The Middletown Sports Hall of Fame, created in the early 1990s to recognize and honor those who made lasting marks and contributions in athletics in and/or outside the city, inducted its 30th class on April 21.

Pictured that day in the group photo — front row from left: Shea Dwyer; Paul Kostacopoulos; Cullen Guilmartin; Audry Longo; Holly Modlesky-Behm; and Mary Marshall, who represented her son, Kerry; back row from left: Len Orlacchio; John Bysiewicz; John Kostacopoulos, who represented his father, Peter; John Gecewicz; and Michael Cunningham.

The undefeated 2005 Xavier High School football team, winner of the CIAC Class LL championship, and the 1942-47 Middletown Giants semi-pro baseball teams also were inducted.

The biographies below appeared in the program distributed at the induction ceremony.

JOHN GECEWICZ

John was known for his scoring prowess and leadership with Vinal Tech’s basketball team at the end of the 1970s. He was a three-year starter and three-time captain for the Hawks.

John was selected to the Middlesex County All-Star Team after his sophomore, junior and senior seasons. He was a top-five scorer in Middlesex County and county all-star as a sophomore and junior in 1978 and ’79, respectively, and honorable mention All-State in 1979.

In his senior season of 1979-80 with the Hawks, John was Middlesex County’s second-leading scorer, averaging more than 20 points per game and topped the 1,000-point mark for his career. He was recognized as a Middlesex County All-Star, Class S All-State Second Team, and Honorable Mention All-State.

John also was a three-year starter for Vinal Tech’s baseball team. His versatility was on display in his senior season in 1980 as a pitcher, shortstop and first baseman.

John was recruited by San Diego Mesa College to play basketball, with the intention of later playing at San Diego State — until the day a GQ executive spotted him playing beach volleyball. John eventually signed a contract and embarked on a modeling career and made a turn on Broadway.

LEN ORLACCHIO

Len attended Middletown High School and was one of the best javelin throwers in Connecticut in his junior and senior seasons.

Len was a member of the  1980  Class M state championship team his senior season and threw the javelin 189 feet, 6 inches. In the State Open that followed, he was one of the favorites. Although he finished second, his throw of 192 feet, 4 inches, established a new school record.

Len received all-conference recognition as a sophomore, junior and senior for his javelin distances.

A top sprinter as well with the Tigers, Len ran with Al Marshall, Gary Green and Steve Winborne as a member of the 4×100 relay team. The Tigers carved the school record in the event with a time of 43.5 seconds.

Len also was a standout football player for Middletown, playing quarterback and tailback. He lettered each of his four seasons with the Tigers and was all-conference his final two years.

Len went on to throw the javelin at the University of New Haven. He qualified for the New England track and field championships as a freshman in 1981. His personal-best throw as a college competitor was 205 feet.

KERRY L. MARSHALL (posthumous)

Nicknamed “Special K,” Kerry is being recognized posthumously as an outstanding all-around athlete in football, basketball, and track and field.

He attended Woodrow Wilson High School for his freshman year. With football, he had the special distinction of experiencing the Middletown-Wilson rivalry as both a Wildcat and a Tiger.

At Middletown High, Kerry was a captain with the 1976 Tigers team. His best game in a Tigers uniform came against Gilbert when he rushed for 360 yards and scored five touchdowns. Kerry was twice named All-Northwest Conference in football and finished his career surpassing the 1,000-yard mark.

Kerry was a member of the 1976 Class M state champion basketball team.

With the track and field team, Kerry was a standout competitor as a jumper and sprinter. Coach Craig Lundell credited him as a major contributor to elevating the program to championship status. The Tigers won the 1977 Class M state championship in his senior season, with Kerry establishing a school record in the high jump at 6 feet, 4½ inches.

Kerry attended UConn from 1977-79 on a football scholarship. His moments in the sun on the football field including a rushing touchdown against Navy in his freshman season. He said it was one of the proudest moments of his athletic career. He later attended the University of Louisiana-Lafayette and Jackson State in Mississippi.

CULLEN GUILMARTIN

Cullen made his mark with Middletown High’s outdoor track and field program during the Blue Dragons’ dynastic run in the late 1990s. In that period, Middletown won all of its dual meets and two state championships.

