Athletic Hall of Fame

B.J. ARMSTRONG ’85

Armstrong starred for Iowa’s basketball team in the late 80s and then spent 11 years in the National Basketball Association, including three with Chicago Bulls teams that won NBA Championships (1991-93). He still holds Brother Rice’s single-game scoring record (51 points), is a member of the Catholic League Hall of Fame and was an NBA All-Star in 1994.

AL FRACASSA

Fracassa has won more football games than any other high school coach in Michigan. A head coach for 53 years, 45 of them at Brother Rice, he has led Brother Rice to Nine State Championships and received numerous honors through the years, including the National High School Coach of the Year from the National Football League in 1997 and Michiganian of the Year in 2009 from the Detroit News. Fracassa, also taught history and physical education at Brother Rice from 1969-98 and coached baseball from 1970-82.

MIKE LODISH ’85

Lodish was All-State in both football and lacrosse at Brother Rice before moving on to a decorated career at UCLA. After college, he spent a 11-year career in the National Football League, including two with the Super Bowl champion Denver Broncos. Lodish has appeared in more Super Bowls (six, including four with the Buffalo Bills) than any player in NFL history.

BILL NORTON

The school’s winningest basketball coach, Norton is one of the most well-respected names in Michigan high school basketball circles. His 1973-74 team won Brother Rice’s first State Championship, roughly seven months before Fracassa’s first State Title. Norton counts 323 wins with Brother Rice among his 456 career victories. He also served the school in many roles, including Athletic Director (1968-81), Dean of Students, Director of Development, Science and Health teacher and Head Football Coach (1968).

MIKE POPSON

Popson succeeded Norton as the school’s athletic director and held the position until his retirement in 2003. During his tenure, Popson presided over 35 of the 52 State Championships. In addition to 29 years as a biology teacher, Popson also served as Fracassa’s Offensive Line Coach and Track & Field Coach. In 2003, Popson was honored by the Catholic High School League as Athletic Director of the Year.

BOB STARK ’64

Stark is a member of the school’s first graduating class. After receiving his degree from the University of Notre Dame, he returned to Brother Rice in 1968 and has taught math and coached Cross Country and Track & Field since. Stark has been named Catholic High School League Man of the Year in 2006 and was the distinguished honoree at the Oakland Country Track Meet in 2008.

BRIAN BRENNAN ’80

Brennan was All-State in both football and baseketball at Brother Rice before moving on to a decorated career at Boston College where he still holds the record for most catches in a season with 66. While at BC he was awarded The Thomas F. Scanlan Memorial Trophy is an award given by the Boston College Varsity Club to the senior football player outstanding in scholarship, leadership, and athletic ability. After college, Brian was drafted in the 4th round by the Cleveland Brown where he spent an 8-year career in the National Football League including 7 with Browns where he had 315 catches (tied for fourth in club history) and 20 touchdowns.

JIM RADEMACHER

“Rads” as his golfers and students have known him is the school’s legendary golf coach.  Leading the Warrior Golf program from 1977-2000 his teams won 7 state titles in 1977, 1981, 1984, 1986, 1987, 1990 and 1998.  He is a 1999 inductee into the Michigan Interscholastic Golf Coaches Association’s Hall of Fame, a 1994 inductee into the Catholic League Hall of Fame.

PAT DAVEY ’74

Davey is the first individual state champion in school history capturing the 1973 Cross Country title.  He also was a member of the winning United State team at the World Junior Cross Country Championships in Monza Italy in 1974 where he placed 10th overall.  After being named a HS All-American in 1974 he went on to run at the University of Tennessee.  Davey held the Michigan State record for the two mile for 27 years with a time of 9:00.4 and still holds the Brother Rice record for the 3200-meter run with a time of 8:57.0.

ROB AMBROSE

Ambrose is the most dominant coach in the history of High School Sports in Michigan.  In 1983, Rob started the Brother Rice lacrosse program, going from 8-8 in his first year to 12-4 and a Midwest Tournament win in his second.  In the 21 years that Rob has coached Brother Rice, he has had 57 players be named All-American, won 16 Catholic titles, 16 State MHSAA/MSLA titles, 8 MSCLA Midwest titles and the 2008 Inside Lacrosse National Championship. Individually he was named national coach of the year in 2009 by US Lacrosse and is a 6 time Michigan Coach of the Year and 2012 inductee into the Michigan Chapter of the US Lacrosse Hall of Fame.

