NEWPORT — With no wrestling program at Messalonskee High School, Austin Pelletier and his Eagle teammates have found the next best thing. As it turns out, the next best thing is the very best thing, training with the defending Class A state champs.

Pelletier and his Eagle teammates — John Lujan, Steve Lujan, and Grady Reardon — train and attend meets with Skowhegan, although they compete as representatives of Messalonskee. On Saturday, they all took part in the Warrior Clash at Nokomis Regional High School. While the Messalonskee and Skowhegan wrestlers wear different uniforms, they consider themselves one big team.

“Skowhegan’s the best program there is. They won states last year,” Pelletier, a junior who wrestled at 160 pounds on Saturday, said. “I get a lot of hard work. It’s the hardest practice in the entire state. Everyone gets a lot of hard work, and it shows at the tournaments. Everyone gets on the podiums and placing.”

As a freshman, Pelletier worked out with Winslow’s wrestling team. Last year, he made the move to Skowhegan, in order to train with a Class A sized school like Messalonskee. In Skowhegan, Pelletier found the perfect fit, and this season he was able to bring a few teammates along.

“Any time we can get more kids in the practice room, the better off we are. If we had 15 Messalonskee kids, we’d be better,” Skowhegan coach Brooks Thompson said. “As long as you have that constant change over and you have new kids coming in the room, it’s good. He’s a hard-working kid. All of them are; all four of the Messalonskee kids. I couldn’t ask for better kids. All four of them work hard for us.”

Having more talented wrestlers at practice means everyone gets better, Skowhegan junior Jon Bell said. The Indians graduated a lot of the wrestlers who contributed to last season’s state championship. Pelletier placed fourth at states last season.

“With all the kids we graduated, (Pelletier) stepped in. He works as hard in practice as anybody. He really does good for us,” Bell said.

“He pushes us hard at practice and builds us as a team,” Skowhegan’s John Nadeau added of training with Pelletier.

Thompson said the arrangement has worked for both Skowhegan and Messalonskee, making every wrestler better.

“It started last year. (Pelletier) had some really good kids in our room. Kam Doucette was his workout partner. Julian Sirois wrestled him a lot, and they both went to be state champions,” Thompson said. “That pushed him, and in return he’s doing the same for our boys.”

Added Pelletier: “I got to know these guys through tournaments and football. It was very comfortable going to the practice room. I kind of fit right in.”

On Saturday, Pelletier, Bell and Nadeau each competed in a different weight class. They know, however, the potential exists to face each other in a match. That almost happened earlier this season, at the Noble Invitational, when Bell and Pelletier were in the same 160-pound weight class.

“We were in the same bracket, but we ended up on opposite sides. I got fifth and he got fourth,” Bell said.

Added Pelletier: “We try to keep it different (weights) so we can all place and get some team points. We all go hard and everything, but we can joke about it.”

Travis Lazarczyk — 861-9242

[email protected]

Twitter: @TLazarczykMTM

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