Maine wrestling ambassador Ted Reese dies at 84

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Jun. 12—One of the state's greatest ambassadors for the sport of wrestling has died.

Ted Reese, who started high school programs at several schools across the state and at the University of Southern Maine, died Thursday after a long battle with Parkinson's disease, according to his obituary. He was 84.

Reese is remembered by former colleagues as an exceptional educator, coach and mentor. He began wrestling programs at Camden-Rockport High (now Camden Hills), Georges Valley (now Oceanside) and Bonny Eagle, where his teams had his greatest success, winning seven Class A state titles. He also started collegiate programs at Brandeis University and USM.

"His influence goes a long way back," said Kip DeVoll, the former Noble High wrestling coach. "He was old school all the way. Wrestling was a lifestyle to him and he took a lot of pride in it. He understood its traditions and the respect that wrestling is all about across the world.

"I watched guys like him when I was first learning to coach. I learned how to work with kids and about coaching techniques. He was a big influence on a lot of people and a lot of kids."

On thing that DeVoll remembered in particular about Reese: "He always wore a white shirt and a tie. And that made an impression on me."

Reese was born in Dedham, Massachusetts, and attended Yale University, where he received a degree in English. He also wrestled at Yale and won four New England freestyle championships.

Reese joined the Marines and later earned master's degrees from both Harvard and Brandeis. He came to Maine in 1974 and left for only a three-year period, returning in 1981 at Bonny Eagle.

It was there that Gary Stevens, now the athletic director at Thornton Academy, met Reese. Stevens was a history teacher at the time. "We had a lot of connections in our academic interests," said Stevens. "He was one of my best friends. He had a tremendous sense of humor and always had a big smile."

He said that Reese's commitment to wrestling was unparalleled. Stevens noted that when Reese had his wrestlers running the stairs at Bonny Eagle, he would be at the bottom on an exercise bike.

"He wanted to be a role model for those kids and he figured if they were going to do that work, he was going to do it, too," said Stevens. "When it came to wrestling, he knew every hold. He knew where the pinkie went, he knew where the kneecap went, on every hold. And he connected with every kid, from the ones who competed at the highest levels and went on to win state championships to the kid who just wanted to wrestle.

"He was just an incredible ambassador for the sport."

When USM officials considered starting a wrestling program, Athletic Director Al Bean said Reese was the logical choice to start it.

"Here's a guy who was internationally known in the sport," said Bean. "He gave us some instant credibility in the sport and the ability to attract some local kids. He built a real solid foundation for the program and set some high goals. He was instrumental in getting us going and on the right track."

USM, which started its program in 1996, is the only college in the state to offer wrestling as a varsity sport.

After leaving USM in 2003, Reese continued to coach at the high school level as a volunteer assistant at several schools.

Reese's influence on wrestling extended far beyond Maine. He brought teams to compete internationally, brought U.S. Olympic wrestlers to Maine for clinics, and was presented a Certificate of Achievement from the Moscow Institute of Sport in 1987 after conducting a coaching clinic for coaches in Russia. He was the first person in the United States to earn the Master Coach title from FILA, the sport's international ruling body.

Reese is a member of the USM Huskies Hall of Fame, as well as the Maine Wrestling Hall of Fame.