by Jim Riggs
February 18, 2014
Eight Is Enough
The 33rd annual Chautauqua Sports Hall of Fame induction dinner on Monday night had plenty of speakers, but it almost left the main speaker, Sharon Robinson, speechless.The daughter of baseball hall-of-famer Jackie Robinson was impressed with the sellout event at the Lakewood Rod & Gun Club that honored eight inductees.
“I had no idea what I was coming to tonight,” she said. “What a special night.”
In addition to the eight inductees being honored, there were also 30 of Chautauqua County’s top athletes and teams recognized for achieving national championships, All-American status, state championships, or all-state first team status in their respective sports. A majority of them were high school athletes.
“You’ve done this amazing job,” Robinson said to the CSHOF committee. “You’ve embraced the young people and you’ve embraced the older people. I’m so blessed to be a part of this.”
And referring to some of the inductees’ comments, she said, “I listened to you all and it kind of reminded me of my family.”
The first inductee to be honored and join the Hall of Fame was Vince Calarco, who graduated in 1942 from Westfield Central School where he earned 15 letters in football, basketball, baseball and track. He sponsored, played and coached basketball, football, softball and baseball teams for many years and later officiated and in 2006 received an IAABO award for 50 years of service as a basketball official.
Calarco was stunned to be honored by a crowd of 400 people.
“I want you to know you’re in my heart and you always will be,” he said.
The late Geza Farkas was born in Budapest, Hungary in 1932 and became interested in gymnastics as a boy and was eventually selected for the Hungarian Olympic team.
Farkas was 25th in all-around at the 1953 Oslo Olympics and was 15th in all-around at the 1956 Melbourne Olympics. He led Hungary to a bronze medal at Melbourne and refused to carry the Communist flag. After arriving in the United States in 1956, Farkas coached gymnastics at Kent State and later moved to Jamestown in 1960. In 1996, while coaching at the Lakewood YMCA, Farkas was chosen the YMCA National Coach of the Year.
His presenter, Chuck Jambliter, said, “I started coaching gymnastics because of him.”
Miki Farkas accepted his late father’s plaque and ring from CSHOF president Randy Anderson and said, “This is a very proud moment for my family and I.”
He added, “He was a great ambassador for the sport of gymnastics.”
Even though his father was born in Hungary and first lived in Ohio when he arrived in the United States, Miki said, “He was proud of this community and called it home.”
Jamestown native Dan Lunetta has been involved in two World Series as the director of minor league operations for the Detroit Tigers, but he said being inducted into his local hall of fame was just as special.
“I’ve just come to the realization of being inducted tonight is right up there with winning a World Series,” he said. “This is home. It always has been and always will be.”
Lunetta began his baseball career as a groundskeeper at College Stadium (now Diethrick Park) in 1979 and became general manager of the Jamestown Expos a year later. That began his administrative baseball career which is nearing 35 years. Along the way, Lunetta has served as the director of team travel for the Montreal Expos and Cincinnati Reds.
After serving a year as the general manager of the Rochester Red Wings in 1990, Lunetta joined the front office of the Florida Marlins in 1991 and served in various capacities, including director of minor league administration, farm director and director of baseball administration. Highlighting his tenure there was a World Series championship on 1997. In 2002, he became a special assistant to the general manager of the Montreal Expos.
Since 2003, he has been director of minor league operations for the Tigers.
“She’s put up with a lot,” Lunetta said. “I’m sharing this honor with you.”
But Jhoanna said, “I consider myself extremely blessed to be along for the ride.”
Silver Creek resident, Cindy Miller, didn’t take up golf until she was 15, but eventually became captain of the Miami (Fla.) University golf team that won national championships in 1977 and 1978. In 1978, she was selected as an All-American.
Miller, who won the 1978 New York State Amateur Tournament and the Lake Chabot Women’s Open on the Women’s Professional Golf Tour in 1979, played on the LPGA Tour from 1979-1981.
In 2010, Miller was named the LPGA Teacher of the Year and has been among the top teachers in 2001, 2005, 2007, 2008 and 2012.
She also participated in the Golf Channel’s Big Break III Ladies Only and Big Break VII the Reunion.
“I was a little shocked,” Miller said was her reaction to the news she was being inducted. “This is a miracle I’m up here.”
As for taking up golf, Miller said, “I started playing because I was starting to get chubby.”
She also noted, “I think I was trying to get away from something.”
Even now, as one of the top teaching professionals in the country, Miller is still trying to improve her own game. Miller has been asked when she knew she “had it” and her reply was, “I don’t know if I’ve ever had it.”
Inductee Al Muck, also from the North County, joked, “In one lesson, Cindy turned my lousy game into almost mediocre.”
But there were plenty of other games in which Muck excelled. The 1962 Forestville High School graduate was an outstanding athlete in baseball, basketball and football.
Muck credited his late brother, Jim, with a lot of his success.
“Jim never met a ball he didn’t like,” Muck said. “I thank him for passing on his love of sports to me.”
Muck signed a pro baseball contract with the Kansas City A’s and played in their minor league system from 1962 to 1965.
“Kansas City is where they played before they got good,” he said of the A’s.
Muck pitched competitively for the Jamestown Oldtimers, refereed hockey, basketball and football , and was a founding member of the Board of Directors of the Northern Chautauqua County Youth Hockey Association.
