Hall of Fame Inductees 2011
Plainville High School’s track coach from 1961-64, racking up a record of 48-2 in dual meets while winning three straight league titles, two Class M State titles and four consecutive indoor Class M track titles. His cross country teams were 44-1 and won the Class M State championship in 1962. One of his team members won the New England championship in 1962.
Was a key member of Plainville’s first state championship basketball team in 1958-59. The Blue Devils won the Class B title thanks in large part to Davis’ long-range shooting, who earned All-State recognition in his senior year. “I was fortunate because I played with John Gacek, Brian Brooks, Steve Vargo and Jim Tufts,” Davis says humbly. “I had a good year. A road win at East Haven, a perennial Class B power in that era, to break their 66-game home winning streak was one of Ted’s proudest moments. “I’ve had a lot of them and getting into the Hall of Fame is right up there with them,” he says.
Ted supplied rebounding as well as an uncanny ability to stretch a zone with his great outside shooting. Davis went on to play two years of basketball during his time in the Air Force. His unit won a Southwest District championship playing against area colleges, army bases and naval stations, but it was the championship season at PHS that will always be his most indelible memory. “It was a great year. I’ll never forget it,” Davis says. “It was a team effort, not about individuals. That’s what I am most proud about.”
Eric Misko can be anointed as the godfather of Plainville High wrestling. During his senior season, he became the first Blue Devil to win three straight Northwest Conference titles, the first to place in a State Open meet, the first to win at a CIAC meet and the first to qualify for the New England championships. He lettered in wrestling all four years, compiling a record of 97-15. He was a two-time state finalist and was team captain as a junior and senior. He was Most Outstanding Wrestler in the Northwest Conference in 1988 and 1990.
An experience late in his sophomore season ignited his love for wrestling when he met a returning state champion from Berlin in an NWC title bout. He was pushed around for most of the first two periods until he used a headlock and throw late in the second to put his foe on the brink of defeat. He couldn’t finish, but re-created his move in the third period to register the upset. “He was squirming and choking and I just squeezed and settled in as he flipped around trying to free himself,” Misko recalls. “He fought and fought, and I feared the period would run out on me again, but I just kept making that headlock tighter and trying to pin his shoulders down. Suddenly the referee hit the mat and called the pin. “I recall running across the mat and jumping into my coaches arms. I was hooked.” Misko burst into prominence as one of the state’s best wrestlers his senior year by taking the prestigious Bristol Central Invitational by storm. In winning a championship, he was also Most Outstanding Wrestler and won the Fastest Fall Award. Misko earned the Michael Hawksley Memorial Award and was the most outstanding Blue Devil wrestler in 1990.
The Plainville High baseball legacy hadn’t yet reached its golden years when Tom Borio came along and boosted the Blue Devils toward statewide recognition. He played three seasons for Hall of Fame coach Rob Freimuth. “It was fun for me to watch him evolve as a baseball player and as an athlete,” Freimuth says. “He was a big kid physically, but lacked strength. I told him he had to do 100 push-ups at practice and 100 at home each night. “He worked hard to improve his physical condition and turned into a bulldog who loved to compete.”
Borio, a three-time All-Northwest Conference third baseman/pitcher, had 20 hits as a sophomore for a league title team. As a junior when he went 5-2 with a 1.89 ERA. In his senior season, he was 6-3 with a 0.88 ERA, striking out 65 batters in 55 innings.
He was selected to the Connecticut High School Coaches Association All-Star Game and was the recipient of the Tom Gaudette Award as Plainville’s outstanding senior player.
Borio went on to a career at Western Connecticut State University that still lists him among the school’s all-time best pitchers. He went 17-7 with a 4.25 ERA from 1991-95. His winning percentage of .708 is third in school history. His 17 career wins tie him for second. He was drafted by the Seattle Mariners in 1990. “His attitude and work ethic led him to a very successful collegiate career and this led him to being offered a professional contract,” Freimuth says. “He certainly typifies Winston Churchill’s famous quote, ‘The price you pay for excellence is your own sweat.’”
Bill Biskupiak was a three-sport star playing football, basketball and baseball, but his love for baseball stood out. He played shortstop for the venerable and versatile coach Ted Knurek, who called him “the best prospect in five years,” after he rapped out five hits over three preseason games. He was a four-year starter and captained the 1957 squad under first-year coach Robert Proulx. He played semi-pro ball for the New Britain Falcons and was team captain. Bill also starred in basketball, putting in four years as a starter for Plainville and its legendary mentor Pat Riera. He was named the team’s Most Valuable Player as a senior. On the gridiron, Bill played tailback for Knurek over three seasons.
Competing in one varsity sport in college is challenging enough, but Bill played both baseball and basketball for Southern Connecticut State College. He graduated with a degree in Physical Education/Health and Recreation and earned his Master’s from the University of Hartford in elementary education. When his playing days were over, Bill continued to contribute to local athletics through coaching and officiating. He coached the PHS freshmen basketball team and the junior varsity baseball team as well as Rocky Hill’s varsity baseball in 1980. Bill officiated high school basketball from 1961-90 and slo-pitch softball in Wethersfield from 1963-85.
