Nominees from High-Visibility Sports
Anchoring the University of Virginia’s offensive line from 1982-’85, the 6-5, 300 lb. Dombrowski finished his brilliant college career as UVa’s first-ever unanimous All-American. A two-time winner of the Jacobs Blocking Trophy (recognizing the ACC’s best blocker) and three-time First Team All-ACC selection, Dombrowski was equally impressive in the classroom earning First Team Academic All-Conference honors in 1985. The New Orleans Saints chose Dombrowski sixth overall in the 1986 NFL Draft. He spent 11 seasons with the Saints and was named to the franchise’s 30th, 35th, 40th, and 45th Anniversary Teams. He was inducted into the Saints Hall of Fame in 2003 and the College Football Hall of Fame in 2008.
Mark Grudzielanek played 15 seasons in the majors as a second baseman/shortstop with the Expos (’95-’98), Dodgers (‘98-02), Cubs (‘03-04), Cardinals (‘05), Royals (‘06-08) and the Indians (‘10). He hit over .300 five times with a high average of .326 in 1999. For his career he batted .289 with 2,040 hits and 640 runs batted in. Grudzielanek was named to the All-Star team in 1996 and won a gold glove as a second baseman in 2006. He led the National League in doubles in 1997, hit for the cycle in 2005 and holds the MLB record for the longest streak of home games played with a hit, 35, in 1999.
Played 16 seasons in MLB (1992-2007) with Atlanta (8), San Diego (7), and San Francisco (1). Primarily a first baseman/left fielder, Klesko had career totals of 278 home runs, 987 runs batted in, 1,564 hits, and a .279 batting average. Was an integral part of the Braves World Series Championship team of 1985, as well as two other Braves World Series teams. Named to the 2001 All-Star team in San Diego, Klesko batted .300 or better in four seasons and hit 21 or more home runs in eight seasons. Klesko holds the distinction of being the first player in baseball history to hit a home run in three consecutive World Series road games in Cleveland in 1995.
The 6′ 9″ forward attended the University of Montana and holds the school records for points and rebounds in a career. The only Big Sky conference player to be named conference MVP three times (1984-’86), Krystkowiak was selected by the Chicago Bulls as the 28th player in the ‘86 draft. Playing nine seasons in the NBA mostly with the Bucks, Krystkowiak averaged eight points and five rebounds per contest. After his playing days, Krystkowiak became a successful coach. He spent one year as head coach in the CBA, and the next two years he guided his alma mater to two conference championships and two NCAA tournament appearances. Named as an assistant head coach for the Milwaukee Bucks in 2006, Krystkowiak was later named head coach in 2007. The only player in Montana’s history to have his number retired, Krystkowiak was also a two-time GTE Academic All-American.
A standout with the Toronto Marlboros of the Ontario Hockey Association, Peplinski was drafted by the Atlanta Flames in 1979, and became one of the original members of the NHL Calgary Flames when the team moved one year later. From 1980-89, Jim was a solid contributor with the Flames, building a reputation for leadership, while serving as either assistant captain or co captain from 1984-89. In 1989 the Flames won the Stanley Cup with Peplinski as co-captain. During his NHL career, Peplinski played in 711games, scoring 161 goals and 263 assists. He missed only 21 games as a pro, five of which were to allow him to play in the 1998 Calgary Olympics, where he proved to be a valuable member of the Canadian Olympic Hockey Team. Following his playing career, Jim served for five years as an articulate color analyst for the CBC Hockey Network.
Signed as a free agent defenseman at age 26 by the New Jersey Devils, Brian Rafalski went on to an outstanding 11 year career in the NHL from 1999-2011. Playing his first seven seasons with the Devils, Rafalski was named to the All-Rookie Team in 1999/00 and helped the Devils win the Stanley Cup that year and again in the 2002/03. After signing with the Detroit Red Wings in 2007, he played with them for four seasons, helping the Wings win the Stanley Cup in 2007/08. Rafalski played in five Stanley Cup finals, with his team winning three of them. In his 11 year career, his teams made the playoffs every year. A two-time All-Star, Rafalski also played on three U.S. Olympic teams in 2002, 2006 and 2010, winning two silver medals.
An All-American in high school, Wojciechowski played point guard at Duke from 1994-1998. The two-time All-ACC choice was named National Defensive Player of the Year in 1998 and secured honorable mention All-American accolades. Wojciechowski finished his career ranked in several of Duke’s season and career top 10 lists. He collected the second-highest single season steal total in 1997 with 82 and he ranks ninth in career steals with 203 and eighth in career assists with 505. After his playing career he returned to Duke as an assistant coach in 1999. He was promoted to Associate Head Coach in 2008. Since Wojciechowski joined the staff, Duke has posted a 385-77 record winning five ACC Championships and two NCAA Championships.
Drafted in the sixth round by the Redskins in the 1993 NFL Draft out of the University of Maryland. Played his first two seasons with the Redskins, then spent nine years with Houston and Tennessee from 1995-2003. As a tight end, led the Titans in catches for five consecutive seasons (1997-2001) and was named to three Pro Bowls in 1999, 2000 and 2001. Amassed 505 receptions for 5,126 yards and 28 touchdowns. When he retired, Wycheck was one of only four tight ends in NFL history to surpass 500 receptions.
