H.S. Wrestling: Falcons fueled by Austin power

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RUMFORD — Ian and Caleb Austin won’t acknowledge much of a sibling rivalry.

Perhaps it’s a matter of the Mountain Valley High School wrestlers always moving in the same direction with the same interests. Or maybe it’s because they simply don’t look like they should be antagonists.

“It’s funny, because Ian just dropped a bunch of weight to get to 182, and then you’ve got Caleb trying to maintain at 113,” Mountain Valley coach Gary Dolloff said. “When they did the body fat testing, I think Ian was at 20-something (percent) and Caleb was like 7 or 8. You wouldn’t know they’re in the same family.”

Their size difference or even the outward variation in their personalities might get your attention. The Austin brothers — Ian a senior, Caleb a sophomore — often achieve the same results on the mat, however, for a program that seeks its first Class B state championship since 2011.

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Caleb won the 113-pound championship at marquee events each of the past two Saturdays, the McDonald’s Tournament in Rumford and the Atlantic Tournament in Wells. Ian was the runner-up at both showcases, competing at 195 in the home meet and dropping to his goal of 182 for the pre-Christmas event.

“It’s been pretty fun. I’ve got bragging rights right now,” Caleb said.

Ah, there’s a hint of the competitiveness that pervades the family.

The boys’ father, Eric, recently ventured into amateur mixed martial arts when he wasn’t busy coaching the local recreational program.

“I got into it when I was three or four,” Caleb said. “We wrestled kids our age. I’ve already been wrestling for 12 or 13 years.”

“Most of the kids on this team have been wrestling for a long time,” echoed Ian.

The family had an attic full of certificates and medals before either boy reached high school.

Ian and Caleb were New England champions in middle school, with Caleb collecting the honor twice.

“We both won Pee Wee states,” Ian noted. “He’s won a couple of national championships.”

Caleb attended two showcases on the East Coast after his Maine freshman season ended, winning both against competition from New York, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania and Rhode Island.

“It feels good to win that, get it under your belt,” Caleb said. “To say you’ve won nationals is pretty cool.”

Dolloff returned to the Falcons this winter after a three-year hiatus.

He was plenty familiar with the Austins, though, having coached them in middle school football and seen them during wrestling season as an official. Two wrestlers in camp who are so serious about the sport have made the coach’s transition a pleasant one.

“Their dad has just done a tremendous job with the lower group,” Dolloff said. “He’s taken these guys all over. More Caleb than Ian, but they’ve both won their share. Two great kids. They work hard. They’re dedicated. You don’t have to worry about them.”

Dolloff, who grew up with nine siblings, watches the brothers’ relationship with interest.

“If the older one does it, it’s kind of a passed-on thing. You might as well do it on the mat (instead of at home),” the coach quipped. “They’re totally different on the mat. You look when Ian is out there, he has a smile on his face, but he’s competitive. Then you look at Caleb, when he walks out there, it’s lights-out. But they’re both very talented, very focused.”

Each has ample motivation this season.

Caleb was runner-up to Gardiner’s Peter Del Gallo in the 2014 Class B state meet and expects to see him again this February.

“I wrestled him this summer. He beat me by a couple points, but I was winning at first,” Caleb said. “I’ve gotten better in the offseason.”

Ian is about 10 wins away from the milestone of 100 for his career. It’s a quest that was slowed by an injury-plagued junior season.

“I had a concussion. I tried to come back a little early and got reconcussed,” he said. “It definitely feels good to be back. I guess I’m ready to win now.”

Mountain Valley, which lost to Camden Hills by only 11 points at last year’s state meet, feels the same way as a group.

Ethan Boucher (120 pounds), Nate White (126) and Dakota Jacques (145) each placed in the top four at Wells.

Ellsworth is considered the team’s chief competition this season.

“It’s just a tough sport to try to sell the kids now. It’s the maintaining the weight. It’s the hard work. It’s the running the ramps. It’s trying to keep the same weight while everyone’s eating pizza,” Dolloff said. “But I’ve got some great athletes and really talented kids. I think we’ll be there at the end.”

koakes@sunjournal.com

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