MCI alumnus Bertrand returns as football coach

This story was published on March 20, 2002 on Page C4 in all editions of the Bangor Daily News

Almost 12 years after graduating from Maine Central Institute in Pittsfield, Tom Bertrand is returning to his high school alma mater.

Bertrand (Class of 1990) will succeed Bill Cowan as Huskies varsity football coach. Bertrand, a former Stearns of Millinocket head coach, was an assistant at Winslow this past season as the Black Raiders won their second straight Class B state title.

“We’re obviously excited to have someone of Tom’s caliber, experience and success,” said MCI athletic director Julie Treadwell. “This is a great fit for both of us. To have an MCI guy with his kind of experience is great for us. For him to come back to his hometown is a unique opportunity.”

Bertrand led the Minutemen to an undefeated Class C state championship season in 1998 and compiled a 31-3 record in two seasons with Stearns. He opted to move into the central Maine area last year because that’s where he and wife Angela wanted to raise their two sons Alex and Adam.

“We’re much closer to our family here,” said Bertrand who, despite living only 20 minutes away from MCI’s campus, plans to move again to Pittsfield this summer.

Bertrand, who considered applying for the MCI job two years ago, is eager to resume head coaching and looks forward to being part of the LTC Class C ranks again. He expects to incorporate much of the defensive and offensive schemes and philosophies he used at Stearns as well as new things he picked up at Winslow.

“It wasn’t really something that was right for my family at the time and I was still early in my head coaching tenure at Stearns,” Bertrand explained. “I didn’t know if I’d get back to MCI or not, but it’s all worked out very well.”

A former health teacher at Winslow, Bertrand does not have any teaching job at MCI lined up yet, but hopes to get one sometime in the future.

“He’s qualified to teach physical education and health, psychology and communications, so we’re very hopeful that we can get him on our staff as soon as we can,” said Treadwell.

Remsen’s robust recovery

When Chris Remsen badly tore the anterior cruciate ligament during a preseason practice back in early December, his lofty goal of becoming only the second four-time state champion wrestler at Camden Hills took a heavy blow.

“It was a really a rocky beginning and I wasn’t sure if I’d be able to come back,” Remsen said. “Once I did, I had to do a lot of extra training to get my condition back up.”

Three months later, the Windjammers’ sophomore standout not only accomplished the second phase of his four-part goal, he was one of only two Maine wrestlers to notch a top-five finish at the recent New England Wrestling Championships in Bristol, R.I.

Maine’s other wrestler to finish fifth was Deering of Portland’s Jon Kane in 125.

“I was glad just to come back and then I ended up having a pretty successful season,” said the 17-year-old. “It was tough and there was some pain, but it was very well worth it.”

Remsen was evaluated by doctors after the injury and cleared to wrestle after three weeks of rehabilitation and the requirement that he wear a special brace which basically immobilized the knee.

“He would sit on the back of an exercise bike and pedal for 45 minutes straight just with his arms when he couldn’t use his leg during practices before he got clearance to use his legs,” said Camden Hills outgoing wrestling coach John Kelly. “That was pretty grueling. When he’s over doing that with a bum knee and these younger guys are struggling and tired, they look over and see him and that’s an inspiration to them.”

Despite the handicaps, Remsen not only won second straight conference and regional titles, he capped an unbeaten season with a second straight state championship in the 135-pound weight class.

“It was really hard to compete with it on, especially when I’m shooting on someone’s leg. I have to totally adjust my style. My whole leg just cramps. You can bend it, but it’s really tough to move it much.”

The extra upper body weight training and workouts seemed to help him as, despite not having all of his leg push, he won four of his six matches at New Englands to run his season record to 32-2.

“I was pretty happy,” said Remsen. “Last year when I went, I didn’t even place. This year, my realistic goal was a top-six finish.”

Now Remsen has his eyes on finishing as a champion or runnerup next year. If he does, Remsen and Kelly believe he’ll become only the second Maine wrestler to finish second or the first to win a New England title.

“These kids constantly amaze me. That took a lot of work and dedication on his part,” said Kelly. “He’s probably got as high a work ethic as any wrestler we’ve had come through.”

Certainly, he is since the last four-time state champ, Tim Boetsch, ended his high school career in 1998.

Remsen finally underwent knee surgery Monday and is looking at a four-month rehabilitation.

Andrew Neff’s High school report is published each Wednesday. He can be reached at 990-8205, 1-800-310-8600 or aneff@bangordailynews.net.

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