Nominees from All Other Sports
In 1964, Tony Adamowicz began a storied 25-year racing career that would be highlighted by several major driving titles. In 1968, he captured the Trans Am Under 2-Liter season championship, driving his Porsche 911 to victory in 5 out of 14 races. Moving to open-wheel racing, Tony won the 1969 Formula 5000 season championship in his initial season. In 1971, he advanced to international competition, racing to a second place finish at the 24 Hours of Daytona, and a third place at the LeMans 24, while becoming one of only five American drivers to earn an FIA International rating. Adamowicz later added three International Motor Sports Association season championships, winning the ‘81 IMSA GTU, and the ’82 and ’83 IMSA GTO season titles, retiring from competitive racing in 1989.
Formerly a member of Poland’s national sabre team, Bednarski is one of the world’s elite fencing coaches. From 1978-1988, he was head coach of Poland’s Olympic team, with members of those teams winning eleven medals at Olympic and World Championships. After moving to the United States in 1988, Bednarski has been head coach at Denver’s CSF Fencing Club, the largest fencing club in the Rocky Mountain Region, head coach for the U.S. Junior World Championship team and coached at the prestigious Indiana Fencing Academy. Since 2002, Bednarski has served as head coach at The University of Notre Dame, where his teams have won two NCAA team titles, his fencers have won five individual titles, and eight others have been named runners-up. Thirty-four Bednarski-coached fencers have received All-American honors.
A 1990 graduate of Rutgers University, Jeff Klepacki established himself as one of the nation’s premier rowers, with a competitive record that included 10 national championships, and gold medals in the Pan Am and Goodwill Games in 1994 and 1995. Klepacki led the US Heavyweight 8+ to a gold medal in the World Championships in 1994 (setting a new world record), and again in 1998 and 1999. In 1994, Jeff was voted US Rowing Male Athlete of the Year, and was a semi-finalist for the Sullivan Award (Amateur Athlete of the Year in the United States.) Jeff is a three-time U.S. Olympian, competing in the Barcelona, Atlanta and Sydney Olympic Games, finishing 5th, 10th and 4th.
A two time All-American swimmer at UCLA and a member of the 1952 U.S. Olympic team, Monte Nitzkowski is now considered one of the world’s foremost authorities in water polo. From 1954 – 1989, Nitzkowski coached Long Beach College to 32 conference water polo championships and 12 conference swim titles, including a stretch of 8 consecutive undefeated seasons. Additionally, he served as U.S. National Team water polo coach from 1967-1984, and coached the U.S. team in four Olympics, earning a bronze medal in 1972 and silver in 1984. From 1967-1983, Nitzkowski served as coach of four U.S. Pan American teams, winning gold medals in all but one competition. He was inducted into the International Swimming Hall of Fame in 1991, and is a member of the U.S. Water Polo Hall of Fame.
Joe spent 33 seasons as head athletic trainer in the NBA. After spending one season with the Bull in 1967, Proski joined the Phoenix Suns in 1968, retiring after the 1999-2000 season. Proski, known as “magic fingers”, has received numerous honors, including NBA Athletic Trainer of the Year in 1988, and Arizona’s Sports Personality of the Year. Proski served as head athletic trainer in four All-Star games (1971, ’75, ’85 and ’95) and was the first winner of the 30-year Award by the National Basketball Trainer’s Association (NBTA). In 2001, Proski was inducted into the Suns Ring of Honor, making him the only non-player in the NBA to receive this type of honor.
A bobsledder since 2004, Curt Tomasevicz has earned a reputation as one of the most powerful push athletes in the world. His four-man team placed sixth at the 2006 Winter Olympics, and three years later won the gold medal at the 2009 World Championships. In 2010, he helped power the United States four-man squad to a gold medal at the Winter Olympics – the first U.S. Olympic gold medal in bobsledding since 1968. Since winning the gold medal the team has not slowed down, winning another gold medal at the 2012 World Championships. Tomasevicz holds both a bachelor and masters of Science degree in electrical engineering and was named Academic All Big 12 while playing football at Nebraska.
EVAN “BIG CAT” WILLIAMS
Known as the world’s longest driver, the 6′ 6″ golfer burst onto the scene of professional golf and long-drive competitions in 1974 by winning the World Challenge Long Drive Contest in New York. With a blast of 366 yards he defeated, among others, Jim Dent, considered the longest driver on the PGA tour. After watching Williams, Joe DiMaggio said. “They should lock him up in a cage.” Almost single-handedly, Williams brought long drive competitions to the forefront of sports with exhibitions in 26 countries. Over the years, Big Cat won numerous national long drive titles in the United States, Australia, and Bermuda. Big Cat has also served as color commentator on ESPN, written a book, and has been inducted into the Long Drivers of America Hall of Fame.
After losing three toes in a lawn mower accident at the age of two, Elaine Zayak began figure skating as physical therapy. At age 13, she won both the Junior World Figure Skating Championship and the U.S. Junior Championship in 1979. Noted for her consistency in landing the triple jump, Elaine won the gold medal at the U. S. National Championships in 1981 and finished second at the World Championships. In 1982 Zayak captured the gold medal at the World Championships in Copenhagen. She also won a silver medal and two bronze medals at the U.S. Championships from 1982-1984, as well as a silver medal and a bronze medal at the World Championships in 1981 and 1984. Zayak was inducted into the U.S. Figure Skating Hall of Fame in 2003.