In his senior season, Cullen was part of Middletown’s elite 4×400 relay team alongside Greg White, Nick Tucci and Jason Coleman. The 1999 team was dominant. The Dragons won the Class MM championship in a record time of 3 minutes, 24.21 seconds.

The 4×400 team went on to the State Open and did even better, winning the championship in 3:22.45. Middletown completed the triple crown of titles when it captured the New England championship in a time of 3 minutes, 20 seconds.

Cullen also competed with the 4×800 relay team with Tucci, Jack Soares and Dave Osborne. The Middletown team captured the 1999 Class MM championship and Cullen’s relay team was first with a meet-record time of 8 minutes, 24.78 seconds

Additionally, Cullen played baseball and soccer at Middletown. He was captain of the 1998 Blue Dragons and went on to play the sport at Johns Hopkins University. The Blue Jays were nationally ranked in Division III during his time and won a Centennial Conference championship in 2000.

SHEA DWYER

Shea was a standout two-way football player at Xavier High School who later went on to great success in Wesleyan University’s backfield.

Shea factored on both sides of the ball for Xavier in his junior season of 2004 and senior season with the undefeated and state champion 2005 team. It has been said that Shea would have been the featured running back on any other team had the Falcons not been led by All-State performer Amari Spievey during this time.

On offense for the 2005 team, Shea rushed for 503 yards and six touchdowns, averaging 6.3 yards per carry. His toughness knew no bounds. With Amari sidelined by injury, Shea rushed for 68 yards and a touchdown with his hand in a cast in a Week 1 win against Hand. He rushed for 106 yards and three scores in a Week 10 win over Middletown. And in the Falcons’ Class LL championship game win over Southington, he rushed for 128 yards and a touchdown on 16 carries.

On the defensive side, Shea had a nose for the ball and for the opposition’s quarterback. He was among Xavier’s top tacklers as a junior and senior. In addition to tackling, his senior season stats included seven sacks, seven QB pressures, three forced fumbles and one recovery, and one interception.

At Wesleyan, Shea broke out as a running back and set numerous records in the process: rushing yards in a season (1,242 in 8 games); rushing yards in a game (255 vs. Colby); rushing attempts in a season (218); and 100-yard rushing games in a season (7). Shea led the NESCAC in 2010 in rushing and ranked fourth nationally with a 155.25 per-game average.

AUDRY LONGO

Audry attended Mercy High School, where she was a four-year member of the golf team.

Audry played in the state championship tournament each year between 1998 and 2001. After graduating, she went on to play at Mount Holyoke College from 2002 to 2005.

With a well-rounded game, Audry competed in the Division III national championship tournament as a sophomore. She was a top 10 finisher twice – sixth in 2004 and seventh in 2005 – and a two-time Division III All American honoree.

In 2004, Audry qualified for the U.S. Women’s Amateur Championship. She later held conditional status on the Futures Tour (2006, ’07), the qualifying tour of the LPGA.

HOLLY MODLESKY-BEHM

Holly’s passion for sports grew out of the encouragement of her father, “Doc,” to play. Her participation began with Little League baseball in the 1970s. There were no teams for girls at that time, so she played with the boys. By the age of 12, she was an All-Star catcher. After Little League, Holly continued to play baseball as a teen in Middletown’s Ahern-Whalen League.

Holly attended Mercy High School, where she participated in field hockey and track and field (throwing the javelin and running the two-mile race).

She later attended Middletown High and continued to throw herself into athletics. In her sophomore, junior and senior years, she played on the Tigers’ volleyball team; started at point guard for the basketball team and was a top scorer; and flashed her versatility with the softball team as a pitcher, catcher and shortstop. Holly was a two-time Tigers captain and team MVP in softball.

After high school, Holly went into the United States Army, playing for its in-service softball team. She called it a “huge honor” to travel and compete against other elite athletes who represented the Air Force, Navy, Marines and Coast Guard.

When Holly wasn’t playing for the in-service softball team, she played with the Fort Bragg Army Base team until completing her service. She spent the next three years as coach of the Fort Bragg team and remained connected to the sport as a coach, player and umpire.

