Inductees set for Athletics Hall of Fame

UNION, NJ — The following formerUnion High School standout athletes are among the second Union Athletics Hall of Fame class, which will be honored Nov. 23 at 6 p.m. at Galloping Hill Inn in Union.

• Al Lilley was a standout wrestler at Union High School and later a successful head coach of the varsity wrestling team.
• The soccer field is named after Jim Jeskey, who was the boys’ soccer head coach for an astounding 47 consecutive seasons.
• The Vieira brothers – Mike, Manuel and Robert – were all state champion wrestlers and combined for a total of four state championships, with Robert winning two in a row.
• Nick Biondi and Lilley also won back-to-back state titles, Biondi in 1953 and 1954, and Lilley in 1960 and 1961.
• Lisa Rever and Eileen Freeman were softball standouts who guided Union to the 1984 Group 4 state championship game as seniors before both going on to star in the sport at UMass.
• Terry Ann Zawacki-Woods, now the successful women’s tennis coach at Virginia Tech, reached three consecutive NJSIAA girls’ tennis state championship matches, winning the last two.
• Monique Blake, as a freshman, helped lead the Union girls’ basketball team to its first and only Union County Tournament championship by defeating Elizabeth, 40-38, in overtime in the thrilling 2000 title contest at the Elizabeth Dunn Sport Center. After starting on varsity for four years, Blake later excelled collegiately on the Division 1 level at Seton Hall.

Coaches earning 2015 honors
Jeskey guided the boys’ soccer team to more than 500 victories, including UCT championships in 1967, 1978, 1990 and 1999. He was inducted into the Union County Baseball Hall of Fame in 2014.

Jeskey played baseball, soccer and basketball at Panzer College before the school merged with Montclair State University. He transferred to Seton Hall University and pitched for the Pirates in 1955 and 1956. His catcher was Mike Sheppard,
who went on to coach Seton Hall baseball for years.

After a stint in the Army, Jeskey became the assistant baseball coach at Union High School, where he stayed for 36 years, from 1963 through 1999. He also was the coach and player manager for the semi-pro Livingston Giants in the prestigious Essex County Baseball League from 1969 to 1979, and he coached the Livingston American Legion teams from 1963 to 1968, and again in 1980.

Jeskey was the head boys’ soccer coach from 1961 to 2007. His teams also captured 11 conference titles. During his varied athletic career, Jeskey coached the bowling team and varsity golf team as well as basketball at the junior-varsity level. He also coached CYO baseball and basketball teams.

Jeskey has finished a number of major running events, including the Marine Corps and the Boston marathons. He has also competed and won medals in 10 National Senior Olympic Games.

Lilley coached Union’s last state champion, 1988 senior Mike Ferroni, who won the heavyweight division that year. Ferroni was inducted in Union’s first Hall of Fame Class in 2013.

Chet Czaplinski was a standout football and baseball player at Union and he also succeeded Gordon LeMatty as Union’s head baseball coach in 1992. In 1993 he guided Union to its last UCT championship.

Dave Daniels was a three-sport — football, basketball and baseball — standout at UHS, while Stan Jakubowski helped lead Union’s 1972 baseball team to the Group 4 state championship.

Lenny Horton was a sophomore on Union’s 1973-74 boys’ basketball team that captured the first of the program’s two UCT championships.

Bobby Johnsen was a soccer and baseball standout.
Harry E. Lake was the former athletic director at Union High School and director of the NJSIAA State Tournaments from 1934 to his untimely death in 1959. He organized the NJ Wrestling Officials Association in 1934 and is considered one of the premier promoters of high school wrestling in New Jersey.

Harry Lake is considered the father of N.J. high school wrestling. Lake had no experience in the sport, but caught the wrestling fever under Bill Caan at the Elizabeth YMCA. Caan, a member of the 1928 Olympic team, was a good tutor, and Lake gave much to the promotion of the sport in the Garden State.

In 1930 Lake started the wrestling program at UHS and in 1934 organized and directed the first New Jersey State Wrestling Championship Tournament at Union.

The first tournament had a budget of $40 — for medals and two officials — so Lake brought together numerous volunteers. He ran the tournament for the next five years until he got the NJSIAA to take it over in 1939. The organization named Lake the tournament director, a position he held until his accidental death in 1959.

Lake also served as the first chairman of the Wrestling Committee and started the New Jersey Wrestling Officials and Coaches Association, which later split into the two groups in place today, which started with only 40 members, but today have more 600 members statewide.

In 1943 Lake initiated the Donald Ringler Award to be given to the State Tournament’s outstanding wrestler. The award was named after a N.J. coach who died for his country in World War II. In 1948 Lake started the Union County Junior Varsity Tournament, the first of its kind, one that still runs today.

To honor his memory, the N.J. Wrestling Coaches Association created the Harry E. Lake Award for outstanding contributions to state wrestling. This award is given out annually at the NJSIAA Tournament and is considered the most prestigious honor in N.J. wrestling.

George Hopkins was a successful head softball coach at Union, leading the Farmers to five consecutive UCT championships between 1991 and 1995, during his final five years at the helm.

The 1963-64 wrestling team captured District 5 honors and finished a perfect 12-0 in dual meets.

The 1973-74 boys’ basketball team, guided by head coach Tom Fox, was the program’s first UCT champion. Under Fox again, Union was the UCT champ for the last time during the 1979-80 campaign.

The 1995 softball team, led by All-State players, senior Kelly Kulick and sophomore pitcher Laura Labonia, finished 28-2, won its fifth straight UCT title, blanked host Bloomfield 6-0 in the North 2, Group 4 final and then fell just two runs shy of reaching another Group 4 state championship game.

Union Athletics Hall of Fame Inductees, 2015
Nick Biondi, Class of 1954
Mike Vieira, Class of 1954
Manuel Vieira, Class of 1956
Robert Vieira, Class of 1961
Al Lilley, Class of 1961
Bobby Johnsen, Class of 1962
Chet Czaplinski, Class of 1967
Dave Daniels, Class of 1970
Stan Jakubowski, Class of 1972
Lenny Horton, Class of 1976

Lisa Rever, Class of 1984
Eileen Freeman, Class of 1984
Terry Ann Zawacki, Class of 1992
Monique Blake, Class of 2003

Harry Lake
Jim Jeskey
George Hopkins

Wrestling, 1963-64
Boys’ basketball 1973-74
Softball 1995

Special Contributor
Ted Jakubowski