“They’re not just a bunch of old guys,” he said about the Oldtimers. “Our main purpose is to support youth baseball through contributions.”
The late Tom Prechtl was born in Dunkirk in 1935 and attended Fredonia Central School where he was a multi-year letter winner in basketball, football, track and baseball. He played basketball at Niagara University from 1954-57 where his teammates were Larry Costello, Hubie Brown and Frank Layden.
After college Prechtl played basketball in many leagues and on traveling teams. In addition to coaching at Panama Central School, Jamestown High School and Jamestown Community College, Prechtl taught elementary school in Chautauqua and Jamestown and volunteered countless hours of excavating experience to create playgrounds and athletic fields.
“Hard-working, passionate, caring and humble,” Mark Prechtl said was the way many described his father. “He used those traits as an athlete, coach, teacher, father, grandfather and friend. He set an example for those of us around him.”
He added, “He was a great communicator.”
And Mark noted that his father being tall didn’t hurt. “People listened to him,” he said.
Tom Priester was a 1958 graduate of North East (Pa.) High School where he participated in basketball and track. He played soccer at Slippery Rock, from where he graduated in 1962. He took a teaching position at Southwestern and also coached cross country, track and field, volleyball, bowling and tennis
“I think you’ve coached almost every sport at Southwestern,” said his presenter, Cal Cederquist, a past inductee, who was a member of Priester’s first track team at Southwestern.
“Once you respect your students, they will respect you,” Priester said was his philosophy for both teaching and coaching.
Priester has officiated national and international track and field meets, including the U.S. Olympic Trials. He also officiated high school track and field since 1974, has been a USATF official since 1985 and has received multiple awards for teaching, coaching and officiating excellence.
Priester praised his wife, Sue, for putting up with all his time away from home, first coaching and then officiating.
“I got the better, she got the worse,” he said referring to his wedding vows.
He said to his wife, “You got into the hall of fame with me tonight.”
The final inductee honored was Jack Wigley, a 1952 graduate of Southwestern where he was the salutatorian and performed superbly in football, basketball, baseball, track and field and volleyball. He still holds the Southwestern long jump record of 22 feet, 2 inches.
Childhood friend Roger MacTavish pointed out, “I always believed Jack was one of the best athletes to come out of Chautauqua County.”
In 1953, Jack signed a pro baseball contract with the New York Giants and played in their minor league system through 1955.
After a stint in the service, Jack attended UCLA and then coached at LaJolla Country Day School in the San Diego area, where he claimed four girls’ basketball conference championships, two boys’ basketball titles, two softball titles and a tennis title.
“I know Jack would appreciate it,” his wife Carolyn said about his induction.
And she noted a motto for the Wigleys was “a family that plays together, stays together.”
The 30 athletes and teams that were honored were introduced by banquet chairman Chip Johnson and they included:
Jake Sisson – Jamestown – football – First Team All-State Class AA
Stephen Carlson – Jamestown – football – First Team All-State Class AA
Tanner Hoose – Southwestern – football – First Team All-State Class C
Matt McCarthy – Fredonia – football – First Team All-State Class C
Hope Pietrocarlo – Maple Grove – cross country – NYS Class D champion, First Team All-State
Fredonia Central – baseball – NYS Class B champions
Nick Hart – Fredonia – baseball – NYS Class B Player of the Year
Vince Gullo – Fredonia – baseball – NYS Class B Coach of the Year
Tyler Swanson – Pine Valley – baseball – First Team All-State Class D
Frewsburg Central – softball – NYS Class C champions
Sam Mott – Frewsburg – softball – First Team All-State Class C
Jon Blanchard – Frewsburg – softball – NYS Class C Coach of the Year
Ryanne Dugan – Forestville – softball – First Team All-State Class D
Zed Williams – Silver Creek – basketball – First Team All-State Class C
Christina Walter – Maple Grove – track & field – NYS Division 2 champion 100 meters
Jordan Powers – Southwestern – track & field – All-American 17-18, 2000 m steeplechase
McKenna Maycock – Chautauqua Striders – track & field – All-American 15-16, Heptathlon & All-American 15-16, 400 m hurdles
Mackenzie Swartzman – Chautauqua Striders – track & field – All-American 13-14, 1500 m
Jamestown Lakers – hockey – NYS 18 & under champions
Jamestown Community College Women – swimming – NJCAA Academic Team of the Year
Drew Chaddock – JCC – golf – NJCAA All-American
Jake Yartz – JCC – golf – NJCAA All-American
Spencer Lefort – SUNY Fredonia – track & field – NCAA Division III All-American Heptathlon
Erin Kling – U of Pa at California – track & field – NCAA Division II – Academic All-American
Lauren Turner – Cornell – sailing – NCAA All-American
Dalton Becker – Cassadaga Valley – trapshooting – NYS Sub-junior Singles Champion
Tiffany Decker – Busti – trapshooting – NYS Lady 1 Doubles Champion, NYS Lady 1 All-Around Champion, NYS Lady 1 Handicap Champion, ATA All-American
Bill Petransky – Frewsburg – archery – IBO Masters Class World Champion
Bill Kiendl – Bemus Point – archery – IBO Senior Hunter Class Champion
Nick Kahanic – Falconer – Scottish Games – North American Champion, World Amateur Champion