JOHN BYSIEWICZ

John, who grew up in Middletown, was an outstanding distance runner in cross country and track for the Middletown High Tigers in the late 1970s. He was part of MHS’ Class M state championship teams in track and field in 1978 and 1979.

John went on to further his running career at UConn, where he competed during the cross country, indoor and outdoor track seasons for four years. He had a distinguished career, culminating with a stellar senior year when he earned All-New England distinction in cross country, and All-Big East honors in the 10,000 meters.

After his time in Storrs, John jumped into the road racing circuit and continued to flourish. He won USATF championships in the 10-mile run, half-marathon and 12K. It is believed that John won more than 100 races in the 1980s alone.

After earning an MBA from William & Mary in 1989, John combined his passion for running and business acumen to form the road-race management company JB Sports in Branford.

In the decades since, JB Sports is widely regarded throughout New England. With John’s steady leadership, the company has coordinated nearly 1,000 events and raised nearly $50 million for charitable organizations.

Over time, John transitioned from running to competing as a triathlete. While training on his bike in the fall of 2023, John was struck by a motorist. The accident cost him his left leg. After numerous surgeries and extensive rehabilitation, John returning to swimming and biking. He has inspired many with his courage and determination.

MIKE CUNNINGHAM

For over 20 years, Mike has forged a remarkable career as Xavier’s wrestling coach, winning a host of championships and molding young men in the positive culture he’s built along the way.

Mike’s 2023-24 Falcons team finished No. 1 in the state poll, marking the third consecutive year that Xavier finished atop the rankings.

Through the 2024 winter season, Xavier has won 12 Southern Connecticut Conference championships, six class titles and four State Open championships. In the 2024 conference, Class L and state tournaments, Xavier shattered each record for total points.

In the New England championships, Xavier finished second to Ponaganset, Rhode Island. Seven Falcons placed, with two (Raekwon Shabazz at 113 pounds and Charles Weidman at 215 pounds) winning championships in their weight classes.

Mike has said that, more than producing champions, “I’ve got to give it to all the guys who came through these programs who bought into the culture that wrestling can make you a better person. I’m happy when the kid who has never touched the mat before wins his first match. That’s what keeps me going.”

Mike was recognized nationally in 2022 with his induction into the Connecticut chapter of the National Wrestling Hall of Fame.

PETER KOSTACOPOULOS (posthumous)

“Kosty” was a 1957 graduate of the University of Maine, where he was a superlative athlete in football, basketball and baseball. He earned All-Maine Conference distinction in football and basketball.

Following a stretch as head football coach at Bowdoin, Pete arrived at Wesleyan University, where he achieved great success across multiple sports and remained for the rest of his career.

Pete served as the Cardinals’ head baseball coach for 28 seasons, taking over for Norm Daniels in 1974. He was an assistant football coach and defensive coordinator from 1968 to 1986; and for several years he coached the squash team, becoming the first two-time winner (1991, ’92) of the national Conroy Cup coaching award in 1991 and 1992.

Pete’s tenure with the Cardinals’ baseball program was truly special. He is Wesleyan’s all-time winningest coach — 478-304-7, .610 winning percentage – and was twice named NCAA Coach of the Year (1983, 1994).

Under Pete, Wesleyan won 11 Little Three titles. The ‘94 team produced the greatest season of any team when it reached the Division III College World Series and went all the way to the championship final. The Cardinals lost to Wisconsin-Oshkosh and finished 30-8. That season, Pete was selected to coach in the Division III All-Star Game at Fenway Park.

Pete was known as a great recruiter and motivator, and a master of baseball and football game planning. He was a member of Wesleyan’s physical education faculty for 33 years, retiring in 2001. He mentored student-athletes on and off the field. In his honor, Wesleyan established the Kosty Award, given annually to a baseball alum who strongly supports the program.

PAUL KOSTACOPOULOS

“Kosty” grew up on baseball in Middletown, after his father relocated the family from Maine to become head baseball coach at Wesleyan. Paul was an outstanding infielder for both Xavier High School and the Middletown American Legion Post 75 team in the early 1980s.

