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A wrestling history lesson
RUMFORD -- A lot has transpired throughout the River Valley over the previous half century, both economically and on the athletic front. However, there’s no denying that wrestling has been and continues to etch its name in the history books.
This has been evident since Stephens High School, on to Rumford High and the tradition is equally enriched by Mountain Valley. Regardless of the color of the singlet, every opposing teams are quite aware that they need to be prepared for a battle when stepping on a mat.
There were plenty of raised eyebrows when Melvin Preble established a wrestling program at Stephens in the early 1960s. The sport had been introduced to the Pine Tree state at Sanford in 1959. Those humble beginnings in Western Maine proved to be a perfect fit with its one-on-one combat style. The horse-hair mats certainly received a workout in the old gymnasium.
Preble remained in charge until a greenhorn, Jerry Perkins, was offered the job.
The first couple teams held their own while Perkins gained valuable on the job training. “Wrestling is perfect for this town and area,” said Perkins, who credits Preble with having built a strong foundation.
“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.”
The sport of wrestling in the state was still growing and there wasn’t much support or publicity. However, things started to change beginning in 1970 when Dave Giroux won a New England championship. 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 set a then-national record with six state champions. Wrestlers on that team included Dave Magoon and Steve DeFillip, who each started wrestling as juniors and were both two-time individual state champions.
Perkins retired in 1988 and Steve Nokes was the head coach for several years, while the merger created Mtn. Valley. The teams featured Kyle Dinsmore, who went 80-0 en route to winning state championships as a junior and senior. Dusty Hackett won three state crowns.
Perkins returned for seven years to coach the Falcons. He believed strongly in having strong support, assistants Tom Paradis, Tom Costello, Dr. Tom Ward, Doug "Med Kit" Gilbert, Nokes, Gary Dolloff and Chris Bean.
Dolloff had bided his time and was named the head coach. The Falcons won four Mid-State League championships, eight Western Regional championships and three Class B state championships. In the past nine years, they have finished lower then fourth in the state once.