The Plainville Sports Hall of Fame will celebrate its 20th Anniversary and Induction Banquet on Saturday at Nuchie’s Restaurant in Forestville. Following is a look at this year’s inductees:
LAWRENCE AMARA, 1964
Amara graduated Plainville High School in 1964 as a two-sport athlete in football and track and field, while earning the role of captain of the football team. Amara was a versatile football player and was feared by other schools because of his strength and quickness.
During the three decades encompassing what would be considered his peer group era of the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s, Amara recorded some of the finest numbers as a running back on the Plainville High football teams. He was elected captain of the team in his senior year, which shows the amount of respect he garnered from his teammates and coaches during his football career.
Amara is ranked 15th with a 1,000 yards rushing. He also averaged 17.8 yards on kickoff returns, 11.3 yards in pass receptions. His total yards rushing, 1,617, puts him 17th on the school’s all-time rushing list of 1,500 minimum. Amara was the first player to carry the ball over 200 times (278), a recorded that lasted for 34 years.
Amara also excelled as a member of the indoor and outdoor track and field teams as one of the fastest sprinters at Plainville during his era. Because of his speed, he ran the first leg of the 880 relay and in 1963 his relay team set a school and meet record with a winning time of 1:34:04 seconds. In 1963, Amara tied the 60-yard dash record at the Connecticut State Open Meet at Yale University with a time of 6.5 seconds. He ran the 100 in 10.3 seconds, 220 in 22.5 seconds and 440 in 54 seconds. He was a member of the 1964 Class B state champions held at Yale University.
Amara spent 35 years as an educator guidance counselor and principal in the Plymouth school system. He coached several high school and youth groups including track and field, as well as cross country and Little League. He was active in various Bristol civic and educational groups including chairman of the Bristol Board of Education.
JAMES “JIM” GRANEY, 1969
Graney was a 1969 Plainville High graduate who was a varsity starter in three sports during his sophomore, junior, and senior years. His sports career really started when as a 10-year-old boy he sat and watched football practice every day. On game day Graney helped carry the equipment onto the field and then would stand by the bench and watch the entire game. As a sophomore, he played defensive back and left halfback in football; guard on basketball; and played center field, third base and first base in baseball.
During his junior year, Graney played the entire offense and defense portion of each football game. In basketball, he scored 68 points, along with 37 rebounds and 21 steals for the season. In baseball, he was the triple-crown winner, batting .310 with two home runs and nine RBIs.
As a senior, Graney was captain of all three sports. Playing both offense and defense in football, he scored 32 of the teams 124 points for a team that was 1-8-1. In basketball, Graney scored 227 points with 77 rebounds and 19 steals. He was the baseball team’s catcher the entire season and led the team in seven categories, batting .341 with 14 RBIs, 10 stolen bases, 24 hits, six doubles, a triple and a .470 on base percentage.
Graney played three years of American Legion Baseball and one year on Ken Kezer’s summer tournament team. He also played three years of fast pitch softball for his U. S. Army MP unit.
JOHN J. “JAY” BUCKLER, 1972
Buckler graduated from Plainville High School in 1972 after a stellar athletic career. He excelled in four sports, lettering once in soccer, twice in football and three times each in basketball and baseball.
In football Buckler played tight end and defensive tackle and helped lead the comeback win against Southington. Buckler was a towering first baseman on the diamond who was also a reliable hitter for the Blue Devils. But Buckler’s best sport was basketball. He was an excellent shot blocker and defender while staying out of foul trouble. He was second team all-conference twice and first-team All-CVC as a junior. Buckler was also honorable mention All-State twice.
The most amazing stat of all took place in his junior year when he averaged 19 rebounds per game. When Buckler was a sophomore, the team had suffered through three straight losing seasons. He was the only new member of a team that improved from 5-14 to 16-4 and won the league title. Buckler averaged 10 points per game that year. He then led the team in scoring his junior year with 16 points per game and senior year with 18 points per game. Buckler averaged these numbers despite playing in a guard oriented offense. Plainville made it to the Class LL quarterfinals his senior season and he saved some of his best games for the tournament with a win over Fairfield Prep and a loss to Bloomfield. Buckler was a great teammate and his physical and mental toughness contributed to that.
JOHN ANDROS, 1995
Andros was an exceptional baseball player, an inspirational teammate and respected by all. He was an intense competitor in a quiet way. Andros played in four CIAC state championship games and was state champion in 1992, '94, '95. On the baseball field and in the classroom, he did everything well.
Andros was an outstanding defender and a superb baserunner. As a junior, he batted .354 with 19 RBI. In the 1994 CIAC state tournament, he had six hits in 17 at bats and eight RBIs. In the 1994 CIAC state final against Holy Cross, his home run at Palmer Field sparked the Blue Devils to a come from behind victory and a state title.