Paul went on to play at Providence College for four years, establishing himself with his defense and baseball IQ. He was the Friars’ captain and defensive player of the year as a senior in 1987 and batted .260 for his career.

Once his playing days were over, Paul became a Friars assistant for two years. In 1990, he became the youngest Division I head coach in the country at age 25. By his third season, the Friars were Big East champions. In 1995, Providence won 44 games, including a record 16 Big East wins. In seven seasons under Paul, the Friars were 220-137-2.

In 1997, Paul took over a struggling University of Maine program and guided it to new heights. He won America East Coach of the Year honors after the Black Bears won 16 conference games. In 2001 he won the award for a third time. The following season, Maine notched its first 40-win season since 1991 and reached the NCAA regionals.

After leading the Black Bears to a 284-195 record and two NCAA tournament berths, Paul began a wildly successful 18-year run at Navy. His teams won at least 30 games 10 times. The 2016 Midshipmen won 43 games, the most of any Navy athletic team. Paul retired after the 2023 season with a 523-373-5 record, the academy’s second-winningest head coach in any sport. He won a total of 1,027 games in his 34-year career.

2005 XAVIER HIGH SCHOOL FOOTBALL TEAM

The 2005 Falcons, coached by Sean Marinan, won the school’s first state football championship in the CIAC playoff era, which started in 1976. Before state champions were decided on the field, the 1974 Falcons were considered state champs after being voted No. 1 in the state sports writers’ poll following their perfect season.

The ‘05 team had six All-State players in running back Amari Spievey, linebackers Mike Campbell and Chevar Rankins, defensive back Alondre Rush, defensive lineman Lewis Bower, and kicker Stephen Faulkner. Xavier also had tremendous depth on its roster. As key players got hurt and missed time during the course of the season, Marinan filled the holes and the Falcons kept on cruising.

Captained by Justin Bazzano and Coree Moses, Xavier opened its schedule with a road win over third-ranked Hand. Victories followed against Hamden, Amity and Guilford. Xavier shut out Fairfield Prep and Jonathan Law in back-to-back weeks, and then held Notre Dame of West Haven to just a touchdown in a 41-7 win that catapulted the Falcons to No. 1 in the state poll.

After beating Shelton for its eighth victory, Xavier shut out fourth-ranked West Haven in front of 4,000 fans at Palmer Field – the fourth shutout of the season for the team’s vaunted defense. A 44-19 Thanksgiving win over Middletown, its sixth straight versus the Blue Dragons, sent Xavier into the Class LL playoffs at 10-0 and still No. 1 in the polls.

Against Trumbull in the semifinals, the defense wagged its collected fingers after allowing a first-drive touchdown and shut out the Eagles the rest of the way.

Four days later, Xavier dismantled top-seeded and unbeaten Southington with three touchdowns in the game’s first five minutes. A 39-14 lead at halftime became a 45-30 victory. Spievey rushed for 166 yards and three touchdowns; Shea Dwyer rushed for 130 yards and one score; and Campbell rushed for 85 yards and two TDs.

1942-47 MIDDLETOWN GIANTS BASEBALL TEAMS

Across a six-year period beginning in 1942, the Middletown Giants won the Middlesex County League championship ever year. The league recognized the team with the best regular-season record over 21 games as its champion.

The Giants won a total of four outright championships and shared two more.

The 1947 team managed by Joe Tripp won its first nine games. In a key midseason doubleheader that catapulted them to a 17-3 season, the Giants swept Higganum by scores 4-2 and 3-1. The Giants won the championship by four games over Old Saybrook.

Members of the final championship club of 1947 included Jimmy Wallett, John Satagaj, Leo Bravakis, Earl Baker, Paul “Frosty” Francis, Johnny Nolan, John “Kelly” Carta, Joe Witkowski, Ray Flynn, Joe “Piney” Laczak, Bobby Rand and Ted “Lefty” Mrozowski.

The eight-team Middlesex County League played on Sunday afternoons between May and September during and through the years of World War II, with special emphasis on Memorial Day, the Fourth of July and Labor Day.

Teams representing Deep River, Higganum, Portland, Essex, Moodus, East Hampton and Old Saybrook made up the league. The Giants played their home games at Pat Kidney Field, then known as Municipal Field.

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