KEVIN HART ’74

As Tri-Captain of the 1974 State Championship football team and a member of the 1974 State Championship basketball team, Kevin was a leader of two of the most legendary teams in Brother Rice history.  Kevin was selected as All State and All American in football in 1974, he was also All-League in basketball in 1975.  He received a football scholarship to the University of Notre Dame where he was a three time letter winner and member of the 1977 National Championship team. Married to his wife of 33 years Martie and father of Brendan ‘00, Conor 11’ and Jenna, Kevin owns a successful architectural firm in Birmingham and is a 14 time Detroit Home Hour Magazine Design Award Winner.  Still a member of this community, Kevin coaches the Brother Rice Freshman football team.

PETE MITCHELL ’90

As a co-captain of the 1989 football team, Mitchell was a standout tight end for the Warriors. His team reached the Class A state semifinals.  He was also an All-League basketball player and member of the baseball team.  He received a football scholarship to Boston College where he earned first-team All-American honors as a junior in 1993. As a senior in 1994, he was recognized as a consensus first-team All-American, having been a first-team selection of the Associated Press, the Walter Camp Foundation, Football Writers Association of America, Scripps-Howard, and The Sporting News.  A fourth round selection of the Miami Dolphins in the 1995 draft, Mitchell was traded to the Jacksonville Jaguars where he started his NFL career.  In eight-seasons, Mitchell played in 114 regular season games, started 63 of them, and compiled 279 receptions for 2,885 yards and 15 touchdowns.  Retiring from the NFL in 2002, Mitchell has been a successful banker and now serves as a Senior Portfolio Specialist at Thornburg Investment Management in Florida where he lives with his wife Tamara and his children Skyler,  Sophia and Shepherd.

RON KALCZYNSKI

“Coach Kal” came to Brother Rice High School in 1973 as a teacher and coach. He led the Warrior baseball program to their first two state titles in 1992 and 94 and was the defensive coordinator for the football team for seven state championships.  He taught English, history and theology and also served as a guidance counselor.  The father of five, he and his wife Susan sent all four of their boys to Brother Rice and their daughter to Marian High School.  Although he has retired from Brother Rice and now spends his winters in Florida, Coach Kal returns every spring to help out with the baseball team and spend time with his grandchildren.

THE 1974 BASKETBALL TEAM

The 1973-74 basketball season at Brother Rice High School remains to this day, the single most successful season in program history. Led by Hall of Fame coach Bill Norton, the Warriors captured the basketball program’s first Catholic League Title, and the first MHSAA State Championship (this was also the first athletic state championship of the eventual 63 in school history).  Just as impressive as their accomplishments on the court, several team members have gone on to become leaders in business and government. The roster includes Jim MacGuidwin  the retired controller of AOL, Mike Bouchard the current Oakland County Sheriff, Michael Brielmaier, CFO of Ford’s China joint venture, Jiangling Motors Company (JMC) and Sam Washington Jr who runs the basketball and counseling programs at St Cecilia’s in Detroit.

THE 1974 FOOTBALL TEAM

The 1974 football team finished the season as the #1 ranked team in the state and was listed among the top 25 in the nation.  The team was selected by the Oakland Press as the greatest team in Oakland County history in a 2008 article.  This was Coach Fracassa’s first State Championship team and the title secured the school’s reputation as a perennial power in Michigan athletics as the school earned championships in both basketball and football in 1974.

GREG COLLINS ’71

Greg was a member of Coach Fracassa’s first team at Brother Rice in the fall of 1969.  In addition to that first, he was the first high school football All-American from Brother Rice, the first college All-American from Brother Rice and the first professional football player from Brother Rice.  In 1973, he helped the University of Notre Dame capture a National Championship and was named a captain the following season.  A year later, he was the 35th pick in the 2nd round of the NFL draft. He went on to play for the San Francisco 49ers, Seattle Seahawks, and the Buffalo Bills.  Currently, Greg lives in California and works as an actor appearing in movies, television shows, and commercials.

JON ENGLISH ’79

English was Brother Rice’s starting quarterback from his sophomore season in 1976 through his senior season in 1978.  His teams won two Catholic League Championships and a State Championship in 1977.  Jon was three-time Catholic all-league, two-time all-state and an All-American his senior year.  He accepted a scholarship to Michigan State University but finished a successful collegiate career at Tulane University.  As a Track & Field athlete, English scored in the State Championship as a junior and a senior.  In 1979, he finished third in the state in the high jump after jumping 6 feet 11 inches, which is still a school record, and would be good enough to win the state title in all but three years over the last 40 years.  In 1979, English was named Most Outstanding Athlete for his accomplishments in track & field and football.

