FORT KENT, Maine – About 200 student wrestlers will travel from towns up to six hours away to Fort Kent for the Class B regional wrestling championship event on Feb. 2. This will mark the first time the championship will be held at the St. John Valley school in over three decades.
Scott DuBois, head coach for the Fort Kent wrestling program, said he has looked forward to having a championship match in town ever since he started coaching eight years ago.
“The team is very excited,” he said. “I believe it’s going to help our numbers, too. Most wrestling teams in the state suffered under COVID. We had a whole year that we lost wrestling completely, and then we had a whole year where they wrestled with masks. A lot of teams’ numbers went down, and now they’re on the rebound.”
The team purchased a third wrestling mat last year, which allowed them to host the tournament. And they also received permission from the University of Maine at Fort Kent to use their gym.
“Not many high schools can fit a three mat wrestling match,” he said.
With multiple mats, more matches can take place throughout the day. Even with the third mat, DuBois said wrestling will start around 9:30 a.m. and will likely go until about 5 or 6 p.m.
But with the third mat, he said they could submit their name into the running. He said he thinks the Maine Principals Association likely recognized that Fort Kent students are usually the ones traveling long distances to participate in matches.
“The average day for my boys and us, we get on the school bus around four o’clock in the morning, drive downstate, wrestle in the tournament all day, and then drive back,” he said. “I’ve seen us get home at one or two o’clock in the morning. My kids are really committed.”
It is a major event for the school, which did not even have a wrestling program 10 years ago.
“We lost the program for approximately four years,” said DuBois. “I have two sons, and the oldest one was in high school at the time. The kids passed around a petition to start back the wrestling program. There were enough kids on the petition, so the school looked at the list and said ‘absolutely.”
And even though the students and school were on board to bring back the program, they still needed a coach.
“They knew my son was on the team, so they asked me if I wanted to coach,” DuBois said. “I said I would try it. And here I am; my kids have graduated, and I’m still coaching. It sort of worked out, and I fell in love with coaching.”
Overall, he said this has boosted morale throughout the school and community.
“There’s a buzz with the wrestlers and the community in town,’ he said. “Everyone’s very excited.