As a senior captain in 1995, Andros put up incredible offensive numbers. His batting average was .658. At one point in that season he had 30 hits in 41 at bats. As a left-handed batter he had a classic swing. In 1995, after 24 games, Andros had 48 hits, 26 RBI and an on base percentage of .746. That year the Blue Devils defeated Maloney for the 1995 CIAC L state championship.
He was chosen All-Northwest Conference in 1994 and 1995 and earned CHSCA All-State honors in 1995.
He played collegiate baseball at Marist College, played in the 1997 NCAA Regional and was named team captain in 1999.
Andros also played football in 1993 and 1994 and led the team in receptions.
SCOTT REDMEN, 1995
Redmen excelled in football and baseball. In football, he was a three-year starter at linebacker, receiver and place kicker. Offensively, he had 15 receptions for 199 yards. He tallied 35 points. Defensively at linebacker, Redmen had a total of 25 solo tackles, 63 assisted tackles and had three sacks.
Redmen had a tremendous baseball career as a pitcher and hitter at Plainville High School. As a sophomore in the 1993 semifinals against Bristol Eastern, he smashed a monsterous home run over the scoreboard at Muzzy Field. It ignited the Blue Devils' comeback win and propelled them to a trip to the state finals. He was the winning pitcher in the 1994 and 1995 CIAC Class L state championship games. In the 1994 state finals against Holy Cross, Redmen pitched fvie innings of relief to earn the win in 10 innings. In the 1995 state final game, he pitched seven strong innings as the Blue Devils routed Maloney to earn their third CIAC state championship in four years.
As a junior, Redmen batted .423 with 30 hits, six home runs and 31 RBIs. On the mound he was 9-1. As a senior he batted .353 with 26 hits, six home runs and 36 RBIs. His pitching record was 6-2.
Redmen was All-Northwest Conference in 1994 and 1995 and was elected to the CHSCA Class L All-State team in 1995. He pitched for the CHSCA All-Star team at Fenway Park and played collegiate baseball at Western Connecticut State University.
NICHOLAS “NICK” MACELLARO, 1999
Macellaro capped an outstanding baseball career at Plainville High School pitching a no-hitter in the 1999 Class M Championship game to defeat Noonewaug 3-0. It was the fourth state championship in the 1990's for Plainville.
Macellaro was a smooth fielder, consistent, clutch hitter and a great competitor throughout his baseball career at Plainville High, Central Connecticut State University (CCSU) and with the Florence Freedom baseball team.
He received numerous baseball honors. As a high school senior, Macellaro was All-State, all-conference, team MVP and a USA Today Honorable Mention All-American. Macellaro was the recipient of the Plainville Athletic Backers Male Athlete of The Year. He was selected to the CT All-Star baseball team to play the Massachusetts All-Stars at Fenway Park. His senior statistics were outstanding, including a .462 BA, seven home runs, 34 RBIs and a team-leading 36 hits in 78 at-bats.
In addition to baseball, Macellaro played soccer and was a member of the indoor track team at Plainville High School. He was captain of both the soccer and baseball teams.
Macellaro received a full baseball athletic scholarship to CCSU. He left CCSU as the all-time leader in hits with 223 and top 10 in batting average at .326, at bats with 684, 131 runs, 115 RBIs, 40 doubles and 279 total bases. Nick was All Conference as a third baseman in 2001 second team and in 2003 first team. He received the Frederick Gladstone Male Scholar Athlete Award from CCSU in 2003.
After college, Macellaro signed and played baseball for the Florence Freedom in the Independent League.
Macellaro, his wife Brittany and two children live in Connecticut where he works for the state as an Adult Parole Officer for the Department of Correction.
ERIN SOLI, 2001
A 2001 Plainville graduate, Soli was captain of the softball and wrestling teams, but wrestling is where she stood out. During her years at Plainville High School, her accolades include PHS Sportsmanship award, Joe Dehm physical education award and the Northwest Conference sportsmanship award.
Soli’s teammates describe her as having heart, dedication and perseverance on the wrestling mat. Most of her matches were against males, but in the women’s competition is where she earned her distinction. Soli earned fourth place in the Northwest Conference championship in the 119 weight class. In 1999, she earned first place in the Women’s New England Championship. In 2001, Soli placed first in the Mid-Atlantic Championship and fourth place in the North American National Championships and was named an All-American by USA wrestling.
After receiving a scholarship to wrestle at Missouri Valley College, Soli medaled and placed in college and international championships as well as being ranked 3rd amongst women’s college wrestlers in 2003.
1958 PLAINVILLE HIGH STATE CHAMPIONSHIP TRACK TEAM
Coach Dino Iorli’s team was undefeated in dual meets en route to a Central Valley Conference championship followed by Class B title in outdoor competition.
