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Coast Guard’s Hall of Fame coach Steve Eldridge has died

Steve Eldridge, the Hall of Fame coach at Coast Guard Academy, passed away earlier this month. (Photo courtesy Coast Guard Academy)

Stephen Eldridge, the Hall of Fame wrestling coach at the Coast Guard Academy in New London for 47 years, passed away on Sept. 2, 2022  in Virginia Beach, Va., at the age of 80.

Eldridge coached the Bears from 1967 through 2014, leading Coast Guard to more than 300 dual meet wins and five New England Division III championships (1979, 1980, 1982, 1983, 1986).

The Bears finished second in New England four times, including once (1967) when schools of all sizes (Division I, II and III) competed together and twice (1973, 1975) when the tournament included Division II and III teams. Two of Eldridge’s Coast Guard teams finished without a loss in 1967 (11-0-1) and 1975 (11-0).

In his career, he had athletes that qualified to compete in the NCAA Div. I, Div. II and Div. III national tournaments.

He coached seven wrestlers who earned Div. III All-American honors 12 times, including two-time All-Americans Jim Murray, Mike Nuzum and three-time All-Americans Chris Fertig and Nathan Giorgio. Fetrig was a two-time Division III finalist while Murray finished third twice.

Eldridge served twice as the president of the National Wrestling Coaches Association (NWCA) and was named the New England Wrestling Association Coach of the Year four times. Twice, Coast Guard hosted the NCAA Division III national championship meet in New London (1980, 1993).

Eldridge was inducted into the Connecticut Chapter of the National Wrestling Hall of Fame in 2004, the Coast Guard Athletics Hall of Fame (1989), the New England Wrestling Association (NEWA) Hall of Fame (2002) and the National Wrestling Coaches Association (NWCA) Division III Hall of Fame (1996).

Eldridge also served as the men’s cross country coach at Coast Guard for 43 seasons, retiring from that position in 2011.

He helped the cross country team earn berths to the NCAA Division III national championship meet five times (1977-79, 1989 and 2001), finishing as high as 12th in 1978. Twice, Eldridge was named the NEWMAC (New England Women’s and Men’s Athletic Conference) cross country coach of the year in 2008 and 2010.

He also started the women’s cross country program at the Academy and coached the team for the first four years of their existence.

Steve Eldridge, center, with cadets at the Coast Guard Academy in this undated photo. (Photo courtesy Coast Guard Academy)

Eldridge’s ability to connect with the cadets was greatly appreciated.

“A large part of the reason he was selected (to be inducted in the Coast Guard Athletic Hall of Fame) was his innate ability to relate to the student/athlete,” wrote the (Coast Guard) Bulletin magazine in 1989. One student told the Bulletin that they wouldn’t be in the Coast Guard without Coach Eldridge’s personal involvement and concern.

“He was non-judgmental. He always saw the goodness in people,” said Abraham Chamie, an assistant coach with the Coast Guard wrestling team for 11 years from 1970-82. “I never saw him raise his voice at anyone. He was truly a special guy,”

Eldridge’s obituary stated that he “encouraged many (students) to reach unbelievable heights in their sports while also mentoring them to remain focused on opportunities beyond the Academy. Steve was tremendously proud of his athletes as they continued to achieve greatness in their careers, both in and out of the Coast Guard. Steve’s giving tenacity set a powerful example and it enabled his students and athletes to become better members of society.”

His life will be celebrated on Sunday, Oct. 16, in New London. Additional details will be released on a later date.

Eldridge was born in Fairbanks, Alaska on Feb. 13, 1942 to Rev. Elsom Eldridge and his wife, Elizabeth or Betty. As an Episcopal minister, Elsom and his family moved frequently; however, their family’s anchor was their home in Heath, Mass., since the 1940s.

After graduating from high school in St. Louis, Missouri, Steve Eldridge attended the University of Missouri, where he won three varsity letters with the Missouri wrestling program. He graduated from the school with a Master’s Degree in 1966.

He was hired in the fall of 1966 at the Coast Guard as an assistant football coach and head wrestling coach, according to his obituary.

Eldridge is survived by his sons, Pat and Jeff, his grandchildren, Sydney and Jackson, his brother, Elsom, Jr., and his family, his brother Mark’s family and many friends.

In lieu of flowers, please consider a donation to one of Steve’s favorite teams: the Coast Guard cross country team or the Coast Guard wrestling team via the  CGA Alumni fund or his recent favorite wrestling program – his grandson’s club team in Virgina.

You can leave an online condolence at this 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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