Leaving the Lion Pride: Heroux calls it a mat careerLongtime BAHS wrestling coach ends illustrious 45-year coaching tenure
Belfast — After 45 years of coaching, one of Belfast Area High School's athletic greats has stepped down.
Ted Heroux, who led the Lion wrestling program since 1967, has resigned the position he held for 4 1/2 decades, and one in which he left a lasting impression on several generations of teenagers, according to Heroux and BAHS athletic director Mark Babin.
In Heroux's storied coaching career, he amassed a 602-168-3 record (.782 winning percentage), led the Lions to eight state Class B titles, six state runner-up finishers, 11 Eastern Class B championships and 13 Kennebec Valley Athletic Conference crowns.
Belfast won state Class B title most recently in back-to-back years in 2008 and 2009, while also winning back-to-back state crowns in 1994-95 and 1986-1987. The Lions also won back-to-back titles in 1969-1970 when they still toiled in the Class A ranks.
Heroux, 70, also has been named KVAC coach of the year five times and state coach of the year three times.
Rick Kelley, a longtime Midcoast teacher and athletic coach at several area schools, will take over as head coach of BAHS wrestling.
Heroux collapsed at a home wrestling meet in Jan. 2011 with a heart-related issue and missed much of the rest of that season and returned last year for his 45th stint with the team.
That incident, and other factors, weighed on Heroux's decision to step down.
"My health has been off and on, and I didn't want the same thing that happened to me down at the high school to happen again," he said. "I might not be here tomorrow. You never know."
Heroux said he now plans to spend more time with his three-year-old great-granddaughter Kaelyn and "work around my house," including working on a 1962 Chevrolet he bought over the summer that he plans to restore.
"That's by hobby," said Heroux of rebuilding and restoring automobiles. "I've been into that since I was a kid."
"He's had a tremendous career in wrestling, which speaks for itself," said Babin. "But he's also going to be a tremendous loss to the coaching community. His guidance and leadership of athletes over the years has been invaluable."
Over the decades, there have been many others who have assisted or taken a leadership role in helping coach the Lion wrestling squad, but Heroux has been the one consistent face of the program, barring any health setbacks, for 45 years.
Heroux said while he will miss some aspects of coaching, he is at peace with his decision.
"I made the decision and I think it's going to work out very well for me and for the wrestling program," he said. "I can't do what I used to do, get on the mat and thrash and wrestle with every kid on the mat. They need some young blood in there."
Over his tenure, Heroux has coached 71 individual state champions and 60 state runners-up. Two of those state champions were his grandsons, Kornealius Wood and Kote Aldus.
Heroux recalled those moments fondly.
"You go through that with your family and you're heart's out there with them," he said. "I mean, who gets the opportunity to coach their grandsons? They had all the tools and all the backgrounds, and they didn't falter."
Aldus is one of three New England champions Heroux has coached, along with Dennis Sprague and Brent Waterman, the latter of which was crowned earlier this year.
In the spring, Heroux also was inducted into the New England Wrestling Hall of Fame, only the third Mainer to earn the distinction, joining Ted Reese and Wally LaFountaine.
Heroux has been part of the school's history for close to five decades, coaching many student-athletes and touching many lives.
"There's three generations of kids going through there that I've coached," he said. "I've coached their father as state champions, I've coached them and I've coached their sons."
Heroux graduated from then Crosby High School in 1961 and then went on to the University of North Dakota, where he double-majored in industrial arts and physical education. He was a three-sport athlete for the Fighting Sioux, excelling in football, wrestling and outdoor track.
He later returned to Belfast and took a job as the football team's running backs coach before accepting the job as the school's wrestling coach in 1967, replacing Harold Violette.
"When we started out we only had nine kids," Heroux said. "We only filled, I think, eight weight classes and it went like that for 3-4 years before we really started having success. And then just about every year we'd have 25-30 kids come out."
Then the program slowly turned into a juggernaut, annually competing for conference, regional and state championships. Heroux credited the school system's terrific feeder program for the team's successes over the decades.
Heroux stayed on as an assistant coach with the football team for "about 25 years," while coaching wrestling and also coached the freshmen football team for several seasons.
He also was both an industrial arts and physical education teacher at both Crosby School and BAHS for 27 years before retiring in the early 1990s.
Heroux said he plans to attend home meets this coming season and perhaps the postseason championship meets as well, while also taking video for the team. He hopes to set the video up to be broadcast on Belfast Community TV, with Heroux as the commentator.
And now, after 45 years, Heroux finally has an answer to the question he's been asked many times.
"They say, 'Gee, Ted, how long are you going to keep coaching?' " he said. "I just say, 'When the time comes I'll know.' "
"And it's time to get through," he said.
Courier Publications Associate Sports Director Mark Haskell can be reached at 207-594-4401 or by email at email@example.com.