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New York legendary wrestling coach Jim McCloe dead at 69

Jim McCloe, one of the winningest high school wrestling coaches in New York state history, died this week at age 69.

Jim McCloe
According to his obituary, the longtime Waverly High School head coach died Aug. 17 at his home in Williamsburg, Va. -- where Jim and his wife owned a bed-and-breakfast -- after a battle with an aggressive form of leukemia.

McCloe retired from coaching after the 2006-07 season. Over 32 seasons, he guided Waverly to two small-school state titles, 14 Section 4 team championships and seven sectional runner-up finishes. He finished with 435 coaching victories, which at the time ranked first in Section 4 wrestling history and seventh in New York state history. Vestal's Tony Policare passed McCloe for the Section 4 wins record in 2014.

McCloe had been a member of the USA Wrestling Hall of Fame, the National Junior College Wrestling Hall of Fame, the Section 4 Hall of Fame, the Section 4 Wrestling Hall of Fame and the Waverly High School Hall of Fame.

He coached 40 Section 4 individual champions at Waverly, along with seven New York state champions and six National High School All-Americans. Assistant coach Charlie Hughes was also a key part of Waverly's success and he took over as head coach when McCloe retired.

As a student at Waverly, McCloe excelled in wrestling, football and track. He went on win a National Junior College Athletic Association wrestling title at SUNY Delhi before two highly-successful seasons at Division I East Carolina University.

Policare, a Vestal graduate, was wrestling for the University at Buffalo when McCloe was competing for East Carolina.

"We got out of school at the same time and coached during the same era," Policare said. "It just saddens me, but I'm also very proud that I had the opportunity to coach and be around Jim a lot. Everyone learned from him. He's just a great man and he'll be sorely missed.

"You break a record of a coach of his standing, it's significant. But I never thought of it as beating Jim, it's just all respect because he was a contemporary and just a great guy."

Along with coaching at Waverly, McCloe was also a physical education teacher and the school's athletic director for 16 years. Area businesses owned by him and his wife, Cindy, included Camp Olympia, McCloe's Storage and Apple Ridge Bed & Breakfast.

McCloe and his wife raised three daughters: Kristi (Eric) Clayton of Williamsburg, Tori (Aaron) Freeman of Williamsburg and Brandi (Peter) Rogers of Chapel Hill, North Carolina.

"I would just want his family to know how much love and respect we have for Jim," Policare said. "The Vestal wrestling community is saddened by his loss."

A memorial service is being planned for late November in Waverly. Details will follow.
The Jim McCloe Memorial Scholarship Fund has been created at Waverly High School in his honor. Donations can be sent to the Waverly Administration Office, 15 Frederick Street, Waverly, NY 14892.

Jim is survived by his devoted wife of 48 years, Cindy. He is also survived by his adoring daughters and their families; Kristi (Eric) Clayton of Williamsburg, Tori (Aaron) Freeman of Williamsburg, and Brandi (Peter) Rogers of Chapel Hill, North Carolina. He was an amazing "Papa" to Reid and Walker Clayton, Grace Freeman and Isabella and Gabe Rogers. He is also survived by his loving family, including his parents James and Helen (Ennis) McCloe, brother Duane (Patty) McCloe, sister-in-law Cathy (Paul) Petrozzo of Danville, Virginia, brother-in-law Scott (Cara) Tyrrell of Horseheads, nephew Tom McCloe, niece Lisa (Tony) Jenner, nephew Cole Jenner, niece Hali Jenner, niece Melissa Harris of Binghamton, Josh (Michelle) Schwartz of Sidney, nephews Jacob and Mikey Schwartz, and niece Brooke Tyrrell of Richmond, Virginia.

Jim was born to parents James and Helen McCloe of Waverly, New York on October 29, 1950. As a student at Waverly High School, Jim was an Eagle Scout and a stand-out athlete, earning multiple awards in football, wrestling and track. It was his love of wrestling that launched his outstanding collegiate career at SUNY Delhi, where he earned a National Junior College Championship in 1971. In the fall of 1971, Jim was recruited to wrestle at Division I East Carolina University. While at ECU, Jim won many titles including: two-time North Carolina Collegiate Champion; Southern Conference Champion; first and fourth at the prestigious Wilkes Tournament; two-time First Colonies Champion; the Pembroke Open Champion; the Maryland Federation tournament Champion; was selected to the NCAA East-West All Star Team; and was an NCAA qualifier. After graduating from ECU with his degree in Education, he became a graduate assistant and coach at West Chester University where he was awarded his master's degree. He concluded his academic career with an Administrative degree from SUNY Cortland in 1988.

Jim returned to Waverly in 1975 with his wife, Cindy and raised their three daughters while developing an outstanding wrestling dynasty with his best friend, Charlie Hughes and the support of family and friends. Coach Jim McCloe retired from Waverly High School in 2007 after serving 33 years as Head Wrestling Coach of an incredibly successful wrestling program. For 16 of those years, he was also the Director of Athletics for the district. Prior to that, Jim taught Health and Physical Education and coached JV football.

Over those 33 years, Jim's teams won fourteen Section IV Team Championships and he coached 40 Section IV Individual Champions, seven New York State Champions, 21 NYS place winners, and six National High School All-Americans. Overall, he coached his teams to 435 dual meet victories. In recognition of his efforts and accomplishments, Jim was named Section IV Coach of the Year seven times and New York Wrestling Coach of the Year twice. He was elected to the National Junior College Wrestling Hall of Fame in 1985, the Waverly High School Hall of Fame in 1999, he was one of eight finalists for the honor of National High School Coaches Association coach of the Year in 2007, and inducted into the National Wrestling Hall of Fame in 2008 and Section IV Hall of Fame in 2009. In 2016, he was inducted into the SUNY Delhi Hall of Fame for his accomplishments as an athlete.

Of all his life accomplishments, Jim could be heard saying that one of his favorites was his time spent in retirement. He was the best Papa that any grandchild could ask for and was always cheering them on in their activities from near and far. He loved to be outdoors with his grandchildren, playing games and sharing his love of gardening. He enjoyed cheering on East Carolina University, Ohio State and Alabama sports with his family and especially enjoyed tailgating with his antique car at ECU football games. Jim and Cindy were able to vacation in some amazing locations and enjoyed world-wide travel. He always looked forward to returning to Waverly to the annual class of '69 reunions that his good friend, Jerry Arnold, hosted. Jim's smile and contagious laugh during the good times will be cherished forever. His strength and encouragement will continue to be felt during the toughest times.

In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to the Waverly Youth Recreation Department located at Village of Waverly, 32 Ithaca Street, Waverly, NY 14892. In addition, the Jim McCloe Memorial Scholarship Fund has been created through Waverly High School to honor Jim's life and legacy. To contribute to the scholarship fund, donations may be sent to the Waverly Administration Office, 15 Frederick Street, Waverly, NY 14892. A memorial service to be held in Waverly, New York to celebrate Jim's life is being planned for late November.

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