Official State Chapter of the National Wrestling Hall of Fame
Seven to be inducted into Connecticut Chapter in 2022
Seven outstanding individuals from the state’s wrestling community have been selected for induction into the Connecticut Chapter of the National Wrestling Hall of Fame.
The Connecticut Chapter of the National Wrestling Hall of Fame will hold an induction dinner on April 30, 2022 at Foxwoods Resort Casino to honor these men and women for their contributions to the sport of wrestling and our communities. The seven are:
• Ben Aleks, former high school coach in Connecticut and western Massachusetts and wrestling benefactor
• Drew Black, head coach at Wesleyan University
• Mike Cunningham, head coach at Xavier High in Middletown
• Dr. Erich Doubek, long-time tournament organizer, historian and supporter of the New Milford Wrestling Association
• Sarah Jadach, chair of the Connecticut chapter of USA Wrestling
• The late Frank Kapral, wrestling coach at Coast Guard, an official and author
• Bryan McCarty, head coach at Platt High in Meriden
All seven will receive a Lifetime Service award for coaches, officials, or contributors with at least 20 years of service.
They will be permanently recognized in the National Wrestling Hall of Fame (Stillwater, Oklahoma) with an embossed name plaque, and each receives a plaque and jacket to commemorate this special occasion. These seven will join 44 other inductees in the Connecticut Chapter of the National Wrestling Hall of Fame.
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Ben Aleks: Ben has been involved in wrestling for nearly 60 years. He wrestled at Cathedral High in Springfield and finished second at the National YMCA championships in 1967. Ben was the head coach at Cathedral High in Springfield, Mass., for nine years (1969-78) and ran a youth wrestling program at the Springfield YMCA in the early 1970s. He was named head coach at Fermi High in Enfield (1983-94). In the 1985, the Falcons were second in Class LL and in 1987, Fermi was second at the State Open. Since leaving as head coach, he has been a volunteer assistant at Fermi and Enfield High and contributed greatly to the construction of a dedicated wrestling practice facility for the Enfield High wrestling program. It was officially dedicated in December 2019 as the Ben Aleks Wrestling Center. One former athlete called Ben a “tremendous beacon of positive energy.” In 2016, Ben was inducted into the Enfield Athletic Hall of Fame.
Drew Black: In 2021, Drew Black begins his 23rd year as the head coach at Wesleyan University and an associate professor of physical education. A two-time New England Wrestling Association (NEWA) Coach of the year, Drew has the most wins (211) of any wrestling coach in school history. Wesleyan won the NEWA championship in 2012 and finished the season ranked No. 11 nationally in Division III. In January 2020, Drew was inducted in the NEWA Wrestling Hall of Fame. Under Drew, Wesleyan has qualified wrestlers for the NCAA Division III national championships in 13 of the last 15 years. The Cardinals have had four All-American wrestlers under Drew, including three since 2018 – Devon Carrillo, Isaiah Bellamy and Marco Gaita. The team has earned team Scholar All-America status for 20 consecutive years and has had 35 wrestlers receiving the prestigious Scholar All-American award a total of 46 times in Drew’s coaching tenure. Drew was the head wrestling coach at Phoenix College (Ariz.) for three seasons (1995-98). In 1998, Phoenix College finished No. 6 in the National Junior College Athletic Association (NJCCA) final rankings and 11-3 overall. One of his wrestlers won a national title, while another finished third.
Mike Cunningham: Since graduating from Springfield College, Mike has been coaching for 26 years at the high school and collegiate level. He spent four years at Wesleyan including one year as head coach of the Cardinal. He was the head wrestling coach at Rocky Hill for four seasons (1998-2002) and has been at Xavier since 2002. Under Mike’s leadership, the Falcons have won nine Southern Connecticut Conference (SCC) titles, three state championships (2011, 2012, 2020) and a State Open title in 2012. Both his sons, Tyler and Colin, wrestled under Mike at Xavier and are among more than 30 wrestlers to win individual state championships. At Xavier, Mike has also been head coach of the boys lacrosse and boys soccer coach programs. In 2019, Mike was named the recipient of the Theodore Ryken award for commitment to Xavier. Mike will join his father, Jim, a long-time coach at Holy Cross in Waterbury, in the Connecticut Chapter of the National Wrestling Hall of Fame. Jim was inducted in 2010.
