BY JAMIE KEMPTON
A pro football player, national-champion wrestler, Olympic official and near-Olympian soccer player headline this year’s class of inductees in the Rockland County Sports Hall of Fame. The 39th annual induction dinner is set for Sunday, April 29, starting 5 p.m., at the Pearl River Elks Club in Nanuet.
The roster of inductees includes Tom McTaggart of Suffern, John Diffley of Albertus Magnus, Marcel Cooper of Nyack, Dennis O’Sullivan of North Rockland, Dawn Sugrue of Ramapo, Victor Veltidi of Pearl River and Dan O’Sullivan of Albertus Magnus, who is being inducted posthumously.
McTaggart, Suffern class of 1965, is a globally renowned race starter in track & field who officiated at two Olympics – 1984 in Los Angeles and 1996 in Atlanta – as well as many other major events such as the Penn Relays, Goodwill Games and Millrose Games. He also is a top-rated wrestling official who has refereed at the high school, college, national and international levels, mirroring his track officiating. McTaggart also coached the Suffern girls track and cross country teams for more than 20 years and directed the Mounties to numerous Rockland County team championships.
Cooper, a 1988 Nyack graduate, was New York State champion at 126 pounds in 1988, Section 1’s first state champ in 12 years. He won 64 of 65 matches his junior and senior years and capturing Outstanding Wrestler honors at the County meet both years. Beyond high school, he was U.S. national champion twice in the Greco-Roman division and placed third in the U.S. Olympic Team Trials twice, finishing as second alternate to the Olympic team in 2000 and 2004. He also won the U.S. Team Trials in 2001 for qualify for, and compete in, the World Championships in Egypt.
Diffley, Albertus Magnus class of 1985, is one of the finest soccer players produced in Rockland. He was a first-team All-New York State and Parade High School All-America selection, the first Rockland soccer player to be so named. As a freshman starter at American University, he played in the longest game in NCAA history – a 1-0 loss to UCLA in eight overtimes in the 1985 national championship game. After college, Diffley made 26 appearances for the U.S. national team and was one of four alternates on the 22-member U.S. Olympic soccer team in the 1988 Seoul Olympics.
O’Sullivan, a 1994 graduate of North Rockland, was a team leader and key player on the Raiders’ state championship football and baseball teams and an All-County thrower in track. In football he played on three sectional title teams and was Section 1 lineman of the year twice, first-team All-State and winner of the Junior Heisman Award. At Tulane University he co-captained his team to a 13-0 season and a No. 7 national ranking, and was male student-athlete of the year in 1998. He went on to play five years in the NFL as an offensive and defensive lineman, primarily with the New York Jets.
Sugrue, Ramapo class of 1991, earned first-team All-County honors in soccer, basketball and track and captained all three teams. In soccer she was fall athlete of the season and an All-County goalie. In basketball she scored 900-plus career points, and in track she was a six-time county champion in the shot put, discus and javelin and was girls MVP at the 1990 County meet. At Dominican College she scored 1,239 career points in basketball and ranks among the school’s top 10 scorers and top six rebounders. She also starred in goal for the soccer team and was inducted into the Dominican Hall of Fame in 2004.
Veltidi, a Nanuet native and 1948 graduate of Pearl River, was a two-time All-County end in football and the second-leading scorer in the Rockland PSAL in 1947. He also was an All-County pitcher on the baseball team and a two-year starter in basketball. Veltidi played minor league baseball for two years in the Brooklyn Dodgers organization before military service in the Korean War ended his pro career. He later played for various teams in local basketball, baseball and softball leagues.
Sullivan, Albertus Magnus class of 1972, made first-team All-County twice in basketball, was a Daily News and Rockland-Orange All-Star, and became the third Rockland backcourt player to score 40 or more points in a game. He also lettered three years in baseball. At Dominican, Sullivan was a four-year starting guard and became the fourth Charger to reach 1,000 career points, finishing with more than 1,500. He is a member of both the Albertus and Dominican halls of fame. Sullivan died Oct. 31, 2011.
For event details visit the hall of fame’s website at www.rcshf.org.