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Long-time official and school principal Ray Southland dies

Ray Southland, right, is the official in the 2012 New England Tournament semifinal between Housatonic’s Stephen Wingard and Hartford’s Sheldon Rhoden in Providence at 182 pounds. Rhoden won, 3-2.

Ray Southland, a long-time Connecticut wrestling official, died on Saturday evening (July 20). For the past seven years, Southland, 58, has served as the principal at Washington Middle School in Meriden. The school was opened for a few hours on Monday morning to allow staff to grieve.

Ray Southland at the 2014 State Open championships in New Haven.

“Ray loved Washington Middle School,” said Jessica Showerda, assistant principal at Washington Middle School. “He often said that this was the best place he ever worked and that is largely due to the people and students he worked with every day.”

Southland was a wrestling official for 33 seasons. He joined the Connecticut Interscholastic Wrestling Officials Association (CIWOA) in 1984 and quickly became a top official. He was selected to officiate at numerous CIAC divisional tournaments (Class LL, L, M, S), the State Open and New England championships (10 times).

Beginning in 1989, he officiated at the State Open each year through his retirement as an official following the 2017 season. After retiring, Southland served as the head official at the State Open, assigning officials to matches, meeting with coaches and tournament directors and serving as a mentor to the officials.

Southland was selected to officiate at several national high school tournaments, too. He was also a New England college official for more than 20 years.

In addition to his on-the-mat contributions, Southland was a member of the CIWOA’s Executive Board for more than 25 years. He served as president of the board along with secretary and treasurer.

Southland’s tenure in wrestling began in high school at Maloney High in Meriden when he was a three-year starter under Hall of Fame coach and official Ray Mainville. Before he was an official, Southland served as an assistant coach in wrestling at both Platt and Maloney.

In his educational career, Southland taught at Southington and Platt in Meriden. He was the athletic director at Maloney for three years (2003-05). He was an assistant principal at Cromwell High for two years before coming back to Meriden where he was an assistant principal at Washington Middle School before becoming principal in 2012.

Southland is survived by his wife, Andrea. In his obituary, the Southland family wrote that, “We all have a “Ray Story” about how Ray has positively impacted our lives and those of our children. The family would love to know your “Ray Story”, so please email it to them at”

A memorial service to celebrate Ray’s life will be Saturday, August 17, at 10 a.m. at Maloney High School. In lieu of flowers, donations may be sent to the Ray Southland Scholarship Fund, 22 Liberty St., Meriden, CT 06450.


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Gerry deSimas, Jr., is the editor and founder of Connecticut Wrestling Online. He is an award-winning writer and has been covering sports in Connecticut and New England for more than 30 years. He was inducted into the New England High School Wrestling Hall of Fame in 2018.

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