UNION, NJ — Ron Zieser is Union High School all over and has been for 30 years now.
Zieser was a Farmer student-athlete, Class of 1997, and has taught history at UHS for 18 years.
Now, he’s been named just the third UHS athletic director since the first head football coach he played for as a sophomore back in the fall of 1994. That person was Lou Rettino.
Bill Parsons succeeded Rettino, and then, a decade ago, Linda Ionta stepped into the role when Parsons retired. Ionta just retired from the position at the end of the 2021-2022 school year.
“Linda was a legend,” Zieser said. “It’s an honor to follow her. It’s also a little scary, but an honor.”
Zieser played football and baseball at Union and coached football, basketball and baseball as well. As the head coach of the junior varsity boys basketball team, he guided the Farmers to back-to-back Union County Tournament championships in 2016 and 2017.
“We got to the championship game three times, and to play at Kean and win there on that court was a great thrill,” Zieser said.
Zieser was Union’s center and a defensive tackle as a senior on the 1996 team that reached Giants Stadium for the North 2, Group 4 state championship game. Although Union lost to Montclair High School, getting there was impressive, as the fourth-seeded Farmers knocked off top-seeded and 8-0 Elizabeth High School at Elizabeth’s Williams Field, 34-26, in the semifinals.
Zieser was then Union’s first baseman on the 1997 baseball team that defeated defending champion Bloomfield High School in the North 2, Group 4 sectional state championship game. Union was then defeated by North 1, Group 4 champ Hackensack High School in the Group 4 semifinals.
Zieser was on the staff of head coach Lou Grasso Jr. in 2019, when the varsity football team won its first state championship in 26 years, capturing North 2, Group 5 for the first time.
“That was special,” Zieser said. “As a player, I got there but we didn’t win, so to win that night on our field was great.”
Zieser, who graduated from Kean University in 2002 with a bachelor’s degree in history, said he has a clear vision of what he wants to achieve first in his new role.
“We want to recruit our town,” Zieser, 43, said. “There are a lot of good athletes here and we want to keep them here.”
Zieser gave an example: 2022 graduate Davison Igbinosun, who is now playing college football at Mississippi State. Not only was Igbinosun one of the highest-rated players in all of New Jersey last year, but he also had a 3.9 grade-point average.
“We have very little grade issues with our athletes,” Zieser said. “We want to continue to keep our kids involved and competing at the highest-possible level.
“We have kids who reach the Ivy League, vocational schools and the military. One of the positives of Union High School is that we have something for everyone here.
“Our goal is to have a sport for everyone.”
Photo by JR Parachini