DAVID LYNN ’01

Lynn is the best tennis player ever to walk the halls of Brother Rice. He played #1 singles all four years, appearing in four straight State Final Championships, winning #1 singles his junior and senior years and winning four straight Catholic League individual championships.  His individual titles include four years All Catholic, four-year All-District and 4-year 1st team All-State. At graduation, he held the most wins in state history at #1 singles with a record of 120-3. As a member of the Rice tennis team, Brother Rice captured four straight team Catholic High School League Championships and four straight Division I State Championships, an unprecedented accomplishment by any tennis team before or since.  Foregoing a shot at professional tennis, he attended the University of Pennsylvania where he played one year at #2 and three years at #1 singles. He earned All-Ivy League 3 seasons and was a 2-year captain both at Rice and Penn. After receiving his degree from the Wharton School of Business, he went on to earn an MBA from the London School of Business.

D.J. LEMAHIEU ’07

LeMahieu is the first Major League Baseball player to graduate from Brother Rice High School.  His career high school batting average is .459 with 201 hits.  In his senior year, he hit .574 with 8 home runs, 16 doubles, 7 triples, 70 runs, 32 RBI’s and 39 stolen bases.  He was named an Aflac All-American his junior year, the Louisville Slugger Player of the Year for the State of Michigan and a two-time Gatorade Player of the Year.  In 2009, he led the LSU Tigers to the NCAA National Championship and was named to the 2009 College World Series All-Tournament Team.  After a successful collegiate career, he has found success at the Major League Baseball level.  He made his MLB debut with the Chicago Cubs on May 30, 2011.  In 2014, his first year as a full-time starter, he was awarded the National League Second Baseman Gold Glove Award while playing for the Colorado Rockies.  His career batting average is .276 with 9 home runs and 96 RBI’s.

 

KEVIN SMITH ’77

As a three-year varsity letter winner in basketball, Smith was known as a fierce competitor.  He was named to the All-State, All-Catholic and All-Area teams as a junior.  During his senior year, he was named co-captain and averaged 24.5 points, 7 assists and 3 steals per game.  He is the 5th all-time leading scorer at Brother Rice and holds the second highest individual game record in school history with 47 points against Alpena on December 28, 1976. He was named a McDonald’s and Parade All-American along with being named First Team and co-captain of the All-State team. The 6 foot 2 Smith was known to excel in pressure situations and made several last second shots to win games. He led Brother Rice to the Class A state final where he sunk a last second shot to force the game to overtime against Lansing Everett. Though Brother Rice lost in overtime, “the shot” is considered one of the most famous plays in Michigan High School Basketball history and is still remembered by coaches, sports writers and fans. Kevin received his degree from Michigan State University and was drafted by the Detroit Pistons in 1982. He was signed by the CBA’s Detroit Spirits and led them to a championship in 1983.

 

DAVE YAREMA ’82

In the 1980 football season, Yarema led the Warriors to a 12-0 record and the school’s 3rd State Championship.  He threw for 1,489 yards, 23 touchdowns and 92 completions.  These numbers included an individual game record of 280 passing yards against Sterling Heights Stevenson on November 8, 1980 and four touchdown passes verses Catholic Central a week later on November 15.  He was named to the All-Central Division, All-Catholic and All-State teams.  In 1981, Brother Rice dropped the opening game to Youngstown Cardinal Mooney 16-13 at the Pontiac Silverdome, before they would reel off eight straight wins to finish the season 8-1.  Were it not for the old playoff-point system, it seems as though Brother Rice was destined to repeat as State Champions.  Yarema’s passing attack gave the Warriors an ideal alternative to the running game.  In nine games his senior year, he finished the season with 1,115 passing yards, averaging 123.8 passing yards per game, and was named to the All-Central, All-Catholic, All-State and All-American teams.  He finished his career with a 27-4 record, 3,032 passing yards, 40 passing touchdowns, 194 completions and a 53.3% overall completion percentage.  Yarema accepted a football scholarship to Michigan State University.  Yarema ended his Spartan career with 5,809 yards and 44 TD passes (source: Lansing State Journal).  In 2012, iSportsWeb.com ranked Yarema as one of the 10 best Quarterbacks in MSU history.

 

DEREK MOSCOVIC ’92

As a sophomore in 1990, Moscovic was an individual state champion in the 112 weight class, helping Brother Rice capture the Catholic League title for the first time in school history.  In Derek’s junior year, he repeated as a state champion in the 112 weight category helping the team to a second place finish in the Catholic League Championships.  By Derek’s senior year, he moved up a weight class and competed in the 119 weight category, but the results were the same and he captured his third straight individual state championship, a feat no other wrestler in school history has ever accomplished.  Moscovic’s overall individual high school record was an impeccable 197-8.  He was a three-time state champion, two-time regional champion and a two-time district champion.  These prep accomplishments included an All-American Asics Honorable Mention, a USA Wrestling All-American Honorable Mention and a Dapper Dan USA Team All-Star Member.  Highschoolsportsscene.com rated the top 100 high school wrestlers of all time in the state of Michigan and Moscovic was the only wrestler from Brother Rice on that list.  Derek attended Indiana University where he was a 4-year Varsity letter winner, All Big Ten place winner and a two-time NCAA qualifier in 1996 and 1997.