Amy Bisson Sykes
Vince Lombardi popularized the phrase that winning isn’t everything, it’s the only thing, but Amy Bisson Sykes is living proof that even the legendary Packers coach wasn’t always right. Amy vividly recalls small victories as a member of the Plainville High soccer team with great pleasure. Her greatest memory from her days as a Blue Devil was “going from an incredibly losing soccer team to making the state tournament my senior year”. “We ended up tying against New Britain to get in. I will never forget that game or that team. We had so much heart. It was fun to play and fun to be around. The girls all hung out outside of soccer. The seniors became big sisters to the younger players. We knew we weren’t going to win the state tournament. We just wanted to make it. We did, and I’ll never forget.”
Amy scored 33 career goals (15 as a senior) and 12 assists over four years of varsity play. She was All-Northwest Conference four times and All-NWC Academic twice.
But it was her prowess in softball that earned her two All-State plaques and a scholarship to American International College in Springfield. She was a catcher in a career that ended with trips to the Connecticut High School Coaches Association All-Star Game and the inaugural game between the best from Connecticut and Massachusetts. Amy played four years of softball at AIC as a catcher and second baseman. As a freshman, her team finished sixth in the nation. Amy went on to become a legend in the world of women’s professional duckpin bowling. She is the winningest female on the tour and was Bowler of the Year in 2010.
She appears in the independently produced documentary, “Duckpin,” which focuses on the life and history of the sport.
1961 Plainville High State Championship Basketball Team
As the 1960-61 season began to unfold, junior center Earle Jackson wasn’t convinced great results were on the horizon. Bill Lasher, the Blue Devils’ 6-foot-5 junior with a college career at Providence ahead of him, was injured early in the season. Newington and Simsbury appeared the teams to beat. But tenacity and unity joined hands under the guidance of coach Pat Riera. The Devils went 18-6 and went on to sweep away all competition to win the Class B state championship.
“Surprising as it may seem, 1961 was not thought to be a good year prior to the season,” Earle relates. “Bill Lasher was injured early in the season. We had lost at least once to three of the teams predicted to win. There was not an All-State player on that team, yet we won.”
The Devils began the season by dropping a 49-45 verdict to the alumni, games that were often included in teams’ records in those days. After a 12-point loss to James Memorial of Simsbury, the Devils rebounded to win eight straight before losing to Simsbury again.
Among the victories was a rare “sudden death” win over St. Thomas Aquinas when a shot by Hoyt sealed a 52-50 win. “We won using a slowdown game,” Jackson said. “If you look at the scores, we averaged (50.2, to the opponents’ 43.9) per game. It was a very controlled game. Other teams may feel panicked, but we were so well-conditioned that we’d run a play until we found an opening. It may have taken us 30 or 40 seconds. The scores reflect that kind of play.” Plainville was seeded sixth in the tournament. The first hurdle was Newington, which the Devils had split with during the regular season. Jackson had 20 points to lead Plainville to a 47-33 triumph and a quarterfinal trip to Yale’s Payne Whitney Gym. The Devils stung Abbott Tech of Danbury, 49-31, with Jackson and Lasher combining for 37 points. Plainville lost both games against semifinal foe Simsbury during the Central Valley Conference season but gained revenge when it really counted, 39-35. Teamwork and defense mesmerized Lyman Hall of Wallingford in the final, a 45-36 conquest.
1961 Plainville High State Championship Track Team
Coach Fred Kalbach’s team strung together 27 successive dual-meet victories en route to a Central Valley Conference championship followed by Class B title in both indoor and outdoor competition.
“Plainville had a span of about eight or nine years in track where everybody wanted to knock us off,” Earle Jackson recalls. “We didn’t lose a track meet in any of my three years and I don’t think we lost one for quite a while before I got there. “If you look closely, you might see that Plainville had one of the greatest track traditions in Connecticut that would rank up there with Weaver, Hillhouse and New Britain.
“Plainville dominated the CVC in the mid-60s to mid-70s with more undefeated seasons than any team in the state and maybe in any sport, yet for some reason, the track team has received little recognition.”
Jackson established state records in the high jump, shot put and discus in leading the team to three consecutive state championships. Captain Gary Johnson ran the 100, 220 and was on the relay squad. “The reason I was chosen captain probably had a lot to do with Coach Palmer of the football team,” Johnson said. “I was a running back and as a junior, I tore ligaments in my knee and the coach said I needed to strengthen my legs. He wanted me to be captain so I would lead the team.”
Indoor track meets were limited to only a few each year, generally held at state’s college facilities at Yale, UConn and Fairfield. The team recognizes Kalbach and Dino Iorli (Hall of Fame Class of 2004) as great track coaches. “Our coaches developed so much talent that they were able to position people like it was a chess game. They were able to put players where they best needed them,” Jackson says. “There were no selfish people. You took the egos out of it and you can get off on an ego trip in track very easily. That’s why we won a lot.”
The team won the Class B title by out pointing New Canaan, 30-28. The 8-0 CVC season was capped by a 62-42 win over Southington.