1st wave of inductees chosen for honor
Three legendary coaches and nine standout athletes representing a span of more than 80 years have been chosen as the New Milford High School Athletic Hall of Fame’s first class of inductees.
Joseph Wiser, a longtime coach and the school’s first athletic director, will be joined by legendary coaches Russell Devin (track, cross country) and Fran Zaloski (field hockey, basketball, softball and more) with enshrinement in the hall, which will be sited at the high school.
Athletes to represent the NMHSAHOF Class of 2017 are Fred Collins (’33), Howard “Pete” Pease (’62), Peter Squires (’70), Mary Schneider (’79), Laura Doria (’86), Jamie McCullough (’91), Jesse McCullough (’91), Rob Belville (’00) and Ashley O’Connor (’10).
Up to another dozen inductees are expected to be announced in the spring of 2018.
The first induction banquet will be held Oct. 28 at Fairview Farm Golf Course in Harwinton. Ticket information will be announced in coming days in local media and on the Athletic Hall of Fame website.
For more information and a more in-depth look at the Class of 2017 and more photos, visit nmhsahof.org.
The Class of 2017
From 1948 until 1980, Joseph Wiser guided interscholastic sports and the NMHS physical education program.
His six-man football, boys’ basketball and baseball teams combined to win four Housatonic Valley Schoolmen’s League titles as well as the 1962 Western Connecticut Conference baseball championship.
Under his direction, the Green Wave sports program grew from eight to 17 varsity teams, reflecting his desire to offer more girls’ teams and so-called minor sports. Added during his tenure were 11-man football, golf, boys’ soccer, softball, boys’ tennis, girls’ tennis, girls’ track & field, volleyball and wrestling.
Joseph Wiser died in 2000 at the age of 76. The outdoor athletic facilities at NMHS were dedicated that year as the Joseph Wiser Athletic Complex.
A longtime teacher and administrator at NMHS, Russell Devin coached boys’ cross country, indoor track & field and outdoor track & field during various tenures from 1953 to 1987.
Coach Devin was at the helm for the school’s first three state championships - 1959 boys’ indoor track & field, 1959 boys’ cross country and 1984 boys’ cross country.
His cross country teams built a 131-11-1 record over 16 seasons, winning 10 titles in the old Housatonic Valley Schoolmen’s League and Western Connecticut Conference, in addition to those two state championships.
Coach Devin’s outdoor track & field ledger was 168-40-1 for 28 seasons, including seven undefeated teams and 14 HVSL and WCC championships.
Among the countless athletes he coached who have gone on to collegiate success and, in some cases, coaching careers is fellow Class of 2017 inductee Peter Squires.
Coach Devin previously had earned national Coach of the Year in cross country in 1987 and has been inducted in the Connecticut High School Coaches Association and New Milford High School Halls of Fame.
Coach Devin died in 2012 at age 83. The NMHS track was dedicated in his honor when the school was opened in 2000.
Best known for her 34-year tenure as Green Wave field hockey coach, Fran Zaloski displayed remarkable versatility from 1959 to 1992 as physical education and health teacher and coach for various tenures of field hockey, softball, basketball, volleyball, track & field and cheerleading.
Her Green Wave field hockey teams owned a 245-97-51 record, won nine Western Connecticut Conference titles and reached the state tournament finals four times and the state semifinals three other times.
Numerous of her NMHS athletes have gone on to coaching careers, including current longtime Green Wave coach Dawn Hough.
“Mrs. Z” coached softball to a 97-27 record over 10 seasons, highlighted by two WCC titles and two trips to the state semifinals.
Her basketball teams posted an 82-24 record over eight seasons and won two WCC championships.
Her cumulative resume was 424-148-51 for those three sports, there are countless young women whose lives were the better for having been mentored by coach Zaloski.
A peerless baseball and basketball player during his era at NMHS, Fred Collins, Class of 1933, played a key role as his teams won Housatonic Valley Schoolmen’s League championships in all three of his varsity basketball seasons and all four varsity baseball seasons.
During Fred’s career, NMHS basketball posted a cumulative 44-8 record and advanced to the state tournament championship game in 1931, the state quarterfinals in 1932 and the state semifinals in 1933. He scored a then- school record 26 points during a 50-32 win over Bethel in his junior year.