 

MATT PARRISH ’98

During Parrish’s freshman year in 1995, Matt was a state champion in the 200 medley relay, 100 backstroke and 400 freestyle relay and finished 5th place in the 100 butterfly as the team captured the school’s second team state championship.  The following year, he was a state champion in the 200 medley relay, 200 freestyle relay, 400 freestyle relay and the 100 butterfly and helped win the team’s third overall state championship.  In 1996, Parrish continued his dominance by taking home a third straight 200 medley relay, a second straight 200 freestyle relay, the 100 backstroke and finished second in the 100 butterfly.  The team captured their fourth overall state championship and third in three years upon Parrish’s arrival.  As a senior in 1998, Matt concluded his high school career with individual state championships in the 100 backstroke and 100 butterfly as well as the 200 medley relay and 400 freestyle relay.  The team captured the school’s fifth overall team state championship and fourth straight for Matt.  Furthermore, Matt’s prep accomplishments include the following unprecedented achievements.  He was a 25 time high school All-American and won 14 of the possible 16 competitions at the State Championship meets throughout his high school tenure.  This included a 1996 National Championship in the 200 and 400 freestyle relay as well as the 200 medley and 200 freestyle relay National Championship in 1997.  He was also recognized by the National Interscholastic Swim Coaches Association, an organization which honors All-Americans, as a national top 8 individual for his top 5 finishes in the 100 backstroke and 100 butterfly.  Upon graduating from high school, Matt accepted an athletic scholarship to swim at the University of Tennessee.  He finished out his college career as a two-time All-American his junior and senior years.

DR. BRIAN HAINLINE ’74

Brian played four years on the varsity tennis team in the #1 singles spot, a feat unmatched at that time.  In his senior year, he led the Warriors to their first regional championship and the school’s first singles championship with remarkable precision from the first match to the last.  Upon graduation, he attended the University of Notre Dame where he continued to excel at the collegiate level playing the number one spot in both singles and doubles.  Currently, Hainline might be the most influential person in regards to changing the culture of sport for student-athletes.  Hainline is Chief Medical Officer of the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA). As the NCAA’s first Chief Medical Officer, Brian oversees the NCAA Sport Science Institute, a national center of excellence whose mission is to promote and develop safety, excellence, and wellness in college student-athletes, and to foster life-long physical and mental development. He co-authored Drugs and the Athlete, and played a pivotal role in the development of drug testing and education protocols worldwide.  He has served on the New York State Medical Advisory Board, the USOC Sports Medicine Committee, and was a founding member of the Executive Committee of the American Academy of Neurology Sports Neurology Section, where he serves as vice-chair. Brian has played a pivotal role in the development of health and safety standards in tennis, both nationally and internationally.  He is Chair of the International Tennis Federation Sport Science & Medicine Commission, and oversaw the rollout of International Wheelchair Tennis Competition, a sport for which he wrote the rules of eligibility for both para- and quad-tennis. Brian is Clinical Professor of Neurology at New York University Langone School of Medicine and Indiana University School of Medicine.

THE 1977 STATE CHAMPIONSHIP FOOTBALL TEAM 

In 1977, the Michigan High School Athletic Association expanded the high school playoff system to a three-week format, involving the top two teams in each region with 32 teams participating.  The result: Brother Rice went 12-0 in the top division, Class A, and defeated Portage Central 17-7 in the state championship game. Coach Al Fracassa adequately nicknamed his defense that year, the “Termite Defense,” because they averaged only 163 lbs per player, and that included the defensive line.   The Warriors finished the season number one in the state and ranked seventh in the nation. After that magical season, Brother Rice began playing out of state opponents like Barberton Ohio and Cincinnati Moeller.   The team featured junior hall of fame quarterback Jon English ‘79, wide receiver Marty Martinez ’79 and sophomore hall of fame receiver, Brian Brennan ‘80.   The state championship game was played in the Pontiac Silverdome that year with an announced attendance of just over 25,000 fans. They were a team of overachievers with heart power as epitomized by 150 lb. linebacker, Tony Asher ’78, who is currently one of the nation’s top neurosurgeons. In that era, there were only four division classes and Brother Rice dominated the top class in undefeated fashion.

