Foxcroft Academy wrestling coaches and former Dexter wrestler recognized and inducted in the Maine Wrestling Hall Fame

    BATH — On Saturday, Aug. 3, at the Hyde School the Maine Amateur Wrestling Alliance (MAWA) held its annual banquet to induct five men who have had strong influences on the past and present on Maine wrestling. They also recognized three individuals who had success this past wrestling season. The MAWA gave awards for Coach of the Year, Wrestler of the Year and Person of the Year. 

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HALL OF FAME INDUCTEE — Former Foxcroft Academy wrestling coach Maynard Pelletier, left, was among this year’s inductees into the Maine Amateur Wrestling Alliance Hall of Fame. Pictured at the Aug. 3 ceremony at the Hyde School in Bath is Pelletier, his brother Romey Pelletier, who also is a member of the MAWA Hall of Fame, and Foxcroft Academy wrestling head coach Luis Ayala.

    The five individuals inducted in the Class of 2013 Hall of Fame were former Deering High School wrestler Joe Kane, Dirigo High School wrestling coach Doug Gilbert, former Mt. Blue High School wrestler and coach Tom Ward, former Foxcroft Academy wrestling coach Maynard Pelletier and former Dexter Regional High School wrestler Rusty Smith.  
    Pelletier was an assistant coach at Foxcroft Academy from 2001 to 2008. During that time, the Ponies produced a 157-16 record. He was instrumental with Foxcroft winning back-to-back Class C state championships in 2004 and 2005 along with five Eastern Maine titles and five Penobscot Valley Conference crowns.
    Pelletier wrestled at the University of Maine at Orono, where in 1984 he became the school’s first wrestler to qualify for the national championships. He graduated from Fort Kent High School, where he won the 167-pound state championship as a senior in 1979.

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NEW HARDWARE — MAWA Hall of Fame inductee Rusty Smith, who wrestled for Dexter in the 1960s and 1970s,  and Foxcroft Academy head coach and MAWA 2013 Coach of the Year Luis Ayala display their awards at the organization banquet.

    Pelletier is the second member of his family to be inducted into the MAWA Hall of Fame. His brother Romey, an alternate on the 1984 U.S. Olympic Greco-Roman Wrestling Team, was selected in 2000.
    Romey Pelletier introduced his brother Maynard into the Hall Fame. In his introduction he talked about Maynard’s will to succeed. He had no option when it came to wrestling. It was a family thing, a tradition.  Being the youngest of the brothers there were high expectations and he met all those expectations in high school by winning a state championship his senior year. He continued with his same drive at the University of Maine by winning a New England championship.
    Pelletier used that same drive to motivate the wrestling team at Foxcroft Academy. When he came to Foxcroft, the wrestling team had never won a state championship and he inspired and motivated the team to say, “Why not us!?” He challenged every individual on the team to shoot for that goal to be a state champion. Everybody was responsible to do whatever it took to get there. Everybody from a JV wrestler to a varsity wrestler, from a freshman to a senior on the team was responsible to give their all in practices and in meets. That new attitude of giving their all for the team inspired Foxcroft Academy to win back-to-back state championships.
    Rusty Smith was a three-time individual state wrestling state champion while competing for Dexter during the late 1960s and early 1970s. He won the Class B title at 103 pounds as a freshman while helping Dexter win its sixth straight team title in that division, then he was runner-up at 107 pounds a year later when the Tigers moved up to Class A and finished second in the state team competition.
    Dexter returned to championship form in 1971, and so did Smith. The Tigers won their first state team crown in the large-school class that year and Smith was crowned the Class A individual champion at 112 pounds by defeating Sanford’s Jim Tuttle in the championship match to avenge a loss to Tuttle in the 107-pound final a year earlier. Smith also went on to finish as the New England runner-up in his weight class during his junior season. He capped off his high school career by successfully defending his Class A 112-pound state championship in 1972.

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PAST AND PRESENT COACHES — Former Dexter head wrestling coach Tim Wilson and head coach Luis Ayala of Foxcroft Academy congratulate each other during the MAWA banquet Aug. 3 in Bath.

    Hall of Fame coach Tim Wilson introduced Smith into the Hall of Fame. Wilson talked about how Smith’s family was one of the first families to believe in him and to trust him when he moved to Maine when he began to coach. Times were different back then in the 1960s and 1970s then what they are now, Wilson said. Having the support of them was huge for his success. 
    Smith was not only a great wrestler but a great football player, and an even better person. Smith’s competitive nature was matched by nobody he ever met. But his ability to learn and to be coached was what set him apart. He would do anything Wilson would asked of him. Smith came from a family of six siblings. For many years to come, Wilson would either have a sibling or cousin of Smith on the teams he coached.
    Wilson also recalled the one match that set Smith apart and made a name for him in Maine. The match between Rusty and Sanford’s Tuttle. Wilson said this is probably one of the best matches in Maine’s history, where Smith came back to defeat Tuttle in the last seconds in the state finals. This match has built a bond between Smith  and Tuttle, as he was present at the ceremony to congratulate Smith in being inducted into the Hall Fame. This is what makes wrestling a special sport. The bond that it creates between the competitors for life.
    Foxcroft Academy coach Luis Ayala was honored as Coach of the Year. Joe Pistone, head coach of the University of Southern Maine, introduced the award to Ayala. His accomplishments this year were: season record of 25-1, three-time state champions, three-time regional champions and two-time PVC champions. 
    Ayala has been coach of FA’s wrestling team for 12 years. In that time he has guided the Ponies to five state championships,  eight regional championships and seven PVC championships. He has a dual record of 248-38. He has had one New England champion, 33 state champions, 54 regional champions and 32 PVC champions. 
    Pistone talked about Ayala’s passion for wrestling, but above all is his love for his wrestlers. He has built a great program within that time. Ayala was very humbled and honored when presented the award. He talked about how there is no secret to his success. He has been very fortunate to first have great athletes in his program. Second to have a supportive administration that believes in him and everything the sport of wrestling has to offer to the students. Third, being surrounded with a great coaching staff throughout the years. He thanked all his coaches that have had the same passion as him and motivation to be the best. And fourth, but not least, the support of his family. This would not be possible without the encouragement and support of his kids and wife through the years. 
    Others receiving awards on the night were Dan DelGallo of Gardiner for Wrestler of the Year and Bob Ewing from Mt. Ararat for Person of the Year. More than 125 people attended the event.

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