Blue Angels among inductees to Hall of Fame

By KEVIN ROBERTS

STAFF WRITER

The Plainville Sports Hall of Fame will induct an amazing group of people during the 20th anniversary celebration on Oct. 6 at Nuchie’s Restaurant in Forestville.

One of the best stories of the Class of 2018 is the 1940s Blue Angels basketball teams. There were no female sports at the time, so the Blue Angels played at the intramural level. Hall of Fame Chairman Byron Treado III said at least eight of the Blue Angels are coming to the dinner.

“They were shocked when we started getting a hold of them,” Treado said.

The Blue Angels will be coming from as far away as Florida and South Carolina.

There is also an All-American female wrestler going into the hall as a member of the Class of 2018. Erin Soli, PHS Class of 2001, was so good on the mat that she earned All-American accolades not once, but twice. Soli was an All-American in 1999 and 2001, according to the Connecticut Wrestling Online website.

Soli needed to finish in the Top 12 at the U.S. Girls Wrestling Association national tournament to earn the All-American distinction, and she did so with flying colors in 2001 when she placed fourth. Soli was 11th in 1999, according to Connecticut Wrestling Online. She went on to wrestle for Missouri Valley College.

Larry Amara, PHS Class of 1964, went from football captain to principal to Board of Education chairman in nearby Bristol.

“Larry was a great athlete, then he went on to be an educator,” Treado said.

A common thread among Plainville Sports Hall of Famers is giving back to the community. Amara did so as an educator and on the Board of Education. Ken Gnazzo, this year’s Distinguished Service Award honoree, has done it as a businessman, sponsor and philanthropist. Gnazzo gave high school kids an opportunity to work for him at Gnazzo’s Food Center, his grocery store in town.

“Give me your schedule, we’ll work around it,” Gnazzo would tell the kids, according to Treado.

Gnazzo has directly or indirectly had an impact on hundreds, if not thousands, of Plainville High students, Treado said. He was one of the original sponsors in town and it didn’t matter what sport. Gnazzo is also a silent philanthropist for PHS sports, not wanting any kind of publicity for donations.

John Andros, PHS Class of 1995, became a special education teacher in his hometown. During his playing days with the Blue Devils, Andros was a feared hitter whom opposing pitchers could never seem to get out. Andros played in an incredible four straight state championship games with Plainville and won three state titles. He hit a ridiculous .559 as a senior in 1995. Andros, who also played football for the Blue Devils, went on to play baseball for Marist College in Poughkeepsie, N.Y., from 1996-1999.

Fellow PHS Class of 1995 graduate Scott Redman was the winning pitcher in the 1994 and 1995 state championship baseball games. Redman proved he was more than just a pitcher, however, with his prowess at the plate. He could launch the ball over the fence.

Speaking of clutch players, Jay Buckler, PHS Class of 1972, helped the Blue Devils to a huge football win over Southington.

“Jay was the MVP in the football game where Plainville finally beat Southington,” Treado said.

That game happened on the Saturday after Thanksgiving in 1971. The Blue Devils won 18-14 and snapped a 22-game losing streak against the Blue Knights. Buckler was a tight end and one of the favorite targets of quarterback Jeff Palmer. On defense, Buckler took up residence on the line as a defensive end. Treado said Buckler was also a tremendous basketball player.

James Graney, PHS Class of 1969, will be inducted posthumously. He was a terrific athlete in three different sports and earned nine varsity letters, three each in football, basketball and baseball. All Graney did in his senior year of 1968-1969 was captain all three teams, led football and basketball in scoring, and led baseball in batting average. Graney also played American Legion baseball in town.

Treado had a great description for inductee Nick Macellaro, who graduated PHS in 1999.

“Nick would be the every-ready bunny,” Treado said.

Macellaro put his great energy to use on the soccer pitch and especially on the baseball diamond. In baseball, Macellaro could pitch, he could hit, and he could play the field.

“He pitched a no-hitter in the state title game [in 1999],” Treado said.

Macellaro tossed his no-hitter against Nonnewaug and won 3-0 in the Class M state championship game at Yale Field. He went on to play for Central Connecticut State University and was selected for the All-Northeast Conference team in 2003 as a third baseman. CCSU won NEC tournament championships in 2002 and 2003, which gave them automatic berths in the NCAA Tournament.

The Hall of Fame will also induct the undefeated 1958 track and field team.

“An undefeated track team, and most of them will be at the dinner,” Treado said in amazement.

The 1958 track and field team, captained by “speed merchant” Ron Pavano, won the first of back-to-back Class M state championships. Plainville also won back-to-back titles in 1961 and 1962, but it all started with that undefeated team in 1958.

The Hall of Fame induction and 20th celebration festivities begin at 5:30 p.m. on Oct. 6 at Nuchie’s. For more information on the event and the Hall of Fame itself, go to www.plainvillesports.com

Comments? Email kroberts@SouthingtonObserver.com.