DAVE MORROW ’89

It could be argued that the game of lacrosse is indebted forever to Brother Rice alumnus, Dave Morrow ’89.  The speedy high school All-American captain helped the Warriors capture a state championship in 1988 followed by a state and mid-west championship in 1989.  A natural born leader, Morrow also served as captain of the hockey team and class president of the 1989 graduating class, while also serving as a committed National Honor Society member.

Back in the 1980’s and 90’s, the best lacrosse players in the nation came out of the east coast.  After graduation from high school, Morrow became the first Michigan player recruited to play lacrosse at Princeton University.  He would play in all 16 games his freshman year, as Princeton reached the NCAA tournament for the first time ever. He became a first-team All-Ivy and third-team All-American selection his sophomore year.  His junior year, in 1992, was a huge one by every possible definition.  Morrow became a first-team All-American defenseman and the Division I defenseman of the year, and Princeton won the first of its six current NCAA championships.  As a senior, Morrow was again first-team All-American and defenseman of the year as Princeton reached the Final Four, and he was honored as the Division I Player of the Year.  Adding to his long list of accomplishments, he was named to the 1995 NCAA Men’s Lacrosse Silver Anniversary Team which lists him as one of the top 100 players of all time and was a member of the Gold Medal winning USA Lacrosse teams in 1994 and 1998 before retiring from competitive lacrosse.  In 1992, Morrow founded “Warrior Sports.” The company name is derived from Morrow’s roots as a student-athlete in high school. Warrior started out as the first manufacturer of titanium lacrosse shafts, which revolutionized the game due to the stick’s weight and durability.  Dave went on to highlight the breakthrough shaft while playing in college. In 2004, Warrior was sold to New Balance and Morrow took over the position of President and CEO of their Warrior Division.

T.J. LANG ’05

In high school, T.J. Lang ’05 started on both the offensive and defensive lines. During his senior year, he accumulated 59 tackles, 8.5 sacks and one fumble recovery on the defensive side of the ball.  Later that year, Lang accepted a scholarship to attend Eastern Michigan University where he made an immediate impact.  As a freshman in 2005, Lang played in all 11 games as a defensive lineman, recording 11 tackles. The next year, the coaching staff moved him to offensive tackle where he started all 36 games over the next three years.  In 2009, Lang was selected in the fourth round (109th overall) by the Green Bay Packers in the NFL Draft and on July 7, 2009, he signed a contract with the Packers.  Lang started his first game at left tackle against the Cleveland Browns due to an injury to Chad Clifton on October 23, 2009.  In the next season, the Packers played in Super Bowl XLV where they defeated the Pittsburgh Steelers 31-25.   On August 14, 2012, Lang signed a four-year contract extension with the Packers which included a signing bonus through 2016.  T.J. was named to the 2016 NFL Pro Bowl for the first time in his productive professional playing career.  On March 12, 2017, Lang signed a three-year contract with the Detroit Lions.

THE 2008 NATIONAL & STATE CHAMPIONSHIP LACROSSE TEAM

The Brother Rice Warrior Lacrosse Program has been the State of Michigan’s best since its inception back in 1983.  The history of championship excellence includes three state championships in the 80’s, four in the 90’s, two more state titles in 2000 and 2001 followed by 15 straight state championships since 2003.  The program dominance also includes 10-plus mid-west championships and a national championship.  The 2008 Brother Rice Lacrosse Team became the first ever mid-west team to capture high school lacrosse’s National Championship when they were crowned with that honor in the early 2000’s.  The 2008 team was the only team that year in the STX/Inside Lacrosse Preseason Top 25 that went through their entire season without a loss and were rightfully crowned the 2008 STX/Inside Lacrosse National Champions.  The team was led by All Americans Graham Adams ‘08 (attack), Nick Dolik ‘09 (Attack), Joe Fontanessi ’08 (midfield), Mike Hamilton ‘08 (midfield), Danny Henneghan ‘09 (midfield) and T.J. Yost ‘09 (goalie).  Mike Hamilton also added State Player of the Year and Midwest Player of the Year honors to the team’s historic season.  Their roster turned out 11 Division I commitments from the team’s junior and senior classes, and their average margin of victory exceeded 11 goals per game.  To put this more clearly, the Warriors outscored their opponents 105-18 in the state playoffs that year leaving no doubt they were one of the best teams this program has ever seen.