Known as ‘Lefty,” Fred was even more dominant in baseball, wielding a potent bat while alternating between the pitching mound and first base for NMHS teams that built a 58-5-1 record for his four seasons. Among the highlights were his 10-0 pitching record in his junior year and clutch mound wins over Ridgefield and Newtown, respectively, to claim the 1932 and 1933 HVSL playoff crowns.
Fred went on to a Hall of Fame career in baseball and basketball at Providence College before embarking on a professional baseball career in the Yankee system that at one point had “Lefty” heralded as possibly the next Lou Gehrig.
Fred Collins died in 1986 at the age of 70.
Howard “Pete” Pease
A graceful athlete with exceptional leaping ability, competitive spirit and range of skills, Howard “Pete” Pease, Class of 1962, earned 11 varsity letters and was a record-setting Green Wave basketball player, gifted defensive baseball player who also swung a strong bat, and a talented indoor track & field athlete.
He could be best remembered for his 40-point explosion against Ridgefield during his senior basketball season, yet it was an unselfish game featuring tenacious defense, strong rebounding and passing skills which twice earned him all-Western Connecticut Conference recognition.
As a freshman, Pete Pease placed fourth in the high jump and contributed a leg on the 4 x 110-yard relay of fellow inductee coach Russell Devin’s Green Wave boys’ indoor track team to help capture the school’s first state title. Over his four-year track career, he also competed in the 60-yard dash, the 300 and 600, the long jump and on other relays.
He was most in his element on the baseball diamond, accumulating a career batting average for four full seasons of .359 and an on-base percentage over .500. Coached by another fellow inductee, Joseph Wiser, he brought superb defensive talent in centerfield and plenty of offensive pop to the lineup while helping the Green Wave post a 41-10 record for four seasons, good for two Housatonic Valley Schoolmen’s League titles and one WCC championship.
Generally recognized as the best in a long line of outstanding distance runners at NMHS, Peter Squires, Class of 1970, won Western Connecticut Conference individual cross country titles in his freshman, sophomore and junior years, and capped his harrier career with a state class ‘M’ title and state open silver medal in his junior season.
He led the Green Wave to WCC team championships each year before heading to Lyndon Institute in Vermont for his senior year to prep for a college running career.
In indoor track & field, he won the state mile title as a sophomore and state two-mile gold as a junior.
His bravura Green Wave outdoor track career was highlighted by numerous individual WCC titles, state mile titles as a freshman and sophomore and state two-mile laurels as a sophomore and junior.
Several years later, Peter Squires was an All-American runner for Manhattan College. He then went on to win many road races, including marathons, contend twice for a spot on the U.S. Olympic team, and dedicate his adult life to coaching young runners.
A multi-talented, three-sport athlete, Mary Schneider, Class of ’79, five times was voted all-Western Connecticut Conference in field hockey, basketball and softball.
After playing junior varsity field hockey in her freshman year, Mary proceeded to play an integral role for Green Wave varsity teams for 11 straight seasons, contributing mightily as her teams built a remarkable 126-56-5 record and proved a consistent WCC and state tournament contender in all three sports.
Among her career highlights were a game-winning goal to lift fellow inductee coach Fran Zaloski’s 1978 field hockey team over defending champion E.O. Smith in the state tournament semifinals; 627 points while playing point guard in basketball, a school record at the time; and a brilliant .533 batting average as a portside swinger who ably played catcher for three seasons and then pitched the Green Wave to the state semifinals as a senior.
By her graduation from NMHS, Mary Schneider had left a legacy as a smart, versatile athlete who seemed to find a way to win.
Laura Doria, Class of ’86, was a gifted standout for whom a strong case could be made she was the best field hockey and girls’ basketball player in Green Wave history. She didn’t settle on a spring sport, competing in softball, tennis and track & field, along the way demonstrating impressive potential in each.
In all, she won 10 varsity letters, was honored six times as all-WCC and as team MVP, and twice each in field hockey and basketball was state class ‘L’ all-state.
She scored more than 50 goals in field hockey, including two during a five-second span vs. Masuk as a sophomore and a breakaway goal as a senior to give the Green Wave a 1-0 win over Brookfield in the Western Connecticut Conference championship match. She also assisted pivotal goals in WCC playoff and state tournament games on several occasions as her teams posted a 54-9-5 record and twice won the WCC championship.
