MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — The Watertown-Mayer school district is mourning the loss of a longtime wrestling coach and gym teacher.

Joe Traen, 59, died unexpectedly Wednesday while he was out for his morning run. His wife, Deborah Traen, says he suffered a heart attack.

“I just love when we go into town or when we are at church and one of his students sees him, and they are just super excited and he will high five them and give them a hug,” Deborah said.

Joe spent 27 years working as a wrestling coach at Watertown-Mayer High School and as a physical education teacher at the elementary school. Deborah says he left Wednesday morning for his daily three-mile run around the neighborhood.

“He ran every day or biked, except during the wrestling season, then he worked out with the kids,” she said.

Joe Traen (credit: CBS)

But on this day, a neighbor knocked on Joe’s door to tell his wife he had collapsed near the driveway. A man known for promoting physical fitness had apparently died of a heart attack.

“If you were going to say [I] had a heart attack, they’d say, ‘Oh yeah, probably.’ But never Joe. Never,” said Bill McDonald, Joe’s assistant wrestling coach. “We used to kid around all the time that he was in better shape than the kids.”

Joe’s two sons, Andrew and Adam, have many fond memories of their dad coaching them.

“He was always calm, cool and collected,” Andrew said. “He was never really hot-headed … well, sometimes during wrestling. Outside of that, he was always calm, level-headed. You know, get your work done, work hard.”

Adam says his father was a humble man.

“He really led a simple life, but he also loved life to the fullest,” Adam said. “He always had fun.”

The Traens say Joe’s father also died from a heart attack, but at a much older age.

The school district plans to have grief counselors on hand when students return to class on Monday.

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