PAUL JOKISCH ’82

Paul Jokisch ‘82 was a two-sport Parade All-American and first-team All-State athlete in football and basketball. During his senior season, he won the Michigan blue chip award in basketball. A few years after he graduated, the Catholic League recognized Jokisch as their Athlete of the Year award winner in 1987. He scored over 1,000 points during his high school basketball career and 112 points throughout his football career. He finished his football career with 18 touchdown receptions, 72 pass receptions, 1,454 yards receiving and averaged 20.2 yards per reception.  The 6’8″, 240-pound Jokisch teamed up with Dave Yarema ‘82 to form one of the most imposing pitch-and-catch duos in state history. The two combined on a 38-yard touchdown pass for the only points in the 1980 Class A state title game, where Brother Rice defeated Dearborn Fordson 6-0. Jokisch was the No. 1 recruit in 1981 and went on to a career as both a basketball and a football player for the Wolverines.  At Michigan, Jokisch started twenty-one games from 1984 to 1986. He played flanker in 1984 and then switched to split end for the last two years of his career. During his playing years, Paul caught a lot of passes from current Head Coach Jim Harbaugh. He caught fifty-eight balls for 1,088 yards and six touchdowns and averaged 18.8 yards per catch for his career. Paul’s longest touchdown catch was a 67-yarder that he hauled in during a 31-7 win at Minnesota in 1984. Paul’s best game took place against Illinois in 1985. He caught six passes for 130 yards against in a game that ended in a 3-3 tie. In 1987, the San Francisco 49ers selected Paul Jokisch in the 5th round with the 134th pick in the NFL Draft.

STEVE MORRISON ’90

As a senior, Steve Morrison ‘90 was a co-captain for the 1989 football team that reached the state semi-finals. He earned All-State Dream Team and All-Midwest honors after excelling at fullback, linebacker, and punter for the Warriors. A talented lacrosse player, Morrison also earned All-State and Midwest honors as a junior attackman for the State and Midwest Championship team. Following graduation in 1990, he accepted a football scholarship to the University of Michigan where he would become a rare, 5-year letter winner, having started as a true freshman linebacker before being lost for the season due to injury. As a senior, Morrison earned All-Big Ten honors, was a semi-finalist for the Butkus Award (given annually to the nation’s best linebacker) and was elected co-captain by his teammates.  As a Wolverine, he ranks tenth all-time in total tackles (360), holds the record for most tackles in a game at Michigan (23) and has the most career interceptions by a linebacker (8). An undrafted free agent, Morrison played four seasons in the NFL with the Indianapolis Colts (95-98) where he played in 68 games with 31 starts. The Colts would make the playoffs twice during Morrison’s tenure, including making it to the AFC Championship game during the 1995-96 season.  In total, Morrison played in or coached in 11 bowl games, including 4 Rose Bowls.

COACH FR. RON RICHARDS

He was 30 years old and nervous, never having been a head swimming coach, knowing he was taking over a Brother Rice program where parents, and his bosses, expected excellence. Ron Richards and his Warriors team lost their first dual meet that season, in 1992, to the state’s No. 1-ranked Class B team, Milan High. And then it began – a tsunami of swimming victories that during his six seasons as head coach carried Richards’ teams to an astounding dual-meet record that almost defies belief: 116 victories, a lone defeat to Milan, and one tie. Included in that remarkable six-year run were five consecutive state championships and three national No. 1 rankings as Brother Rice High School became one of the most extraordinary prep success stories in state and national history.

The coach, who is now Fr. Ron Richards, never competed in a single event during those years. But he directed. He inspired. He appealed. He talked not about winning — never about winning — but rather implored his swimmers to be “men of character” and that if they cared about their teammates and about being quality young men, “winning takes cares of itself.” For these achievements in grooming men and athletes, Fr. Ron Richards is being inducted into the Brother Rice Sports Hall of Fame.

A stunning era of competitive dominance by Brother Rice was even more improbable because of where the Warriors had been. The team had finished 27th at the previous season’s state championship meet after scoring all of three points. A mere eight swimmers were returning to the ’92-93 squad. A dozen more were joining the team, all freshmen. The Warriors that season won the Catholic League championship, beginning a streak that continued until 2018. They finished fourth in the state meet after having placed 27th a year earlier. And they featured a state champion in Ken Ehlen ‘93. A year later, the triumphs continued: A victory at the Oakland County meet, which would be repeated the final four years of Richards’ time as coach. The Warriors won the Catholic League, easily, and after being down 12 points to Ann Arbor Pioneer in the state finals, Brother Rice had its first state title, winning by seven points.

