DOVER-FOXCROFT, Maine — The Class B high school wrestling season in eastern and northern Maine has had an uncommon air of unpredictability about it this winter.

But when the region’s postseason tournament schedule began with Saturday’s Penobscot Valley Conference championships, a more familiar tone was struck.

Host Foxcroft Academy, the reigning Class B state title winner, cruised to its second straight conference crown and fourth in the last five years by topping second-place Bucksport 174.5-114.

Dexter (114), Mattanawcook Academy (83) of Lincoln and Ellsworth (81.5) rounded out the top five among the 15 schools represented at the meet, but it was clear from the early rounds of the competition that Foxcroft was at the head of the class.

“I like where we’re heading,” said Foxcroft wrestling coach Luis Ayala, whose program graduated four individual state champions from its 2016 squad and had struggled earlier this winter with injuries to some key returnees. “This is step one, and next is step two, the regionals where you’ve got different competition.”

The Ponies, who finished fourth just a week ago in a major multi-team meet at Bucksport, crowned three individual champions at the PVCs and scored top-four finishes in 12 of the 13 weight classes in which it fielded wrestlers.

Winning their weight classes for the Ponies were Marcus Caudill at 126 pounds, R.J. Nelson at 132 and Elijah Ames, who won the 170-pound title by edging 2016 PVC 152-pound winner Brody Boynton of Bucksport 6-5 in the final.

“We’ve been rivals for a while,” said Ames. “Last tournament I beat him but the tournament before that he beat me. I was waiting for this match and really wanted it.”

Foxcroft got second-place finishes from freshman Rico Ayala (106), Dustin Simmons (152), Billy Brock (195) and Matt Storey (285).

Brock, the reigning Class B state champion at 182 pounds who has recently come back after suffering a broken leg and dislocated ankle during football season, reached his final before dropping a 6-0 decision to two-time defending state champion Trent Goodman of Ellsworth.

Goodman, who is undefeated this season while competing in several different weight classes for the Eagles, subsequently was named the meet’s outstanding wrestler.

“That’s the first match I’ve gone all three rounds, the rest of the matches have ended in the first or the second,” said Goodman. “I definitely need more of that this season to be ready for the end.”

Bucksport, which last weekend scored the school’s first team tournament victory since the 2008-09 season, had 10 top-four finishers led by individual champions Foster Ashmore (120) and freshman David Gross (285).

“What’s fantastic about what we have this year is that coming into this we didn’t know,” said Bucksport coach Dan Ormsby. “We knew Foxcroft was tough, we knew we were tough and we knew Dexter’s always sneaking in there and going to the championship round with four or five kids every week at these tournaments.

“But today we knew pretty quickly that Foxcroft was going to run away with it because we lost some early matches, so then we had to watch out for Dexter as they were creeping up on us.”

Dexter also had two individual champions in Tyler Beem at 145 pounds and Jacob Hesseltine at 160, while Dakota Page’s victory at 220 paced Mattanawcook Academy’s effort and Goodman, Peyton Cole (152) and Logan Lord (138) all were weight-class winners from Ellsworth.

Other individual champions were Oakley Dugans (106) of Bangor Christian. Codi Sirois (113) of Penobscot Valley of Howland and Artim Loginov (182) of Lee Academy.

Postseason competition for all the PVC teams now moves on the Class B North championships next Saturday at Caribou High School, where they will be joined by rivals from the Kennebec Valley Athletic Conference and Aroostook League.

“This is a great momentum builder,” said Foxcroft’s Nelson of his team’s latest PVC crown. “We’re finally getting healthy. Billy’s back and that’s big for us, he’s finally getting close to 100 percent even though he had a tough match today against (Goodman), and Elijah Ames has been wrestling well all year.

“Once we get everybody healthy and wrestling the way we know we can wrestle, I think we’ve got a really good shot this year.”

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Ernie Clark

Ernie Clark is a veteran sportswriter who has worked with the Bangor Daily News for more than a decade. A four-time Maine Sportswriter of the Year as selected by the National Sportscasters and Sportswriters...