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Colchester — To this day, Steve Bilheimer regrets his decision to cut weight while wrestling at Springfield College.
"If there's one thing I could go back in time and change it would be that," said Bilheimer, now the head coach at Ledyard High School. "I was miserable all the time. I focused more on making weight than I did being a better wrestler."
That's why Bilheimer couldn't be prouder of senior Devon MarcAurele.
MarcAurele, who won the Class M 106-pound title as a sophomore and placed second at 120 last season, is now fat and happy, so to speak, at 170 pounds.
And not only is he still dominating opponents — he needed only 26 seconds to secure a pin and help the fifth-ranked Colonels beat Bacon Academy 58-14 in an Eastern Connecticut Conference Large Division match Tuesday night — he's content on and off the mat.
"He's definitely happier, enjoying the season and enjoying the team," Bilheimer said. "Last year he didn't enjoy anything. It's no secret Devon cut a lot weight last year, mostly for the team, and I commend him for that because it really helped us out."
MarcAurele, whose dad T.J. is arguably the finest high school wrestler the state has ever produced, matured physically and mentally last summer, adding 50 pounds of muscle the old-fashioned way … through hard work.
"His father has a stone business so he's busting stone all summer, slamming a 12-pound sledgehammer," Bilheimer said. "So no, I wasn't surprised that he filled out. He's one of those guys that at this point in his life has turned from a boy to man.
"I'm happy for him because now he can just focus on being a wrestler. He's the best kid on our team and he's got to go where he think thinks he can do the best and we think he can do the best. It's a nice situation."
MarcAurele has also embraced the change.
"It's actually not that bad," he said of moving up seven weight classes. "I have all my strength because I'm not cutting weight. It's a lot easier, a lot nicer, and I'm a whole lot nicer of person, too."
He hasn't lost the speed or endurance he used to his advantage as a lightweight.
"I've found some of the kids (I wrestle) are a little bit slower," said MarcAurele, who hopes to continue his career at either Brown of WPI and has also applied to UConn, which doesn't offer wrestling. "And I definitely have better wind than a lot of these guys. It's been fun."
He's also embraced a leadership role and said the Colonels (9-2, 4-0 ECC Large) continue to improve as they attempt to win their third straight Class M state title next month.
"We're actually doing really well," MarcAurele said. "And the nice thing is we're getting better and better. We had that tough loss to (No. 2 Xavier) early in the season, but we came back and beat (No. 6) Simsbury over the weekend."
Against Bacon, which forfeited five weight classes, Ledyard picked up pins from MarcAurele, Mike Graff (152) and freshman Danny Contino (182), a major decision from Nick Lauer (145) and decisions from Jeff Csisar (160) and Josh Rahal (132). Rahal had the best win of the night, defeating Bacon's Connor O'Brien, last year's Class M champ at 106, 6-2.
"I knew we had a lot of good kids coming back and I knew there were some kids that weren't starters last year that could do well," said Bilheimer, singling out Rahal. "Josh beat the returning Class M champ tonight. Josh was stuck behind some good kids. His freshman year he was behind Devon and last year he was basically stuck behind Matt Jones, who are both very good wrestlers … but it definitely made him get better."
That experience will help with the postseason just a month away.
"This team is capable," Bilheimer said. "We try our best to talk about one match at a time, but at the same time I really want them to keep the big picture in mind and the big picture for us is to do our best wrestling at the end of the year at the ECCs, Class M, State Open and New Englands."