Brother Rice was the first and remains the only, private school to win the state’s top division, all as the Warriors were ranked 12th nationally.  It was the same story from ’94-98: State titles each year, as well as Oakland County and Catholic League titles. Three consecutive No. 1 national rankings followed a top-five ranking in ’94-95. And then Ron Richards decided a calling beyond teaching and coaching had summoned him to the seminary to begin studies for the priesthood. It was not coincidental, perhaps, that a telling distinction marked Richards’ time as coach at Brother Rice. His swimmers never referred to him as “Coach Richards.” It was always “Mr. Richards.” A man who never talked about winning, but rather urged young men to excel as athletes and as men, was instead referred to with a more casual honorific that explained their relationship with him was built on respect, trust, and friendship.  He had shown them the same, of course: respect for the individuals they were, with an added belief that they, collectively, by way of humility and devotion to one another, could achieve in exceptional ways.

These were traits his athletic director, Mike Popson, who likewise is a Brother Rice Hall of Famer, foresaw when Popson named him head coach. A man Richards admired deeply and eternally sensed there was stewardship in a coach and teacher he wanted at the helm of the swim program.  There were credibility challenges initially, one being his own self-doubt, but more the uncertainty of a handful of parents, a revelation later made to Richards by Brother Gremley, who then was principal. But the doubts faded with each passing week and season as the Brother Rice community came to realize its swim team was in deft hands.

The philosophy was different, beautifully different. It was something Rob Ambrose, likewise a Hall of Famer, the Warriors’ new lacrosse coach, came to understand one day in the cafeteria when he asked Richards how Brother Rice’s swim team was able to win so many state titles. Richards repeated his coaching mantra: Do not talk about winning. Talk instead about being there for each other, devoted to the objective of growing in character and service to each other, to Brother Rice, and to the world-at-large. Victories would follow in whatever fashion they came. A greater mission would be the greater triumph. In that spirit, Brother Rice is happy to celebrate the years Ron Richards offered as coach, as mentor, as example, and as a priest in Christ’s service.

1996 NATIONAL AND STATE CHAMPIONSHIP SWIMMING AND DIVING TEAM

The 1995-96 Swim Team went into that season as heavy favorites for the state title. At the beginning of the season, the team made it a goal to set two national records, one in the 200 Free Relay and the other in the 400 Free Relay. Though that was not the main focus of the team, it was certainly believed to be a real possibility. As the Warriors went into the season, it was challenging to find competition in a dual meet. The team’s main rival, Ann Arbor Pioneer, would not schedule a meet against the Warriors because, in the words of their coach, they knew there was no way they could beat Rice and he did not want his team to be demoralized.

In the fall of ’95, the Warriors received a call from a private school in Pennsylvania, one of the top swim programs in the nation, to schedule a four-way meet with the top swimming schools in the country. This was the first clear sign, to the Warriors, that they were more than just a regular team. They were now being regarded as one of the top programs in the country. Unfortunately, the meet was to take place at the University of Pittsburgh, and due to MHSAA rules, the location fell 50 miles outside the radius as to how far a team from Michigan could travel for competition. Therefore the team could not attend the meet.

Still looking for competition, the Warriors scheduled a meet with the number one program in Ohio, Toledo St. Francis. The team traveled to Toledo for the dual meet, and though close, they still won the meet handily. It was yet a second sign to the Warriors of how good they were.  As the Warriors approached the State Championships, the team still had a goal of setting two national records, in the 200 and 400 Free Relays. The swimmers of both of those two relays were Karl Pawlewicz ‘98 (sophomore), Matt Parrish ‘98 (sophomore), Brian Swinteck ‘96 (senior), and Mario Scussel ‘97 (junior). As the State Championships drew near, the team was thrown a curve ball. Some of the members of the team were stricken with illness. Specifically, Matt Parish, Mario Scussel, and Brett Holcomb ‘97 all became sick and on the verge of pneumonia.

Even with illness, at that State Championship, the Warriors swam out of their heads, from top to bottom, winning the meet by 102 points. The Warriors took first place in 5 of 12 events, setting state records in both the 200 Free Relay and 400 Free Relay. The 200 Free Relay, with a time of 1:22.80, achieved their goal of setting a national record that stood firm until 2009.  As the All-Americans came out that year, the Warriors claimed 10 individual All-Americans out of 9 individual events. Along with this, all three relays claimed All-American Honors as well, with the 200 Free Relay and 400 Free Relay taking the number one spot in the nation.  After everything was tallied up at the end of the season, the ‘96 Warriors became the first sports program in the history of Brother Rice High School to be crowned the number one team in the nation.

1997 NATIONAL AND STATE CHAMPIONSHIP SWIMMING AND DIVING TEAM

Warriors were yet again a dominate force in both the state and nation. The team, as always, was focused on being the best it could be both in and out of the water. One of the unique things about the team in ‘97 was the senior class. It was the group of young men that were freshmen the year the Warriors won its first state title. These state championships also had a certain sense of Déjà vu (the team motto for the State Championships). As the Warriors would return to the site of that first state title, the University of Michigan.

