BELFAST, Maine — Former Belfast Area High School wrestling coach Ted Heroux, who guided the Lions to a state-record 602 victories along with eight state championships during a 45-year career, died Saturday at Waldo County General Hospital.
The 74-year-old Heroux had battled heart disease, according to his wife Carolyn.
Heroux, a 1961 Belfast High graduate, served as head wrestling coach at his alma mater from 1967 until his retirement in 2012 with his teams compiling a 602-168-3 record.
Heroux’s teams won Class A state championships in 1969 and 1970 and Class B crowns in 1986, 1987, 1994, 1995, 2008 and 2009.
The Lions also earned six state runner-up finishes, 11 Eastern Maine championships and 13 Kennebec Valley Athletic Conference titles under Heroux’s leadership. He was a five-time KVAC Coach of the Year and three-time Maine Coach of the Year.
Heroux was a 1999 inductee into the Maine Amateur Wrestling Alliance Hall of Fame and in 2012 was named to the New England Wrestling Hall of Fame. He also was a 1997 finalist for the Wrestling USA National Coach of the Year award.
“He was not a tall man but he just commanded respect by the way he carried himself,” said Richard Dawson, who wrestled under Heroux from 1970-1974 and is a Portland-based certified public accountant. “Everyone on the teams I wrestled on just thought the world of him.
“And he knew what he was talking about. He was a great tactician, he really taught us well.”
Heroux coached the hard-nosed sport of wrestling with a blend of passion and compassion, Dawson said.
“My senior year we were wrestling a team from Fort Kent and there was seven seconds left in the match and our legs got intertwined somehow and I broke my ankle,” he said. “I was ahead 7-3 but with all the pain coach looked at me and asked, ‘How are you doing?, and I said, ‘I can’t stand on it.’
“He never said, ‘There’s only seven seconds left, you can do this.’ He said, ‘You’re hurting, we’re going to stop this.’ I still can see him looking at me and saying that if I was hurting that we weren’t going to continue. It was one of those lasting memories.”
Heroux coached three New England champions during his career: His grandson Kote Aldus, Dennis Sprague and Brent Waterman. Sprague won the 132-pound state title in 1972, Aldus the 160-pound crown in 2008 and Waterman the 132-pound championship in 2012.
Heroux also coached 71 individual state champions, including another grandson, Kornealius Wood, who captured the 171-pound Class B title in both 2009 and 2011.
“He was ecstatic that he was able to coach both of his grandsons,” said Carolyn Heroux. “He was very proud of them.”
Heroux was a four-sport (football, basketball, baseball and track) athlete during his years as a student at Crosby High School in Belfast. He also was an active boxer while growing up, winning a 1959 Golden Gloves championship in the welterweight division.
Heroux then went to the University of North Dakota on a football scholarship, and it was there that he got his introduction to wrestling. His two roommates were both two-time high school state champions.
He returned to Belfast after graduating from college to take a teaching job, and two years later he became the Lions’ head wrestling coach. Over the years his name became synonymous with the sport around the state.
“I got back to following the program around 10 or 12 years ago and I’d go to the big tournament in Sanford every year,” said Dawson. “It was just amazing to watch all the people who would come up to him and shake his hand and wish him well. It was clear how well respected he was by other teams and coaches.”
In addition to his 45 years as Belfast’s wrestling coach he also was an assistant football coach with the Lions for 25 years as well as an industrial arts and physical education teacher at the school.
“He did enjoy teaching,” said Carolyn Heroux, “but that was his passion, coaching wrestling.”