As a fifth-grader, Mike Ham had a sensational season on the wrestling mats for Troy Howard Middle School.

The youngster earned an impressive 13-1 record before his season was cut short after he suffered a concussion, and thus, was unable to take part in the Pine Tree Wrestling League regional and championship meets.

Then, after a two-year hiatus from the sport, Ham returned to the mats for the young Lions, determined to track down the individual titles that eluded him years prior.

And, in his own backyard, the eighth-grader did just that as he collected an 11-4 win over Mattanawcook Academy’s Jordyn Colorado in the 137-pound final to win the PTWL individual championship on Saturday, March 23 at Belfast Area High School.

Included pinning down the regional championship a week prior at Bangor High School, Ham finished his season with an unblemished 19-0 record and ended his middle school career with a 32-1 mark.

The 14-year-old son of Michael Ham and Sarah Duval said it felt “really good” to win the PTWL crown.

“The competition was great there,” he said. “Everybody was pretty good. I was nervous.”

“He’s only had a couple of full seasons, which in middle school is pretty short,” said Troy Howard coach Brent Waterman. “He’s got a lot of natural instincts and talent, which helped him propel him to have a strong day [Saturday].”

Ham was complimentary of Colorado, who he beat in the PTWL regional and league championship matches. The two embraced on the mat after their final match as middle schoolers.

“He could have beat me throughout the whole season,” said Ham. “I’m pretty sure I got in his head a little. Usually, when I see him wrestle, he wrestles really good. He has a good flow. But when me and him wrestle, he wrestles a little sloppy. Because he’s probably nervous.”

Ham was in control for most of the final match, but admittedly, “he almost got me at the end.”

“I went to do a standup, and he caught me in a cradle,” he said. “I was trying to fight his grip and then I got on my back and I kicked over him and I caught him in a straight half. I almost pinned him at the end.”

“I am extremely proud of him,” said Duval. “He put all his hard work into it. I had so much adrenaline running through my body I honestly don’t know what was happening around me. I was shaking for him.”

It was Ham’s concussion in a New England wrestling tournament prior to regional as a fifth-grader that caused his two-year respite from the mats.

Duval made the decision for Ham to stop wrestling — at least in the short term.

But, eventually, as Ham got older, she relented.

“I think there comes a point in time where you kind of need to let the reins go and let him make some choices,” she said. “He wanted to play football and I said, ‘No, absolutely not, you can do wrestling. It was definitely a hard decision. It was more of a compromise.”

And watching her son compete for, and win, the PTWL title, while “nerve-wracking,” was a tremendous feeling.

“I think wrestling is a really good sport for any child. You get the team aspect of it, but you also get the individual accomplishments like you did it on your own. And it also builds discipline for them," Duval said.

Ham said winning it all “was a sigh of relief.” And, while on the inside he was elated, “I tried to play it off cool.”

“I just got up and took off my band and put it on the mat,” he said. “But I was really happy. And I shook their coach’s hand and Jordan and I hugged at the end.”

Ham said he hopes to continue wrestling at the high school level next season, and possibly chase another individual state title down the road.

“When I’m on the mat, I’m only thinking about wrestling,” he said. “It just clicks for me.”