As always, the Warriors were focused on many goals for the season, both team and personal. One of the team goals, during this season, was to set, yet again, another national record. This time in the 200 Medley Relay with the swimmers of Matt Parish ‘98 (junior), Nick Duda ‘98 (junior), Mario Scussel ‘97 (senior), and Karl Pawlewicz ‘98 (junior).   As their year progressed, the Warriors, as had been the case for the past few years, won both the Oakland County Championships and the Catholic League in dominating fashion. Then it was on to the State Championships to complete the season. At the meet, the Warriors once again dominated their competition, surpassing the second-place team by 54 pts. The Warriors were able to claim first place in 5 of 12 events. Scussel, taking first in both the 200 Freestyle and 100 Freestyle, was named swimmer of the year by the Michigan Interscholastic Swim Coaches Association. And the 200 Medley Relay team, whose goal it was to set a National Record just missed the mark by six one hundredths of a second.

As the All Americans came out, the ‘97 Warriors claimed 10 Individual All-Americans in 9 individual events and once again all three relays, 200 Medley Relay, 200 Free Relay, and 400 Free Relay claimed All-American honors. The 200 Medley Relay ended up as the number one relay in the nation. When all was said and done, the ’97 Warriors were able to claim their second National Championship in as many years.

1998 NATIONAL AND STATE CHAMPIONSHIP SWIMMING AND DIVING TEAM

The beginning of the 1997-98 season took on a very different feeling from all the years in the past. It was announced to the team, in fall of ‘97, that this would be the last season for their coach, Ron Richards. He announced that he would be leaving Brother Rice at the end of the academic year to enter the seminary in the fall of ‘98. With that news, it was hard to predict how the Warriors’ would respond to this challenge.

Alas, there should have been no doubt, the Warriors responded as men of character, the trade mark of being a part of the Brother Rice Swimming and Diving program. There had always been a true sense of family amongst the team each and every year, but somehow this sense of family seemed to grow even deeper and stronger in the ‘98 season.  With this sense of unity, the Warriors marched forward as they had done the past five years, taking no prisoners. They marched their way through the Oakland County Championship, the Catholic League Championship, both in dominating fashion. And finally, the State Championships which would take place at Eastern Michigan University.  The Warriors always seemed to rise to greater heights swimming in this pool. It was in this Natatorium, two years previously, that the Warriors set the National Record in the 200 Free Relay as well as claiming their first National Title.

The Warriors came into the State Championships driven and focused. There was no explicit goal to set a national record; these young men simply wanted to go into these State Championship solidifying their dominance in the sport.   And dominate they did. In this year, the ‘98 Warriors were able to qualify 21 of its swimmers in individual events. It was an unprecedented number of individual swimmers to qualify. Most swim programs in the state can barely field 20 young men on their team, let alone 21 at the State Championships.

Once the State Championships began, the Warriors once again swam out of their heads and completely dominated the State Finals. The Warriors won the meet by 100 points claiming 7 out of 12 first place medals. Matt Parrish took first place in both the 100 butterfly and 100 Backstroke in state record setting fashion. As a result, he was named swimmer of the year by the Michigan Interscholastic Swim Coaches Association. It was the second consecutive year the Warriors would claim the top swimmer in the state. Along with this, to the surprise of their coach Ron Richards, the 400 Free Relay team of Matt Parrish ‘98 (senior), Matt Kowalski ‘98 (senior), Aaron Lange ‘99 (junior), and Karl Pawlewicz ‘98 (senior), broke the state record Rice had set two years earlier.

At the end of the ‘98 season, the Warriors owned five state records, those being: all three relay records, the 200 Medley Relay, 200 Free Relay, and 400 Free Relay, as well as two individual records, the 100 Butterfly and 100 Backstroke. Meaning, the Warriors claimed 41.6 % of the overall records in Swimming and Diving.  When the time came for All-American and National Honors, the Warriors once again showed its prowess. The Warriors were able to tally up 13 Individual All-Americans out of 9 individual events. Once again, all three Relays took All-American Honors, with the 200 Free Relay and 400 Free Relay claiming the number two spot in the nation. Along with these individual honors, the Warriors Team, for the third year in a row, claimed the top spot in the national rankings.

On a national level, with the achievements of the Warriors over this time period, the team established itself as the single dominant force in high school swimming and diving. One could even say, with the dominance of the USA in the world of swimming, these Warriors, over a three-year period, could legitimately claim to have been one of the most dominate swim programs the world has ever known.