The wrestling will be genuine when competitors step onto the mat for the 27th annual Maine/Nebraska Friendship Series this week.
Mt. Blue High School in Farmington will host the second leg of the event on June 23 at 6 p.m.
The venue at the home of the Cougars will feature 15 wrestlers from Mountain Valley, Oak Hill and Dirigo.
The Cornhuskers will also compete at Winslow on June 21, Morse in Bath on June 25 and Marshwood on June 27. The exchange was created in 1985 and is the longest running exchange between two states in the country.
The two states have alternated hosting each other, with the visiting team typically wrestling at four different sites.
The Mt. Blue stop will be led by Mountain Valley three-time state champion Ryan Burgess (118), state champion Christian Durland (200) and two-time finalist Taylor Carey (175). Oak Hill will send Keith Madore and former state champion Craig Morrill (155). Mt. Blue state medalists Khalil Newbill (120), Nick Hyde (130) and Joey Metcalf at 220 will also participate in Farmington.
”I think this is a great opportunity for the Farmington area to see some high-end wrestling,” Mount Blue coach Bob O’Connor said. “So many (Mt. Blue) wrestlers have been a part of the series and now it is our turn to give back. Picking a team has been a challenge due to the amount of wrestlers who wrestle only in the winter. I think I have put together a good group of wrestlers and there should be some dogfights in the mix.”
Dirigo state champion D.J. Webber (159) will also be at Mt. Blue, along with incoming freshmen, Pine Tree Wrestling League champions Taylor Craig of Mt. Blue and Nate Boucher (125) of Mountain Valley, Taylor Pomerleau of Oak Hill and Drew Blanchet (135) of Mt. Blue.
Competing at Morse are Lisbon’s Forrest Cornell, Mike McNamara and Matt Nicholson, and Connor Sheehan and Jake Thurston from Fryeburg Academy.
“I think the positives are (numerous),” said Maine Team Leader Shawn Guest, who wrestled at and graduated from Mt. Blue. “Our kids get to share with kids from Nebraska about how they wrestle and how they live. Of course, they are still kids.”
Cornell, a four-time state champion, earned All-American Honorable Mention by Wrestling U.S.A. Magazine last month. Experience might be an asset to Sheehan, Burgess, McNamara, Morrill and Madore, who each toured Nebraska last summer. The Cornhusker wrestlers are well-known for aggressive takedowns and securing legs to control matches.
There’s a difference between the two states in their ability to draw the best competition. Nebraska has 210 schools offering wrestling in four classes, compared to approximately 55 Maine schools in three classes.