|The Road to the B/R High School Athletic Hall of Fame|
|The Bridgewater/Raritan High School on Garretson Road first opened in 1959.
Sixty-two years later the school finally has a Hall of Fame to honor its athletes and coaches.
The inaugural induction dinner, after being rescheduled three times due to Covid-19, was held on Saturday Night, October 23rd 2021, at the Bridgewater Manor.
Inducted were six coaches, two athletic directors, sixteen individuals, and four teams. It was simply a wonderful night.
|all photos from induction dinner by Dawn Wilde|
||Getting the Hall of Fame started was a long and difficult task.
Over the years several people had tried to get a Hall of Fame started, but it never moved beyond talk as there were passionate differing opinions about how to go about it.
And that old East-West rivalry was still lurking in people’s minds. A trouble spot was that East High School (Fall 1966- Summer 1992) was now the Middle School.
|The B/R High School athletic history in general was a sore spot to begin with as when the schools merged in the early 1990s
the coveted championship banners and most of the trophies that were proudly displayed in the cases had been thrown away.
There were opinions and finger pointing about how that was allowed to happen. The merged high school on Garretson Road only displayed the banners and trophies awarded after the merger. Thus, inside the high school athletic achievement from 1959-(Summer)1992 had zero recognition.
|Forward to 2019.
Retired Police Officer Dick Myers of Bridgewater, whose sons had been stars on the high school football team, is surprised to hear that there is no Hall of Fame. Dick, who has a track record of successful community involvement, decided to take on the challenge of starting a Hall of Fame.
He contacts Athletic Director John Maggio who gives him approval to proceed and helps him identify those who might want to be on the Hall of Fame committee.
|Dick Myers (on right) with inductee Kelly Schwertfeger|
|Interested in serving on the committee are coaches and athletic directors – some retired and some active.
Also, four players from State Championship teams agreed to be on the committee. Lastly this author was asked to be on the committee as well.
|The Thanksgiving Day Game between East and West|
was the premiere event of the year
|In Spring of 2019 the first Hall of Fame meeting is held.
Getting everyone in a room together was a step further along than anyone had gotten before.
However, the reason that there was no Hall of Fame became apparent minutes into the meeting. Dick Myers “proposed” a way of voting and “selection criteria” for induction that others did not agree with. While Dick Myers knew many people at the meeting, in the B/R athletic world, he was an outsider. Sports achievements and honors that go with it are highly emotional to their coaches and administrators.
The conversation heated up quickly. Dick Myers used his policeman skills of “de-escalation” to calm things down. By the third meeting the initial proposed voting and criteria were changed and the atmosphere improved. The committee meetings would take an amazing turn. They started out as tense meetings at the high school, but later the meetings were moved to the “Top of the Hill” restaurant. There committee members, now friends, would have a couple beers while calmly discussing the issues at hand.
|The 1965 Boy's Basketball Team|
was the school's first state champion.
|The Hall of Fame committee would come to a consensus that this first class of inductees would only be for the years before
East and West merged in the Fall of 1992.
Then categories were set – coaches, athletic directors, individuals, and teams - with the number of inductees for each determined. And at last, an election was held. After a glitch (another story, for another time) the committee eventually got it (mostly) right.
|The Induction Dinner
Three hundred people enthusiastically attended the ceremony/dinner at the Bridgewater Manor.
The dinner portion of the evening began with the inductees walking into the room led by a bagpiper. A slideshow, displayed on four large screens, ran for a good portion of the night.
In that slideshow, each inductee had several photos and highlights of their career were listed. Jim Gano served as the emcee – doing an excellent job.
|The first inductee was appropriately the late A.J. Trosi who was the school’s first athletic director.
Carl Weigner did the induction telling how A.J. was quite a character who always drove his Cadillac across the ballfields with his ever-present cigar in his mouth.
Carl passed out a few cigars in A.J.’s honor.
|Each inductee (or family representative if deceased) spoke.
The main theme expressed was how much they enjoyed their playing days at the high school and how grateful they were to be chosen for the Hall of Fame.
The trophy awarded to the winner of the
Thanksgiving Day game managed to avoid the
dumpster back in the 1990s and was on display.
||Nancy Shoolbraid, of the 1976 State Championship Girls’ Basketball Team, spoke about how they broke barriers.
She pointed out that they were an aggressive, tough team which was not socially acceptable for “girls” back then. But it is acceptable today.
