Newly hired high school coach dies after wrestling match

An attorney who recently returned to the high school where he once wrestled to become the program's head coach died after participating in a wrestling match at a tournament in his native Florida this weekend.

Tracy Lee
Tracy Lee, 51, passed away after taking on a college-age opponent at the Sunshine State Games in West Palm Beach, Fla. on Saturday.

Lee, who just last month had left his law practice to become head wrestling coach at Sarasota High School, took some of his wrestlers to the Sunshine State Games, which had wrestling competitions for a wide range of age groups, up to age 70. Lee pulled on a Sarasota Sailor singlet and faced off against a college-age competitor who was the Ukrainian national champion in Greco-Roman wrestling, according to his former high school teammate -- and more recently, assistant coach -- Cam Holland.

"The place is crowded, there are five mats, a huge gym, and when Tracy and this man started wrestling, everybody circled the mat," Holland told the Sarasota Herald-Tribune. "It was like five rows deep and when they got done wrestling, everybody just stood and clapped. That was a match. That was respect.

"It was something totally different than you were seeing on other mats. It was a championship-caliber match."

However, according to the newspaper, not long after the match ended, Lee collapsed and was taken to a West Palm Beach area hospital, where he died of an apparent heart attack.

"He hated the practice of law and he just wanted to get out of it so bad and he was so excited that he had taken the job as Sarasota High's wrestling coach," according to Derek Byrd, who, like Lee, was a member of the school's Class of 1986.

Ron Jones, Tracy Lee's coach at Sarasota High, offered his perspective on his former wrestler's return to the sport.

"He wanted it more than anything," Jones said. "He never stopped being a Sailor. It was sort of a no-brainer having someone who loved Sarasota the way (he) loved Sarasota."

Born in Sarasota in January 1968, Richard Tracy Lee was captain of the Sarasota Sailor mat program all four years. After graduating from Sarasota High in 1986, Tracy continued his education, earning his bachelor's degree at University of Florida. He then studied law, first at Widener University School of Law, then focusing on trial advocacy at Temple University School of Law.

Visitation for Tracy Lee will take place Friday, June 7 from 5-7 p.m. at Robert Toale and Sons Funeral Home, 170 Honore Ave., Sarasota, with funeral service scheduled for Sunday, June 9 at 2 p.m. at The Shore Church, 3375 Fruitville Road in Sarasota.


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