On the Green Wave hardcourt, Laura Doria averaged more than 20 points per game in her junior and senior years. She registered more than 400 points each of her final two years and finished her career with 1,068, to this day the Green Wave girls’ only 1,000-point scorer. Her individual high of 37 points in a game is another NMHS girls’ record.
As rival defenses plotted ways to slow her down, she became a more complete player as a senior, leading the girls to an unprecedented 17-5 season.
At his best on the Green Wave soccer pitch, Jamie McCullough, Class of 1991, also proved a vital cog on one of NMHS boys’ basketball’s historically best sides, and an important factor for consistently strong Green Wave boys’ track teams.
His career 36 goals and 32 assists reflect only a share of his value to the NMHS booters. A skilled midfielder and effective defensive force, he was three times an all-Western Connecticut Conference player and was voted the Green Wave’s MVP for his senior season.
In basketball, he teamed with his brother, Jesse, to spark a ball-hawking defense that oft-times translated to NMHS fast-break baskets. An all-WCC player for two seasons, he scored 829 career points, fourth best all-time at his graduation. He proved a clutch player for a team that won eight WCC playoff and state tournament games en route to 21-3 and 22-5 records, and trips to the state tournament semifinals in his junior year and the state finals as a senior.
Highlighting his track career at NMHS were a leg as a freshman on the Green Wave’s victorious 4 x 400-meter relay in the Western Connecticut Conference meet; individual WCC gold medals in the 100 meters and 800 meters as a junior, and legs on the Green Wave’s first-place quartets in the 4 x 100 and 4 x 400 as a senior.
A much-honored Green Wave soccer player, Jesse McCullough, Class of 1991, complemented his exploits on the NMHS pitch with a stellar basketball career and versatility as a sprinter for Green Wave track & field.
His 49 soccer goals and 26 assists earned the NMHS striker three years of all-Western Connecticut Conference recognition, two seasons as class ‘L’ all-state and finally an invitation to play in the prestigious Senior Bowl, representative of the best players in the state.
In tandem with his brother Jamie and several strong classmates, he wreaked defensive havoc on basketball rivals for three full seasons with the Green Wave, capping their efforts with a 21-3 junior campaign and a 22-5 senior year. The NMHS boys won eight post-season games on their way to the state semifinals and the state finals, respectively, in 1990 and ’91.
Jesse finished with 684 points, good for all-time Top 10 upon graduation.
On the track, he was a key component of numerous relays that won WCC gold medals and challenged for state laurels, and routinely turned in high finishes for the Green Wave in both the 200 and 400 meters.
Among the elite wrestlers in New Milford High School history, Rob Belville, Class of 2000, built a superb four-year record that still serves as a standard for the perennially strong NMHS grapplers.
Developing his skills as a freshman, Rob posted a 26-10 record. From that point on, he was infrequently beaten, posting yearly records of 42-5, 38-6 and 44-1 to finish with a remarkable 150-22 ledger.
Along the way, he was twice a weight-class champion in the New Milford tournament, two times won a gold medal at the South-West Conference tournament, and, as a senior 140-pounder, captured the state ‘L’ and state open titles, at both events earning “Best Wrestler’ accolades. He made a strong run at New England honors until a semifinal defeat, his sole loss of the season, forced him to settle for a third-place finish.
Rob Belville’s stature as an all-time Green Wave wrestler was reinforced when he went on to success in NCAA Division I competition while representing Sacred Heart University.
The best gymnast on the strongest team in Green Wave gymnastics history, Ashley O’Connor, Class of 2010, worked her magic for four straight seasons at the South-West Conference, state and New England levels.
She also ranked as one of the SWC’s best divers while competing for the Green Wave girls’ swimming and diving team, climaxing her efforts in that sport by qualifying for the state open meet, a program first.
It was in gymnastics that she truly carved her niche in NMHS sports annals, overcoming chronic knee ailments that limited her routines to win state titles three times on the uneven parallel bars, and adding state laurels twice on the balance beam and once apiece in floor exercise and all-around.
As a freshman, she won the New England uneven bars. As a junior, her state MVP effort ignited the Green Wave’s run to the state open title. She then captured the New England vault, uneven bars and all-around to be recognized as the region’s top gymnast.
Finally, as a senior surrounded by a strong supporting cast, she won the uneven bars and earned third place all-around to spark the Green Wave’s New England team championship performance.
Ashley O’Connor went on to compete for four seasons with the Yale University gymnastics team, her place secure in NMHS sports history.