started running to train for Nordic and I discovered I liked both running and skiing.''
The Class C girls' cross country champion this past fall, Espy was third in classical and freestyle at the 2007 Class C championships with a personal-best time of 13:37 set Saturday when she won the Maranacook Wave freestyle race.
The biggest transition from fall to winter hasn't been in the training. Instead it's the time she dedicates to Nordic skiing.
''In running you can go out for an hour and get a good workout,'' Espy said. ''Skiing, you can go longer and a 2-hour workout isn't uncommon. But waxing your skis takes up a lot of time, and races are farther away because you have to go somewhere to find snow.''
THE MAINE Mariners alumni team will face the official Boston Bruins alumni team Feb. 27 at the Cumberland County Civic Center in a charity hockey game that will celebrate the 30th anniversary of pro hockey in Portland. The proceeds will go toward the Portland and Deering athletic departments. More than 30 former NHL and AHL players will play, including Ray Bourque, Terry O'Reilly, Rick Middleton, Steve Tsujiura and Kent Hulst.
Tickets are available at the Civic Center at 775-3458.
LAST SEASON'S state hockey champs -- Biddeford and Brewer -- have barely missed a beat. Past the halfway point of this season they were a combined 21-2. Brewer won the 2007 Class B title and is 10-2 since being reclassified to Class A, losing 3-2 to Waterville in the Dec. 11 opener and 2-1 Wednesday night at Lewiston. Biddeford (11-0) faces Thornton Academy at 6:30 p.m. Saturday at the Biddeford Ice Arena.
MIKE ROBB has been named as Greely's softball coach to replace Jim Seavey, who will coach at Westbrook. Robb's daughter, Michelle, played softball, basketball and volleyball at Greely and graduated in 2005, and his son, Ryan, played basketball and baseball at Greely, graduating last year.
Staff Writer Rachel Lenzi can be reached at 791-6415 or at:
SANFORD—This year's Redskin Invitational wrestling tournament, held Friday and Saturday, was held in honor of former Sanford coach and standout athlete Keith Kalman who died suddenly on September 21, 2007.
Keith was born in Sanford on October 28, 1945 and graduated from Sanford High School where he was very active in athletics, especially football and wrestling. While a member of the Sanford wrestling team he earned Maine and New England wrestling titles.
After high school, he attended the University of Maine in Orono where he played on the Black Bear football team. At Maine, he received a bachelor's degree in Biology and met his wife, Janet.
After graduating, Keith and his wife took teaching positions in Sanford. During Keith's teaching career, he served as head coach of the Sanford High wrestling team that won several consecutive state championships. While coaching at Sanford, Keith played a key role in the establishment of the prestigious Sanford Redskin Invitational, which became known throughout as one of the most competitive wrestling tournaments in New England. Keith was also one of the founding fathers of the Sanford Pee-Wee tradition.
Whether you addressed Keith as a teacher, coach or referee, or even an insurance man, a career he turned to when he left the teaching profession, you were guaranteed to catch his infectious smile and absorb the drive he had toward the Sanford Wrestling Program.
Prior to this year's Redskin Invitational, Keith's wife and son,Andy, were introduced to the audience at the Sanford Memorial Gymnasium.
Anyone who would like to donate to the Keith Kalmen Memorial Fund may do so by mailing the donation to : Sanford High School, Care of Anne Demers, Sanford High Boulevard, Sanford Maine, 04073.
Please make the check payable to Sanford High School Wrestling.