Dr. Erich Doubek: Commonly known as Doc, Erich has helped provide opportunities for students to participate in the sport for years. He served as the meet director for 80 tournaments, including the Western Connecticut Conference (WCC), Southwest Conference (SWC), Western New England Independent School Wrestling Association (WNEISWA) championship tournaments and New Milford’s annual tournament, one of the longest running tournaments in the state (35 years). In 1998, he and his wife, Neen, were co-founders of the New Milford Wrestling Association, with Erich serving as president from 1998 through 2003. He has served as treasurer from 2014 to present. He organized a fundraising golf tournament for the youth wrestling organization from 1999 through 2004. Erich is New Milford’s wrestling historian and has been documenting the achievements of the program for years. Since 2009, Erich has served as vice president and treasurer of the Connecticut Chapter of the National Wrestling Hall of Fame. He is also a member of the Board of Directors of Connecticut Wrestling, Inc.
Sarah Jadach: For more than 20 years, Sarah has been part of USA Wrestling Connecticut, providing thousands of boys and girls, as young as age 5, with an opportunity to wrestle and grow. She joined USA Wrestling Connecticut in 1999 as the membership director, became vice chair and in 2009 was named chair of the organization. She is the first woman to be named a state chair in USA Wrestling in Connecticut and is one of just four women in the nation currently serving as state chair. In 2015, she was named the State Chairperson of the Year by USA Wrestling. Since 2005, Sarah has been coordinating and overseeing the participation of the Connecticut team at the USA Wrestling Cadet, Junior and Freestyle national tournaments each July in Fargo, North Dakota. Since 1995, she has been the director and coach of the Derby Renegades youth wrestling program and has been a volunteer assistant coach with the Derby High wrestling team and her father, Buster, since 1990. Buster Jadach was inducted into the Connecticut Chapter of the National Wrestling Hall of Fame in 2010.
Frank Kapral: The late Captain Frank S. Kapral supported wrestling throughout his life as a coach, official, author and organizer. Frank was the wrestling coach at the U.S. Coast Guard Academy in New London for seven years (1960-66). Under his leadership, Coast Guard finished in the top five in New England five times, taking second in 1960. He had wrestlers qualify for the NCAA Division I tournament five times from 1960-66. He was appointed to the NCAA Wrestling Rules Committee for New England in 1962. Frank also helped wrestling blossom in eastern Connecticut and in the state. He founded the Coast Guard’s Small Fry wrestling program in the 1960s for boys ages 4-18 and began the state’s first Pee-Wee wrestling league. That interest helped spark varsity wrestling programs in many eastern Connecticut schools. Frank also served as commissioner of the Southern Connecticut Interscholastic Wrestling Officials’ Association for nearly 25 years before retiring in 1984. Frank wrote two textbooks, including the Coach’s Illustrated Guide to Championship Wrestling in 1964. Frank passed away in March 2020 at the age of 91.
Bryan McCarty: Bryan McCarty began coaching at his alma mater, Platt High in Meriden in the 1990-91 season. After one season on the mat as an assistant, McCarty took over the reigns as head coach. At the time of his hiring, he was believed to be the youngest head coach in America (18 years old). McCarty, who was awarded the Coach of the Year award in 2012 from the Connecticut High School Coaches Association, has led the Panthers to 491 dual meet wins, which is No. 5 on state’s career win list in wrestling. Through his 30-year career, Bryan’s wrestlers have earned several national awards. Two wrestlers have been named National High School Coaches Association (NHSCA) All Americans, eight have been recognized as NHSCA Academic All Americans and Luis Murillo was named Connecticut’s Dave Shultz award winner in 2002. Besides coaching, McCarty has served as the Connecticut editor of Wrestling USA Magazine, All State banquet chairman and the Central Connecticut Conference (CCC) wrestling advisor to the athletic directors. A Special Education teacher in the Meriden school system, Bryan was named Platt High Teacher of the Year in 2017.
Published January 11, 2021 by the Connecticut Chapter of the National Wrestling Hall of Fame
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