More in Sports
Wrestling success through the years
RUMFORD -- Although the names changed from Stephens to Rumford High School, the wrestling program achieved monumental success and the span between 1967-81, the maroon and white (finished first or second 11 times in 14 years) proved to be a force on both the state and national levels.
There was no mistaking who was in complete charge- coach Jerry Perkins, however, the main constant has been that the student-athletes have all come from the same blue-collar, mill-town area nestled in the mountains of western Maine.
“Wrestling is perfect for this town and area,” said Perkins, upon reflecting on the success. “I’ve found that the kids are hard-nosed and have the mentality to succeed in the sport. I knew when I first started that I was on to something and one of the things needed to be done was to redirect the energy of the kids.”
Mel Preble had actually started the program in approximately 1964 at Stephens on York Street. They wrestled on horse-hair mats.
The sport of wrestling in the state was still growing and there wasn’t much support or publicity, eight teams in entire state. The team had its lone sub-.500 season in '69, under Perkins, however, those early wrestlers- Tom Paradis, Dan Bulger, John Locke, (Dave Giroux sophomore) along with Dave Petrie, Peter and Teddy Elmendorf and Greg Adley- laid the foundation behind all of the successes the program has had.
This included the Peru student-athletes, who routinely filled one-quarter of roster. Paradis, a Pervian, won first state championship '68, under Perkins and mindsets started to change beginning in 1971 when Giroux won a New England championship, team fourth-place finish. Rumford then put itself on another level that had other teams left in complete awe.
The Panthers won five Class A state championships in a 10 year span, including consecutive state championships from 1972-74. The ’72 team won, despite having no individual state champions and the ’73 team had that unbelievable record setting year starting with an 18-2 duel record, lost first two. There were 22 teams competing in state wrestling and if you won in Maine you were the very best;
Rumford won six of 12 individual championships and set a then National record scoring 168.5 team points.
The Panthers won the first five weight divisions, Dave Magoon, 98; Rick LaBrecque, 105; Steve DeFillip, 112; Gary Daigle, 119 and Jim Richards, 126.
In the next class, Dave DiFiore placed 4th at 132. Linwood Arsenault won at 155. Doug Gilbert and Gary Oldham each placed 3rd at 167 and 185, respectively. In '74 Rumford completed its first-ever unbeaten season; Magoon and DeFillip each repeated as state champions in 1974 and recorded the rare feat of winning two individual state championships, in their only seasons of competition. Between '73-79, Maine combined schools in to Class A only and it was considered the ''Golden Age'' of Wrestling, with one true state champion.
Rumford also won state championships in '78 and '81, led by Jeff Gallant 145 and Tim Gotto 185; Ernie Cyr 119, Lennie Dorion 126, Fern Cayer 138 and Eldon Dolloff-Unlimited. The Panthers also finished second in state five times between 1967-80, including back to back '67-68, '76-77 (two points) and '79-80.
From 1976-1981, Rumford finished either first or second in States, each year; winning two more Crowns in those 6 years!!!
In 1979, Rumford helped founded the Kennebec Valley Athletic Conference Championships (first ever was at Rumford High) and then won their first three championships!
There was a greater emphasis on dual meets, Perkins won approximately 472 career dual meets, and Rumford executed a spin and slap drill during warm-ups, as an attention getter.
Rumford utilized its depth in compiling win streaks of 57, 47, 39 and 28, including home win steak of 72 (1976-83). They had unbeaten seasons 20-0 in 1974, '77, '81 and 23-0-1 78-79; 21-1 in 1974-75, 25-1 in 1979-80, 19-1 in '82 and 21--1 in '88. From 1967-88 the Panthers had 37 individual state champions, 63 regional champions and nine JV championships. From 1977-1982 (6 years) duel record was 90-4-1.
From 1973-1982 (10 years) duel record of 161-11-1. From 1973-1975 (3 years) the Rumford Panthers were 59-3!
Maine competed in New England (until '78) and Rumford made inroads by finishing in the top four, '70, '73, '74 and '77. In '73, DeFillip placed second, Jim Richards third and Gary Daigle and Linwood Arsenault each fourth; '74, DeFillip placed second, again and Magoon was fourth; Steve Nokes lost 7-6 in '76 unl. finals; In '77, Larry Gill 119 reached finals, with Jeff Irish 167 and Nokes each third; Tim Gotto 185 won NE crown in '78 and Jeff Gallant placed fourth.
Rick Calden was a finalist in '83 NE Invitational. The most glaring absence was when 2x state champion John Richards was unable to compete in the '70 NE because of a rash.
Perkins coached with passion and always emphasized "It's not how you start, its how you finish...Never be a 'quitter' no matter how tough it gets. Also, just give your very best; feeling when you come off the mat you gave your all out there. These qualities will make you successful now but more importantly, later in your life."
Five members of the '74 team have been inducted in to the Maine Amateur Wrestling Alliance Hall of Fame, including Perkins, Nokes, DeFillip, Gill and Bob McPhee. Perkins has always utilized two philosophies in preparing wrestlers for battle and those are still quite successful even today.
He taught the basics to the wrestlers because the same moves are effective year after year, but more importantly was the strong emphasis that has been placed on physical conditioning. The mentality and mat toughness of the wrestlers is widely known because the teams traditionally have won numerous matches in the third period by being in better condition.
Respect is the cornerstone of the sport and Perkins would say you can have a talented wrestler, but if he doesn’t show signs of discipline, respect and coach-ability he will embarrass you and the team.
The continuity in the system is a factor through out the years has contributed to the team’ even-flow of remaining competitive.
Several 18-hour days are not uncommon, so the support received by parents, school and especially assistant coaches, Tom Paradis, Tom Costello, Tom Ward, Doug Gilbert, Steve Nokes, Gary Dolloff and Chris Bean, has always been prevalent.
Perkins didn't have an assistant in 1972, but Tom Paradis helped out tremendously. Paradis was first-ever assistant coach (unpaid in 1973); Costello in 1974 Championship; Ward in 1978 and Gilbert in 1981, four different assistant coaches for state championships.