Last Sunday, the local sports legends of East Ramapo High School gathered together at the Mahwah Double Tree Inn to be honored as the first-ever inductees into the school’s newly established Hall of Fame. Two coaches, 11 athletes, and one team were all officially inducted into the Ramapo Hall of Fame during an event that commemorated the very best in Ramapo athletics. The honorees, several of them state champions, were chosen by an online poll conducted on the “Rockland’s Greatest” Facebook page created by local business owner Andre Chiavelli to chronicle Rockland sports history. Alumni also posted thousands of pictures, articles and comments all related to Ramapo athletics.
The first honoree was Chuck Scarpulla, a former Ramapo football coach who also worked at Sleepy Hollow High School before retiring two years ago. Like several of his fellow honorees, Scarpulla started his career at Ramapo within the first few years of the school’s founding in 1967. The coach was surprised and delighted to be told that the East Ramapo’s recently renovated football field had been renamed in his honor.
Next to speak were several former student athletes. Two-time state champion runner Debbie Grant admitted to the crowd that despite competing in NCAA championships and Olympic trials, the most stress she ever felt before a race was during a high school track meet between Ramapo and North Rockland. Grant, who was, for the first time in her career, anchoring the relay race between the schools, noted that her opponent chased her down “like a bat out of hell” when the several second lead her coach promised her failed to appear. The former runner smiled as she told the assembly that that race was the first time Ramapo had managed to outpace their rival.
Soccer star Tom Mulroy took the podium after one of his former coaches tossed him a soccer ball and asked him to perform some tricks for the audience. Balancing the ball on his head for several seconds, Mulroy thanked the crowd and his coaches “without whom I would I have had no guidance.” Mulroy shared several stories from his career, including the time he was tasked with defending against Pelé, back when the international soccer legend was playing for the New York Cosmos. The Brazilin was so impressed with Mulroy’s defending that he gifted the Ramapo champion with one of his own jerseys.
Anthony Russo, the top scoring basketball player in Rockland County during his junior year, thanked his father for supporting him during his career, describing the man as his harshest critic and biggest fan. Fellow basketball star Kathy Dapolito fondly reminisced about her time at Ramapo, telling the crowd that she was a three-season athlete who “picked up her uniform in September and gave it back at the end of the year” having also played softball and tennis. Lynn and Jimmy Pinkston where also horned for their varied careers at Ramapo. Lynn was the 1976 PSAL player of the year, an all-county outfielder, pitcher, and a starting basketball and football player. Jimmy was an all-county competitor for both the football and track team and went on to play for the University of Miami. Bob Reekstin was honored for his time as a baseball, football, and basketball player and as an all-conference bowler. Reekstin stands as one of the only high school athletes in Ramapo history to pitch a no-hitter.
Coach Tom Canty and his three-state champion wrestlers approached the podium together to accept their awards. “A good coach can change a match, but a great coach can change a life,” said Steve Silverberg, the 1975 state champion, calling Canty “a great coach.” Coach Canty worked at Ramapo for 13 years, during which the team produced four state champions and 13 state place winners. The coach teased Silverberg, reminding the wrestler Canty would sarcastically ask him “which state are you the champion of?” in order to motivate Silverberg before he had earned his title. Silverberg also introduced his friend and teammate Joseph Goldsmith, the first-state champion in East Ramapo history, telling the audience that Goldsmith “used to bench press Volkswagens before moving on to Buicks.” The 1971 and 1972 champ thanked his fellow wrestlers and his coach, calling the team “mia famiglia” and professing that he couldn’t have won the championship without their support and dedication.
Jim Horvath spoke last after his coach introduced him as a tough contender who once was able to floor a rival wrestler only after he heard his opponent bad mouthing him. Horvath fondly recalled that he once came home from a night of partying to discover his wrestling coach waiting for him in his bedroom, ready to drag him out to a meet he hadn’t planned on attending.
Last to speak was Fred Bloom, coach of the 1976 Ramapo High School Baseball team. Bloom recalled to the crowd that his team had “nothing,” as budget cuts had left the players forced to drive to their own cars to matches and start collections every time they needed to buy a new bat. Bloom proudly boasted that he still has his one and only pay check from that year, which totaled 94 cents, as the Ramapo budget was unable to cover the salary for a full-time baseball coach.
The ceremony concluded with posthumous honor awarded to Tod Giles, an accomplished wrestler who was the second alternate on the 1996 U.S. Olympic wrestling team. The honor was accepted by Tod’s brother Ross, who described Tod as a wonderful role model and a dedicated competitor.