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John Varanelli, wrestling coach of Thomaston co-op, has died

John Varanelli, Jr., the head coach for the Thomaston co-op wrestling program for the past five seasons, has died at the age of 65. He is shown coaching at the 2019 Berkshire Valley tournament at The Gilbert School in Winsted.

John Varanelli, Jr., the head coach of the Thomaston co-op program, has died. Varanelli, 65, passed away on Thursday, Sept. 23.

For the past five seasons, he has been the head coach of the Thomaston co-op program with Holy Cross. Wrestlers from Litchfield were eligible to participate in the co-op but there were few athletes who took advantage of the opportunity.

Athletes from Woodland Regional have been working out with the Bears for the past few years.

Varanelli’s assistant coach in Thomaston was his high school coach – Jim Cunningham, who was inducted into the Connecticut Chapter of the National Wrestling Hall of Fame in 2010.

“(John) believed in providing opportunities for anyone that wanted to wrestle,” a post on the team’s Facebook page said. “(John) also believed that the life lessons wrestling provided high school students was worth the sacrifice of time away from family, and his company, The Orchid Florist.”

A graduate of Holy Cross in Waterbury, Varanelli wrestled at UConn, when the school had a Division I wrestling program. He graduated from Connecticut with a degree in Agriculture. In 1981, he purchased The Orchid Florist in Waterbury.

Thomaston had a wrestling program from 2002-13 before the team disbanded due to a lack of interest. Varanelli was the head coach when the team reformed in the fall of 2016 as a co-op program. The team was an independent team. They weren’t considered members of the Berkshire League because the team included wrestlers from Holy Cross.

You can leave an online condolence on Varanelli’s obituary.

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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