BERLIN, Conn. (WTNH) — For 36 seasons, Jim Day poured his heart and soul into the Berlin High School wrestling program, turning it into a powerhouse in Connecticut high school wrestling. But, to his athletes, he was more than just a coach into winning.
“Coach Day meant a ton to me as a teacher as a coach,” said Zach Veleas, one of Coach Day’s former wrestlers. “He shaped me into the man I am today — definitely a huge part in teaching me discipline, respect and he was constantly able to bring out the best in people.”
Coach Day was enjoying his 36th season as the wrestling coach at Berlin High. He won many state titles over the years. Zach spent part of this day looking at old pictures, reminiscing.
“It’s hard for me,” Zach said. “It’s hard.”
Zach and his father shined under Coach Day. Zach’s two younger brothers are current wrestlers — also excelling on Coach Day’s team. This morning, the school district made sure the team met with crisis counselors to help them cope with the loss of their beloved coach. The Superintendent of Berlin Public Schools says during that meeting, a couple of teammates stood up in a way that would’ve made Coach Day proud.
“Very impressed with two of the wrestlers in particular,” said Superintendent Brian Benigni. “They really stepped forward.”
Coach Day died Thursday. He had been admitted to The Hospital of Central Connecticut in New Britain after falling ill for a few days. He was 64 years old.
If Zach could have one last conversation with his old coach, he says it would start with this:
“Thank you,” Zach said.
This weekend, at the wrestling state championships in New Haven, Coach Day will be remembered in a moment of silence and his players — past and present — will all get the chance to say thank you as part of a tribute dedicated to the coach who taught them so much.