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Wrestling HOF inducts Supt. Ward
BATH -- In what was certainly an emotional time, Dr. Tom Ward set the tone early on as his endeavors have been recognized by being inducted into the Maine Amateur Wrestling Hall Of Fame. He was joined by Doug Gilbert, Maynard Pelletier, Jon Kane and Rusty Smith at the Hyde School in Bath.
''I've been very fortunate,'' said Ward, who stopped his speech several times to regain his composure. ''I am passionate about the sport. In wrestling, you get out of it what you are willing to put into it.''
Ward who is currently the superintendent of RSU 9 in Farmington, had held the same position the previous four years for RSU 10, since the consolidation four years ago between Mountain Valley, Dirigo and Buckfield High Schools.
Ward, who lives in Temple, initially made his mark on the wrestling mat early in life, winning the first-ever individual Maine high school wrestling championship at 155 pounds for Mount Blue in 1972. Ward went on to compete at University of Maine and won a New England Championship as a freshman and was co-captain as a senior.
''Wrestling is fierce competition,'' said HOFer Wally LaFountain, who served as master of ceremonies. ''Two people out on the mat battling each other, but after the match, they get up and hug each other. This is a reunion.''
Ward ventured into coaching one year at Mount Blue and then at Rumford as assistant in 1977; after been offered an interim position as a physical education instructor.
''He was a hit in the school system right from the start because of his tremendous dedication, hard work, and yet easy going demenor,'' said MAWA HOF coach Jerry Perkins of Ward. ''Now, I have to mention that I was most impressed with his wrestling background and personal knowledge of man's oldest sport."
Ward was well-versed in his "cradle" technique and personal experience, which was an asset in teaching mat skills. Ward was assistant coach on the 1978 Rumford state championship team.
''That was a great experience,'' said Ward said, regarding his time at Rumford. ''I learned what it took to build a championship team from Jerry Perkins.''
Ward returned to Mount Blue and built a competitive program at Mount Blue, which challenged for the state championship. The Cougars became a powerhouse by winning back-to-back state championships in 1983-84. Ward was named wrestling coach of the year after both of those championships.
Ward was encouraged to go into administration, beginning with being the athletic director for Mt. Blue High School and the following year as asst. principal/AD. Ward has a strong educational background, having earned B.S. Education, Master's in Educational Administration, and Doctorate in Educational Leadership.
''My only regret was having to step away from coaching,'' said Ward said. ''But that's the price to be paid when you step into administration. However, I love teaching kids and plan on returning to coaching again.''
HOF coach and presenter Matt Rix pointed out how much Ward's direct influence helped Maine wrestling return to New England competition in 1999, following a 20-year hiatus.
''It needed to be addressed,'' said Ward, regarding the 26-25 vote. ''The issue had effected the entire wrestling community and the state of Maine needed to return to New England competition.''
Smith wrestled at Dexter High School and reached the state finals four straight years. The former Tiger standout won three state championships; Class B at 103 in 1969, and in Class A 1971 and 1972 at 112. As a sophomore, Smith was a state runner-up Class A 107. Smith was a 1971 New England runner-up.
Kane, first year on ballot, as credited for his steadfast work and commitment to life by HOF Deering coach Al Kirk. After reaching the state finals as a junior, he was 36-0, 21 pins as a senior, winning a regional and state championship at 171 and placed fifth in New England.
''A wrestler isn't born overnight,'' said Kane. ''Coach Kirk helped mold me, but I have so many people to thank who helped in providing me with the opportunity to succeed.''
Kane then competed in national tournaments, winning National Wrestling Coaches Association tournament (Newark, DE) most outstanding wrestler and earned High School All American from the National Wrestling Coaches Association. He was selected to the U.S. Naval Academy (2002-2006) and competed on wrestling team (75 wins); missed qualifying for the nationals by one match his senior year.
He is a Naval aviator, flying helicopters, previously deployed to the Middle East. Pelletier, first year on ballot, was recognized for being a great visionary by his HOF brother, Romey.
The youngest of 11 siblings, Maynard wrestled at Fort Kent, winning a state high school championship in 1979 and being voted Most Outstanding Wrestler (award is named for his late brother, John). He earned a solid reputation while wrestling at University of Maine at Orono; won two Northern New England titles and a New England crown (UMaine’s first Division I national qualifier). Pelletier was assistant coach at Foxcroft Academy under coach of the year Luis Ayala for three Class C state championships and as head coach guided the Ponies to four state titles.
Dan Del Gallo of Gardiner, a three-time state champion, received the Wrestler of the Year Award. Bobb Ewing of Mount Ararat was Person of the Year, while Chuck Alexander was Past President Recognition.