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Services for Wisconsin coach, official Arvo Britten

Services have been announced for Arvo Britten, former University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point wrestler who later went on to build a successful mat program in the Merrill (Wis.) public schools and serve as wrestling official.

Britten passed away Nov. 10 in Wausau, Wis. after a battle with Alzheimer's disease. He was 81.

A memorial service will take place at 5:30 p.m. on Friday, Nov. 17 at Brainard Funeral Home- Wausau Chapel, 522 Adams Street, Wausau. Bill Metter will lead the celebration and offer stories of Britten's life. Visitation will take place from 3 p.m. until the time of the service.

Online condolences may be given at the funeral home's website. In lieu of flowers, memorials may be directed to the charity of the donor's choice in Arvo Britten's name.

Arvo Robert Britten was born in Durand, Wis. in Sept. 1936. He graduated from Wausau High School in 1955, where he played varsity football, basketball and baseball. It was at UW-Stevens Point where Britten was introduced to wrestling and made it his sport of choice after having competed in football and baseball at the school. As a wrestler, Britten placed second at the WSUC (Wisconsin State University Conference) championships in 1959, and second at the Wisconsin AAU (Amateur Athletic Union) tournament in 1960. Britten graduated from UW-Stevens Point with a degree in physical education in 1960.

After serving in the United States Army from 1960-63, Britten was hired by Merrill Public Schools as a junior high social studies instructor, later becoming a physical education instructor. In addition to being a teacher, Britten served as a coach in football and track. However, Britten's greatest success was in coaching the wrestling program at the middle school -- as well as launching the freshman mat program -- where he accumulated a record of 207-17-0, never losing more than two matches in any one season. All of seven of Merrill's wrestlers who won Wisconsin state titles had come through the program with Britten at the helm.

Britten is credited with some innovations which helped make Merrill's mat program successful. He implemented assembly wrestling matches where the entire school watched a dual meet with a conference school. In addition, Britten launched the Merrill Freshman Tournament.

In addition to coaching, Britten found time to umpire baseball and softball and officiate wrestling matches, a dedication that would continue for over 50 years and result in him being inducted into the George Martin Wrestling Hall of Fame (1990) and given the National Wrestling Hall of Fame Award for Lifetime Contribution (2001), the first wrestling official to ever be given this award.

"Arvo is a master official," Doug Chickering, WIAA Executive Director, said at the time of Britten's induction into the Wisconsin Wrestling Coaches Association Hall of Fame. "He brings to any contest a level of knowledge, competence and experience that very few can claim."

Arvo Britten is survived by his life companion of the last 24 years, Nelda Hettinga; his children, Marc Britten of Woodbury, Minnesota, Andrea Britten (Stephen Mobley) of McLean, Virginia, Dana Britten of St. Paul, Minnesota, Carrie (Spiro) Avouris of Melbourne, Australia, and step-daughter Marie (Chris) Peterson of Merrill, Wis. His grandchildren include Jordann Britten, Maxwell and Henry Mobley, Lila Avouris, a baby girl expected in February, and step-grandchildren Greta and Garik Peterson. He is also survived by his brother Martin (Cindy) Britten of Indiana.

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