Bucksport's David Gross (top) battles Joseph Tuulima of Penobscot Valley of Howland in the 285-pound championship final at the Penobscot Valley Conference championship meet at Piscataquis Community High School in Guilford on Saturday. Gross won a 10-2 major decision. Credit: Ernie Clark | BDN

GUILFORD, Maine — Dustin Simmons had plenty of individual motivation at Saturday’s Penobscot Valley Conference wrestling championship meet.

Three previous trips to the championship finals had produced nothing but disappointment. And the clock and scoreboard weren’t working in the Foxcroft Academy senior’s favor late in his last bid for a conference title against Gabriel Stone of Dexter in the 160-pound final.

But Simmons rallied from a 5-1 deficit in the final seconds for a buzzer-beating 6-5 victory that not only satisfied his personal goal but became the difference as Foxcroft edged Dexter by 4 1/2 points to capture its fourth consecutive PVC crown.

The Ponies finished with 169 points, just ahead of Dexter’s 164.5. Bucksport (111), Mattanawcook Academy of Lincoln (100) and host Piscataquis Community High School (86) rounded out the top five in the 15-school field.

“Senior year and being the one that makes the difference in the team winning and losing, winning the championship final after coming up short all those other years, and then making that final time the fourth year that we’ve won the conference championship is amazing,” said Simmons.

Stone, who had lost to Simmons twice earlier this season, controlled most of the first two rounds and maintained the lead deep into the third.

Simmons scored a one-point escape with about 10 seconds left in the third and final period, then parlayed that momentum into an almost immediate two-point takedown to close the gap to 5-4.

Time was ticking down, but Simmons wasn’t through, as he scored the tying and go-ahead near-fall points as time expired.

“I needed to win this year and I was down points and I was exhausted but I just pushed the tempo to the end,” said Simmons. “I had to get a takedown and then I locked up the cradle and got the two back points in the last second.”

That victory earned Foxcroft three team points, and had the decision gone the other way Dexter would have scored the team victory by 1 1/2 points.

“Dustin never gave up and that was great to see,” said Foxcroft coach Luis Ayala. “He had never won this so as a senior he had extra motivation, and he had seen (Stone) before so he had the confidence that he could do it.”

Simmons was one of two individual champions from Foxcroft along with sophomore Lucas Ames, who won the 195-pound division.

But as much as Simmons’ heroics and Ames’ three pins on the day helped Foxcroft regain the PVC crown, so did the team’s depth.

The Ponies got second-place finishes from Rico Ayala (120 pounds), Josh Tatlock (138) and A.J. Atkinson (152).

Seven other Foxcroft wrestlers reached the consolation finals with Sawyer McCarty (106) and Grady Reardon (126) each placing third and Austin Jackson (113), Khrystofor Downing (132), Jacob Ireland (145), Sahak Barseghyan (170) and Jared Atkinson (185) all finishing fourth in their weight classes.

“It’s always a long season and we’ve had our ups and downs this year but it was great to see the guys put it together today,” said Ayala. “We’ve been battling Dexter all year long, they beat us in a couple of tournaments and we beat them in another one so it’s been back and forth and we knew it was going to be close.”

Dexter crowned a meet-best four individual champions, with Justin Wing at 138 pounds and Isaiah Hesseltine at 152 both defeating their Foxcroft rivals in the championship finals. The Tigers also got victories from Eric Bennett (220) and Caleb Weeks (132), while Stone and Gus Irwin (170) each finished second.

Bucksport was led by 285-pound champion David Gross, who won his first two matches in 18 and 55 seconds, respectively, before scoring a 10-2 major decision over Joseph Tuulima of Penobscot Valley in Howland in their final.

Mattanawcook Academy was strongest at the lightest weights, with Deegan Tidswell (106) and Jackson Sutherland (113) winning their divisions.

Zac Wilson, who last year became the first Piscataquis wrestler to capture an individual state championship since the school re-instituted wrestling more than a decade ago, successfully defended his PVC title at 170 pounds.

Other individual champions were Landon St. Peter of John Bapst in Bangor (120), Oakley Dugans of Bangor Christian (126), Logan Lord of Ellsworth (145) and Josiah Brown from Washington Academy of East Machias (182).

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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...