Surprise send-off for tourney-bound Sam Strozier

New Englands start Friday night
Posted:  Friday, March 2, 2018 - 8:15am

None of the staff, students or others the Wiscasset Newspaper interviewed at Wiscasset Middle High School Thursday were surprised senior Sam Strozier earned a berth in the New England high school wrestling championships. But they all had a surprise for him.

Minutes before dismissal, Strozier walked into Stover Auditorium to the cheers of teens and adults including parents Ed and Shelley Strozier and Shelley’s sister Dee Dee Fifield. To the tune of Queen’s “We Will Rock You,” the crowd stomped, clapped and chanted, “Sam will, Sam will rock you.” WMHS teacher Warren Cossette coached them moments before, with help from the multi-sport athlete’s fellow seniors Lindsey Gordon and Vanessa Dunn and junior Matt Chapman. Gordon held a sign reading, “All I do is” followed by an illustration of a safety pin, a play on the pin in wrestling Strozier has done many times to his opponents this season as he competed as WMHS’s lone member of a Morse High School-Wiscasset team.

WMHS’s Beth Smith put the secret in secretary as she contacted each classroom directly to come to the gym and saved Strozier’s for last to keep the surprise. She invited Strozier’s family to wait in the conference room until classes started arriving. There, she briefed them on what to expect. In an interview during the wait, Strozier’s parents expressed thanks for the school honoring their son’s achievement and said he’s earned the recognition. Like others, they said his qualifying for New Englands did not surprise them.

“He’s worked hard. He works hard for himself, he works hard for his team, for the school, and he works hard for his parents, which makes him an all around great kid,” his mother said. Ed Strozier added he would like to thank the school for paying for Strozier’s event registration and hotel room.

In separate interviews, Strozier’s longtime track coach Josiah Winchenbach and Wiscasset schools’ athletic director-assistant principal Mandy Lewis concurred about his dedication to training and competing. “When he puts his mind to something, that’s all he thinks about,” Winchenbach said. He called Strozier a utility athlete, one who can do whatever is asked of him.

“He’s one of the most dedicated student-athletes I’ve been able to work with,” Lewis said. “His success comes from his determination. He perseveres, he doesn’t quit, and he has the best attitude.”

Dunn and Gordon said they wanted to show their support Thursday because Strozier shows so much support for, and is a good leader for, students in other sports at the school.

Strozier smiled as he entered the gym. Interviewed after the rally, he was looking forward to the competition in Rhode Island and was pleased the school turned out for him. “It was pretty great having everybody come support,” he said. Asked about his successful season, he said everyone helped make him better, including the other teams.

According to his parents, Strozier’s first contest is Friday night against Massachusetts’ sixth-placed wrestler. Strozier qualified as Maine’s number three wrestler in the 182-pound division, they said.