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Maine Amateur Wrestling to HOF to induct Gilbert
DIXFIELD --There is not much that Doug Gilbert hasn't experienced in wrestling. Even after five decades, a burning desire still fuels the fire because every match has the potential for future success.
Gilbert, the current Dirigo coach, has truly gained respect through out the wrestling community and those efforts and sacrifices haven't gone unnoticed. He will be inducted in the Maine Amateur Wrestling Hall of Fame this summer. He will be joined by Dr. Tom Ward, Maynard Pelletier, Jon Kane and Rusty Smith.
'' I love to see kids succeed,'' said Gilbert. ''Not just winning a state championship (although that's a goal), but sometimes just winning a match. I look back at each kid I had on the team this year and I can pick out one match or one tournament where they succeeded. That's what keeps me going, the smiles, the jubilation, and sometimes just a little fist pump. Yeah, it's definitely worth it.''
The Rumford native's first introduction to wrestling was as a freshman at the 1971 state meet, held in Rumford. The stage obviously became engrained because Gilbert and the Panthers won three straight Class A state championships, 1972-74.
''We had to keep in shape for the football season,'' said Gilbert, when Jerry Perkins was the football and wrestling coach. ''After I got into it my sophomore year, it was my teammates that kept me there. (late) Gary Oldham, Steve DeFillip, Dave Magoon, Dino Sciraffia, Jeff and Glenn Gurney, and who could forget (assistant coach) Tom Paradis. Guys that I still keep in touch with.''
Gilbert had competed at 167 pounds his sophomore and junior years, but was destined to move in to unchartered territory. Perkins, a HOF coach, convinced Gilbert, who weighed 185, that going unlimited (when it was truly unlimited) was the best for the team.
''My cousin Butch was at that (185) weight class also,'' said Gilbert, the sixth member of 1974 Rumford team in MAWA HOF. ''I had my doubts, especially when the first match my senior year, Rudy Gudroe from Dexter, 280 pounds. Ouch. I beat him and the rest of the bigger guys.''
The lone loss was to Kevin Gilmore (HOFer) in the '74 state finals. Gilbert would wrestle at Maine Maritime Academy and avenged the set back by beating Gilmore in the Northern New Englands.
''He has a tremendous work ethic,'' said Perkins of Gilbert, who was an assistant coach on the 1981 Rumford state championship team.
''He has an inside drive and desire to succeed that is difficult to match. His competitiveness and desire to win is fierce to say the least. Doug's knowledge of the intense sport of wrestling is unparallel in my opinion.''
Then scheduling conflicts, shipping as a Merchant Marine and earning an MBA in 1992, kept Gilbert away from coaching.
''In September of '92, Glen Gurney came a knocking at my door," said Gilbert, who was asked to be an assistant coach at Dirigo when Hal Watson (HOFer) stepped down. ''I've been there ever since.''
Gurney stepped away after Dirigo won the 1996 Class C state championship and Gilbert was elevated to varsity and has scripted every thing. Since 1997, Cougar teams have finished first or second in every regional; including winning 2007 Class C State meet. Gilbert has coached two dozen state champions, led by two-time champion Dan Waite and three-time champion Jon Smith, who each earned All American honors by Wrestling USA Magazine.
''Kids that wrestle are still the same,'' said Gilbert, regarding student-athletes work ethic and competitiveness, in lieu of having so many extra activities. ''I'd like to think they are better wrestlers (techniques) and less brawlers. We've been lucky at Dirigo, there is a culture, a history of good wrestling and the kids want to be part of that. You have to work harder or be left, we need to do what it takes to keep up or get left in the dust.''