The track program had just recently ended a five-year lapse in interscholastic track competition with promises of better facilities at the “new high school”. The championships were a testament to Iorli and his hard working team lead by captain Ron Pavano.
During the season, several school records were established by the team. Ron Pavano paced the record setters and completed four years of running, holding the school’s 100-yard dash mark, 220-yard run mark and as a member of the record-setting 880 relay team. Pavanao also established records in the 60-yard dash at the Hartford Invitational meet and the UConn state meet and the 100=yard dash for the Central Valley League at CCSU. Other records include John Gacek in the broad jump; Pavano, Gacek, Gil Gauthier and Tom Graney in the 880 relay’ John Gacek in the 220 run; and Roger Roy in pole vault.
Twenty members of the team qualified for the state tournament including Roger Bieryta, Richard Bonczek, John Cavaliere, Bob Dalke, John Gacek, Jerome Gamache, Gil Gauthier, Tom Graney, John Karoliozyn, Paul Maskery, Dick Mahoney, Ray Minella, Fred Mooers, Bob Osgood, Ron Pavano, Roger Roy, Steve Vargo, Pete Visser and Felix Varrichone,
Another Hall of Fame member best describes the track program: “Our coaches developed so much talent that they were able to position people like it was a chess game. They were able to put players where they best needed them. There were no selfish people. You took the egos out of it and you can get off on an ego trip in track very easily. That’s why we won a lot.”
The school finished up the undefeated regular season with a 61 ½ to 42 ½ victory over Glastonbury and celebrated by throwing Iorli into the school showers fully clothed. A few days after that victory, the Blue Devils won the Class B State Championship at Yale University. The winning tradition had started and continued for many years.
PLAINVILLE HIGH SCHOOL BLUE ANGELS
We all know about the Plainville Blue Devils, but did you know that there were Plainville Blue Angels. The Blue Angels basketball teams were the ground breakers for women’s sports teams at Plainville High School from 1945 to 1947.
The program, coached by “Coach Mac” was similar to an intramural team where competition was not encouraged, but rather participation and fun were the rules of the games. In fact, much of the competition was against each other because they couldn’t find many schools with similar programs to play against. In spite of the “no competition” guidelines, there was plenty of talent that was able to provide competition within the rules that became a key teaching point in the program.
The Blue Angels did get to practice in the Plainville gymnasium, but the rules were much different from the men’s game. The teams played 6-on-6, rather than the standard five-on-five, and the guards could only bring the ball up to half court passing to the forwards who brought the ball down court to shoot baskets.
Games were played against other members of the team until competition like the teachers, alumnae and finally other schools were available to play. The American School for the Deaf was a regular challenger on the schedule while Bristol and Farmington also provided occasional competition. No one is quite sure why the program ended so quickly, but all of the players remember the program fondly.
The team had it’s share of accomplished players like Margaret Bush who was inducted into the Plainville Sports Hall of Fame in 2000, Ann O’Brien Bridgeman Gladys Blackstone Pascus, Henrietta Gacek Zooleck, Barbara Andrews Olsen and Jackie Ferguson just to name a few.
We were so pleased that nine of the team members accepted our invitation and will be honored at the Induction Dinner. Those attending are Helen Broczkowski Bergenty, Ellen Rivers Stagis, Ann O’Brien, Gladys Blackstone Pascus, Henrietta Gacek Zooleck, Jackie Ferguson, Wanda Riggs Martin, Ruth Trask Mantak and Alice “Dolly” Eaton Chamberlin.
DISTINGUISHED SERVICE HONOREE: KEN GNAZZO
Gnazzo and his entire family have been the consummate “behind the scenes” supporter of sports and civic causes for as long as any of us can remember. Gnazzo personifies what it means to be genuine, caring and supporting of youth sports as well as a supporter of the town of Plainville.
Gnazzo Food Center and the Gnazzo family has and continues to support youth soccer, football, Little League baseball and PAL basketball, as well as the Plainville High varsity sports teams and the Athletic Backers Club.
“Gnazzos,” as he is known, has been supporting the youth of Plainville financially for more than 40 years in addition to the moral support and guidance Gnazzo has shared with the student athletes that worked at his store. Most of the Gnazzo family contributions are not public, but anyone who has been to Plainville’s Little League complex, can’t help but notice the William Gnazzo field, in honor of his father.
Gnazzo and now his son Keith, continue to support Plainville and the entire youth sports community in the town in many different capacities. Whether it was the ”Gnazzo Food Center” Robins in Little League, supporting the parent groups and Athletic Backers Clubs of today’s teams or offering words of support and encouragement, Gnazzo and his family are gems of Plainville and deserving to be this year’s Distinguished Service Award honorees.