BERLIN - For many, Jim Day was more than just Berlinâ€™s head wrestling coach. He was a motivator, teacher, mentor and friend.
Day, the man who had given much of his time and professional career to Berlin High School, its athletic programs and wrestling team died Thursday.
He was currently in his 36th season as the Redcoats head coach.
â€śHonestly, he was the best coach I ever had,â€ť former Berlin wrestler and New England champion Nick Arborio said. â€śHe was always in my corner, always giving me advice. He meant the world to me and to the wrestling team. He put his heart and soul into the program.â€ť
Throughout his time with the Redcoats, Day built Berlin into one of the premier programs in both the area and the state. Over his coaching career, Day had seen many of his former grapplers become state champions, New England Champions and even All-Americans.
He was also involved in other areas of athletics other than wrestling. Day was also the high schoolâ€™s athletic director and led the charge to establish the Berlin Athletic Hall of Fame in 2008.
â€śJimâ€™s passing is a great loss for the town, especially the sports community,â€ť said Bob Zipadelli, a charter member of the Berlin Athletic Hall of Fameâ€™s board of directors. â€śWhat Jim did with the wrestling program gave our town recognition well beyond Berlin, CT. He was a very good athletic director and he stepped to the plate with his vision of a Hall of Fame that our high school and town could be very proud of, one that recognizes and preserves all of the great athletes, coaches and contributors to the sports of this great school and community. This will be Jimâ€™s legacy.â€ť
Tributes to Day poured in across social media not long after people learned of his passing.
Simsbury wrestling tweeted: â€śThe Ct wrestling community lost a legend. Berlin coach Jim Day passed away today. He was my coach, mentor, and friend. I am lost for words and profoundly sad. Rest In Peace, Coach. Condolences to Lynn, Shane, and the Berlin Wrestling Family.â€ť
Platt wrestling said, â€śR.I.P. Jim Day #berlinwrestling #redcoats. #wreakhavoc this weekend! We will be rooting for you guys!â€ť
The posts on Facebook were just as emotional with Joseph Daniel, one of his former wrestlers, writing â€śYou taught me to have heart, respect, and dedication. That there is a place in this world for everyone. To reach your goals, you have to work hard than everyone else. I remember you telling me the greatest match I ever wrestled, was when I lost. You were so proud I never gave up, and showed true heart. I never really understood whyâ€¦ until I coached myself. And then it all made sense. And I will be forever grateful to you sir.â€ť
Arborio said Day had a way of bringing out the best out of every single wrestler, no matter who it was.
â€śHe made us really tough as a team,â€ť Arborio said. â€śHe made us work and was always there for us. He made us feel unstoppable.â€ť
Berlin does have wrestlers competing in the State Open this weekend - Dan Veleas in the 132-pound bracket and Josh Veleas in the 160-pound bracket - and the former New England winner couldnâ€™t think of a better way to pay tribute to Day.
â€śHe would want them to go out and wrestle the best they could,â€ť Arborio said. â€śIt would be the best way to honor him.â€ť
David Glovach can be reached at (860) 801-5085 or firstname.lastname@example.org