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Hand High wrestling coach David D’Alessio passes away

Daniel Hand wrestling David D’Alessio, far left, has passed away. He coached wrestling in Madison for more than 30 years. (Photo courtesy Dave D’Alessio Memorial GoFundMe)

David D’Alessio, who worked with the Hand High wrestling program for more than 30 years, died on Sunday, March 8. D’Alessio was the Tigers’ head coach for 20 years (1988-98, 2003-10, 2020) and led his teams to 10 conference championships and the 1995 Class M state championship.

D’Alessio, 56, taught science in Madison town schools for 29 years and coached wrestling in Madison for 33 years. His Hand teams won 319 dual meets in his career. He was an assistant coach for a season at Morgan in 1999, helping the Huskies win their only state championship.

“Dave was a great coach and a good friend. We had some epic battles in the SCC throughout the years,” Xavier coach Michael Cunningham shared on Facebook. “No matter the outcome, he always showed great sportsmanship. Our thoughts and prayers go out to his family, friends and all those wrestlers lives he made a difference in.”

In 2015, D’Alessio was inducted into the Madison Athletic Hall of Fame.

In a D’Alessio’s profile on the Hall of Fame website, Don Cramer, who coached D’Alessio in wrestling during his senior year at Hand, said, “I admire Dave as a coach, a teacher and a friend. After all these years, what remains is a man who inspired kids to achieve on and off the mat. A man who cares for kids even if they weren’t great wrestlers or great students. It is the relationships that matter to Dave. He is a man of integrity, a generous man, a giver to many throughout his career, a man that inspired me to be better.”

D’Alessio grew up in Madison and wrestled for the Tigers, winning a Class M championship as a senior and helping Hand win the 1982 Class M title. He graduated from Southern Connecticut State University with a teaching degree. He was one of the youngest coaches in the state when he took over at Hand in 1987 and was hired to teach in Madison in 1989.

He earned a Master’s Degree in Administration from Sacred Heart University.

Hand High coach Dave D’Alessio, right, in his early years with the Tigers. (Photo courtesy Dave D’Alessio Memorial GoFundMe)

At Hand, D’Alessio was named wrestling coach of the year six times by the New Haven Register and voted by his peers as Coach of the Year twice.

His second team at Hand in 1989 went 19-1, finished second in Class L and was ranked No. 6 in the final top 10 poll of the year. The Tigers went 13-4 in 1995 and captured the program’s first state championship since 1983.

During his second run with the Tigers (2003-10), Hand had eight consecutive winning seasons with seven 20-win campaigns including a school-record 26 wins in 2006 (26-3). For three straight seasons (2008-10), Hand won the Southern Connecticut Conference championship and was in the final top 10 poll of the year, getting as high as No. 6 in 2010.

D’Alessio is survived by Diane, his wife of 29 years and his two children, Andy and Hailey.

Dave D’Alessio was at home on the bench for the Hand wrestling team. (Photo courtesy Dave D’Alessio Memorial GoFundMe)

A GoFundMe initiative has been started by a group of Hand wrestling alumni to help with funeral expenses, assist the family helping Hailey attend college and help Diane establish a foundation in D’Alessio’s name.

The Coach D’Alessio Wrestling Foundation will continue his legacy by investing in wrestling programs in Madison so that other young men and women and have opportunities to grow and learn that D’Alessio provided over the years.

More than 145 donors have pledged $31,000 in the first two days of the initiative.

A graveside burial will be Friday, March 13, at Mica Hill Cemetery in Durham. A memorial celebration will be on Saturday morning, March 14, at 10 a.m. at Hubley Hall at the First Congregational Church in downtown Madison.



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 40 years. He was inducted into the New England High School Wrestling Hall of Fame in 2018.

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