A single lamp lit the wrestling mat inside the Arlington High School gymnasium Friday for a Nebraska-Maine Wrestling Exchange Dual.
One Eagle wrestler under that lamp left it all on the mat for one more victory. When it was over, Talon Mues — a recent graduate who happens to own the most wins in AHS history — left his shoes behind in a retirement from the sport.
“It was quite an honor to coach Talon's very last match ever,” Arlington Youth Sports and Nebraska coach Tommy Gilmore said. “I helped coached him in youth (wrestling) and now I got to coach his last match.”
Mues was one of five Arlington wrestlers representing Nebraska in a dual against a team of wrestlers from New England in an exchange that goes back more than 30 years. The annual series of duals rotates each year from Nebraska and Maine locations.
Last year, Gilmore's son, Hunter, traveled to Maine. This year, the 2019 Class C runner-up joined his teammates and nine other wrestlers from the area, including two from Blair.
“I think it was the greatest thing a lot of them could have done,” coach Gilmore said. He led the team alongside Bill Booth. “A lot of them don't get the opportunity to wrestle kids from other states and this gave that opportunity. Every kid I asked to be on this team, every one of them said 'absolutely.' Not one turned it down.”
The New England team, primarily made-up of wrestlers from Maine, won 11 of the 19 contested matches. In a June 25 Exchange dual in North Platte, the Maine squad went 17-for-21, according to The North Platte Telegraph.
On Friday, Washington County grapplers went 6-3.
Mues' win came in the 10th match of the night against Mark Ward, a Class B state champion from Mount View High School in Thorndike, Maine. The Arlington standout scored an early takedown in the first period and a late one just before the end of the second. He finished with a 7-3 win, receiving a hearty ovation from the crowd and wrestlers as he left his shoes on the mat.
“It was great,” Mues said. “I really enjoyed how much they've appreciated me because I appreciate them 10-times more. They've been there for me the whole way.”
Three of the Eagles' high school teammates also picked up wins against their Maine foes. The aforementioned Hunter Gilmore was slammed hard to end the first period against Jackson Sutherland of Lincoln, Maine, but led 5-2 after the second an scored a pin in the third.
Josh Miller, meanwhile, represented his hometown with a 3-2 victory against Noah Hernandez of Waterboro, Maine. He scored an escape with 30 seconds left in third period for the win.
Class C 220-pound state champion Remington Gay also won, but he did it twice. One of five Nebraska grapplers to wrestle two times, he pinned Sol Demers in just 1:03 and topped Jeff Worster 7-3 in the finale.
Another Washington County wrestler, Charlie Powers of Blair, also took to the mat twice. The Bear dropped his first match by pin, but bounced back with a 11-3 win against Magnus Heiler of Portland, Maine.
His BHS teammate, Hank Frost, dropped a 6-3 match to New Hampshire wrestler Nicholas Pallaria.
“It didn't go the way I wanted it to, but I stuck with him,” Frost said.
Arlington's Kobe Wilkins came up short in his only match, too. He was pinned by Isaac Plante of Sanford, Maine — a two-time state-placer.
Zach Borer of North Bend and Easton Albrecht of Raymond Central earned Nebraska wins as well.
Regardless of results, though, the Nebraska wrestlers enjoyed their time spent together.
“It's been a lot of fun,” Frost said. “Not only meeting people from Maine, but meeting people from around here that you didn't know that well and becoming friends with them the past few days.”
Coach Gilmore said he was impressed with Nebraska's visitors.
“They were great kids,” Gilmore said. “But when they go on the mat, they're ready to battle. A lot of great wrestling.”
Mues, meanwhile, enjoyed one last moment in the spotlight.
“I'm definitely excited I was able to win my last match,” he said. “Either way, all of these kids are great wrestlers. It's just an honor to get to wrestle among these guys.
“I'm proud to call myself a wrestler.”