She said later about the dinner: “For a few short hours we got to relive our Glory Days! I had forgotten how much fun we had together in those 4 short years of high school.”
Barbara Withers, co-captain of the team said "I absolutely loved the event. It was so good to see some of my teammates and Coach Koperwatts. Brought back many fond memories. Was great to see Mrs. Gano and especially Coach John Gara who helped me tremendously with my game. Made me feel very proud. "
|Barbara Withers and Nancy Shoolbraid|
||Eric Murdock was inducted twice. First as an individual and then as a member of the ‘87 Championship Basketball Team.
Eric told how he was raised by his grandmother after the tragic death of his mother when he was just a baby. He then introduced his 95-year-old grandmother. She received the biggest ovation of the night.
Afterward Eric summed up the evening: “Bridgewater organized an amazing event. It was awesome to see and catch up with so many people. To be a part of Bridgewater’s first inducted class is an honor and a privilege.”
|Gerry Stapleton, wife of Vaughn Stapleton, wrote to the committee afterwards:
“I want to especially thank you for Vaughn being recognized. His devotion to the high school and the basketball program was undeniably special. The evening seemed like a huge family reunion. It was so special that both high schools were finally recognized for their outstanding athletic achievements.”
||Mike Grosso, who was inducted both as an individual and for the 1965 basketball team, said
"I can't tell you how complementary & gracious everyone was. It is appreciated more than they will ever know!"
|The humorous line of the night was delivered by 1965 basketball player Andy Martin.
His team was one of two boys’ basketball teams inducted at the dinner.
Andy spoke for his team and concluded his remarks by addressing the other (1987) basketball team saying,
“taking nothing away from you guys, but we would have kicked your ass.”
|It was an amazing night.
Old memorabilia was on display, handshakes and old stories were abound, and hundreds of pictures were taken.
||Carl Weigner, longtime athletic director at B/R High School, said that the dinner brought together our community -
both East and West.
He pointed out that the overall tone of the speakers reinforced that. The once rival schools had bonded into one.
|Hall of Fame plaques, which were on display at the dinner, will now be mounted in the hallway at the high school.
Thus, the Bridgewater/Raritan High School Athletic Achievement from 1959-1992, once ignored at the school, will now be proudly and permanently on display.
|Here is the inaugural class of inductees to the
Bridgewater-Raritan High School Athletic Hall of Fame
Michael Grosso – Boy’s Basketball
Otto Gsell – Football, Wrestling, and Baseball
Mark Barrett - Track and Football (East)
George Herr - Football (East)
Tom Roushey - Track and Football (West)
Joe Fisher - Men's Basketball coach
Steve Havran- Football (East)
Barbara Withers - Girls’ Basketball (East)
Kathy Schreyer - Gymnastics (East)
Bruce Hennemuth - Football (East)
Ernie Van Ness - Wrestling (West)
Glenn Snape – Boys’ Basketball (West)
1980s - 1991
Derek Capanna - Wrestling (East)
Kelly Schwertfeger - Softball (East)
Eric Murdock – Boys’ Basketball (West)
Lance Miller – Boys’ Basketball (West)
Barbara Levonaitis – Girls’ Basketball (West)
1965 Boys’ Basketball
1969 East Football
1976 East Girls’ Basketball
1987 West Boys’ Basketball
George Greiner – Football (East)
Gwen Gano – Field Hockey (East)
Vaughn Stapleton - Boys Basketball (West)
Alice Yohn- Field Hockey and Softball (West)
Joe Porcaro - East
AJ Troisi – West
|Old Articles from "The Breeze" about B/R High School Sports|
A. J. Troisi|
First Athletic Director
Bridgewater-Raritan High School
Athletic Hall of Fame
A Great Coach and More
In 1974 B/R High School|
EAST Football Team Won
the State Championship
50th Reunion |
B/R High School
Bridgewater-Raritan High School's|
1st Girl's State Championship Team
1976 "EAST" Basketball
The Thanksgiving Day
Football Games Between
East and West
1989 was B/R
High School's only
The Early Years of
Bridgewater / Raritan
High School Sports
The Forgotten Decades of
High School Sports
The 1987 Bridgewater-Raritan
High School West
Bridgewater/Raritan H.S. |
1st State Championship Team
The 1965 Boys Basketball Team
Breeze Jun 2012
Forgotten Dynasty of|
H. S. Football
Breeze - Jan 2012