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Roy Eaton, who coached St. Bernard to first state title, passes away

Roy Eaton in the 1970s.

Roy Eaton, the teacher who began the wrestling program at St. Bernard in Uncasville in December 1971, passed away on October 15 in Florida. He was 73.

A member of wrestling teams at New York Military Academy and Pennsylvania Military College, Eaton was the first wrestling coach at St. Bernard. He coached the Saints for seven seasons, leading St. Bernard to three league championships and their first and only state championship in 1981.

Eaton taught mathematics and wrestling at St. Bernard High and was the first faculty member elected to the school’s Board of Trustees. At the age 26, Roy was elected the state’s first team coach by the Connecticut Freestyle Wrestling Federation.

In Eaton’s third season, the Saints finished second in the 1974 Southeast Sectional qualifier behind eventual State Open champion Ledyard and went onto finish sixth at the 1974 State Open. Two of his wrestlers were ranked in the top 10 in the nation.

Eaton was injured in an accident and had to leave his coaching position. Still, the team continued to do well. In 1975, the Saints finished second in the Class M tournament and State Open tournament to Ledyard under Hall of Fame coach John Bennett.

Eaton did return to the mat and coached for another four years. In his final year leading St. Bernard, the Saints won the 1981 Class L state championship with a 57½-point win over Penney High from East Hartford, the third-most lopsided win in CIAC tournament history at that time.

In 1981, St. Bernard was 14-2 and won their second consecutive Southeast Athletic Conference championship. Eaton also led the Saints to the Hartford County Conference title in 1974.

Eaton taught for 25 years and inspired his students in the classroom and on the mat. He coached six All-American wrestlers and nine of his wrestlers are members of the St. Bernard Athletic Hall of Fame. Eight former students have become wrestling coaches.

Eaton was inducted into the St. Bernard Athletic Hall of Fame in 2006. He was honored by the New York Military Academy Sports Hall of Fame in 2007 and was inducted in the New London Hall of Fame, too. In 2006, the National Sport Achievement Awards presented him with a Lifetime Achievement Award in wrestling.

Eaton graduated from Pennsylvania Military College, where, as a senior, he became the only student in the college’s history to be elected student government president, senior class president, and brigade honor court president. He also received the army’s Distinguished Military Student Award and was a member of the Pershing Rifle national champion Drill Team and the varsity wrestling team.

Eaton earned a Master’s Degree from Connecticut College and a commission in the U.S. Army Reserve Officers Corps.

In retirement, he was the author of five books, including Soldier Boy, a moving account of growing up and coming of age as a man. The book includes never-before-published personal stories about the teenage Donald Trump, a classmate of Eaton at New York Military Academy.

NOTE: Some material on this story was gathered from two lengthy stories about Eaton from a 2017 story in the Coastal Breeze News in Marco Island, Florida and a 2009 story in the Naples, Florida, News and his biography on his website to sell his books.

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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