Last year, the Belfast Area High School wrestling team suffered a bit of a setback.

Not in terms of coming up short in a meet or having one of the Lion’s shoulders pinned to the mat, but when longtime coach Ted Heroux collapsed during a Martin Luther King Jr. Day regular-season home meet with what, at the time, was termed a “physical issue,” a medical situation that later turned out to be heart-related.

Nearly one year later, the Lions are preparing for what the beloved and respected coach hopes to be another successful high school wrestling season with Heroux returning for his unprecedented 45th season.

The Lions participated in a four-team preseason tourney Dec. 3 at the Viking Duals at Oxford Hills in South Paris, picking up victories against Windham and defending state Class B champion Mountain Valley of Rumford, but falling by four points to Camden Hills, which annually battles the Lions for conference, regional and state crowns.

And while Heroux is aiming for another strong season, he’s merely happy to be strong enough to return.

“I just went in for a checkup two weeks ago and everything is going fine,” said Heroux, who has guided the Lions to eight state crowns and nearly 600 mat wins in his illustrious four-decade-plus tenure. “I’ve got a defibrillator and I’ve got everything they can possibly give me. Everything’s fine and I’m a lot better off than I was before.”

Heroux, who turns age 70 in April, was rushed to Waldo County General Hospital in Belfast after collapsing at the Jan. 17 meet and was later transferred to Eastern Maine Medical Center.

“My heart got out of rhythm and my heart muscle stopped pumping,” he said of the scary incident, witnessed by fans, student-athletes and other coaches.

The veteran coach returned weeks later to coach the Lions in the Eastern Class B championship meet at Mount Desert Island and the following week at the state Class B championship meet in Augusta, albeit in a more limited capacity. Heroux now has a defibrillator and has gotten clearance to return to full-time coaching.

“I went to the cardiologist in Bangor and then I went to Dr. [David] Ferguson in Belfast with a follow-up and they said, ‘You’re good to go, buddy.’ “

Assistant coach Neal Wood guided the team in Heroux’s absence last year and resigned at the end of last season after taking a new job in Bath.

Wood, who also is Heroux’s son-in-law, has been replaced by Wayne Fitzjurls.

The Lions start the regular season when they host a number of teams in the Belfast Duals on Saturday, Dec. 10 at 9 a.m.

Village NetMedia Associate Sports Director Mark Haskell can be reached at 207-594-4401 or by email at mhaskell@villagesoup.com.