The Belfast Area High School wrestling team may have come up short in its quest for a state Class B title last month, but the Lions had reason to celebrate over the weekend as one of their own was crowned New England champion.

Junior Brent Waterman, who also captured conference, regional and state titles this season, ran through the gauntlet of the best New England wrestlers the 132-pound weight class had to offer to claim the crown during the 48th annual New England Interscholastic Wrestling Championships March 2-3 at the Providence Career and Technical Center.

Waterman, whose season record stands at 31-2, went 4-0 in the tournament, including avenging one of his only two losses of the season during the semifinals against Mike Murphy of North Providence in Rhode Island.

Waterman became the first New England champion for BAHS since 2008, when Kote Aldus nabbed the crown. Aldus also is the grandson of longtime Belfast wrestling coach Ted Heroux.

At this year’s New Englands, Waterman received a first-round bye before defeating Gil Sa of Framingham in Massachusetts, 6-2. Waterman beat Mike Stewart of Dracut in Massachusetts in a hard-fought match that went to overtime, with both athletes scoring three points through the initial six minutes. Waterman then scored a last-second pin at the 7:59-mark in OT.

Waterman defeated Murphy in decisive fashion, 15-5, in the semifinals before besting Mizam Tamaradze of West Springfield in Massachusetts, 10-7, in the finals to claim the New England title.

“It hasn’t really hit me yet,” said Waterman. “It’s kind of unreal, but I feel pretty good about it. Everybody’s happy.”

Waterman, who has won Kennebec Valley Athletic Conference, regional and state titles in each of his first three high school seasons on the mat, competed in the New England event for the third straight season. This year was the first he has placed in the event.

“You see kids wrestle all through the year and that tournament brings the best out of kids,” said Heroux. “In the last 30 seconds when [Waterman] took the kid down, that kid was gassed out. Brent was in excellent condition.”

“There was about 20 seconds left and I scored the last take down,” said Waterman. “That’s when I knew [I had won the New England title]. Other than that it was a battle the whole way.”

At the time, the take down in the finals gave Waterman a 10-5 lead, and ultimately the cushion he needed to secure the New England crown. Heroux, who said the final match “all came down to conditioning in the last 30 seconds,” said Waterman’s reaction to winning the New England crown was the same as it has been all year: business-like.

“He not one of those kids that really shows an outburst of emotion or expression when he wins a match,” said Heroux. “He’s pretty stern looking. He shakes the kid’s hand [and] gathers his stuff up. He’s pretty business-like. He walks off and goes and sits down and takes it all in. Just another day’s work to him, I guess.”

Murphy had defeated Waterman 4-2 at the Redskin Invitational in Sanford Jan. 6-7 to win the championship in the weight class as the time, and Waterman had clearly not forgotten that heading into the New England semifinals.

“He got more than even with [Murphy],” said Heroux. “Brent has never lost to the same kid twice [during his wrestling career].”

“I’ve watched his film before and I knew what I could do to stop what he did last time,” said Waterman. “I was pretty confident going into that match.”

Waterman’s championship run gave Belfast 27 points, which guided the Lions to 21st, the highest among Maine schools. Timberlane, N.H. won the team title, amassing 77 points.

The next step for Waterman is the Junior Nationals later in March in Virginia Beach, Va. As far as his approach for the upcoming tournament, which will feature stiffer competition than the New Englands, Waterman figures, why change anything now?

“I’m just going to approach it like it’s any other tournament,” said Waterman. “This is a big confidence booster too for me. I’m going in there with a good mentality … and I know how to wrestle.”

Heroux attended the New England meet with the Waterman’s family and assistant coach Chris Drinkwater, in addition to Waterman’s teammates Peter Kelley and Evan Drinkwater.

Village NetMedia Associate Sports Director Mark Haskell can be reached at 207-594-4401 or by email at mhaskell@villagesoup.com.