Location: MGM Grand Hotel, Foxwoods Resort and Casino
39 Norwich-Westerly Road, Ledyard, CT
Tickets: $85 each
Lifetime Service Award
Coach and Official
Westport, CT (Staples High)
Coach and Official
New Britain, CT (CCSU)
Coach and Official
Groton, CT (Fitch High)
Medal of Courage
Staff Sgt. Joseph Kapacziewski
The Connecticut chapter of the National Wrestling Hall of Fame is a direct extension of the National Wrestling Hall of Fame Chapter and Museum in Stillwater, Oklahoma.
The Connecticut chapter provides outreach and support for the National Hall. Our chapter was formed to honor committed coaches, officials, contributors and other deserving individuals. We honor individuals in three ways:
The Lifetime Service Award Program, coordinated by the National Wrestling Hall of Fame, is designed to honor and recognize dedicated wrestling people for their years of commitment to young people. The award is not about win/loss records. It is about a person’s dedicated efforts to help young people to not only succeed in wrestling, but also in life.
The Medal of Courage Award is given to a wrestler who has overcome overwhelming adversity to be successful on the mats and in his own life.
The Outstanding American Award is presented to an individual who was a former wrestler and has received state or national acclaim in his/her chosen profession.
Each award recipient is 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 very special occasion.
Frank took over the wrestling program at Simsbury High in 1978 and coached the Trojans for 28 years. Under Frank’s leadership, Simsbury won 12 CCC West championships, two Class L titles (1995, 1997) and a Class LL championship (1992) beating Danbury by three points. Simsbury had 24 winning seasons in 28 years and finished in the top five of the Class L and Class LL tournaments 16 times. Twelve wrestlers coached by Frank won State Open championships and two earned New England titles. Frank was named as the wrestling coach of the year in 2002 by the Connecticut High School Coaches Association. He was inducted into the New England Wrestling Hall of Fame in 2004. After retiring from coaching following the 2006, Frank has become an official. He retired from teaching physical education at Simsbury in 2010.
A 1983 graduate of Danbury High, Ricky is one of the most successful coaches in Connecticut wrestling history. Since being named the head coach of Danbury in 2000, Ricky has led his team to a record 10 consecutive State Open championships, 11 Class LL state titles and 12 FCIAC championships. Entering the 2013 campaign, Ricky had a dual meet record of 253-12, with a winning percentage of .954, tied for the best in state history. Ricky wrestled at Central Connecticut State University for four years at 118 pounds, taking third in the Division II Eastern Regional in his junior year and finishing third in the Division I New England tournament. After graduating from CCSU in 1987, he was an assistant coach at Danbury for 11 years before taking over as head coach. He was recognized as the state coach of the year by the Connecticut High School Wrestling Coaches Association in 2000 and 2007. The Connecticut Sports Writer Alliance presented Ricky with the Doc McInerney Male Coach of the Year award in 2008.
Bernie spent 36 years as a teacher and coach at Robert E. Fitch High in Groton, coaching varsity boys soccer (19 years), wrestling (7 years) and girls softball (15 years). He taught English, public speaking and creative writing. He resurrected the wrestling program and posted a record of 72-35-2. In 1975, Fitch won the Capital District Conference championship and the District 3 tournament – a regional qualifying event for the State Open. He also led Fitch to a Southeast Athletic Conference (SAC) title in 1978.
Bernie began officiating in 1974. In his 38 years as an official, Bernie has served as the vice president (1984-91) and president (1991-93) of the Connecticut Interscholastic Wrestling Officials Association (CIWOA). He also spent more than 10 years as a collegiate wrestling official with the New England Wrestling Officials Association. Bernie has officiated at more than 30 CIAC state tournaments, 20 State Open and five New England tournaments. Last season was his 50th season in wrestling. He has been retired from teaching for five years but Bernie is officiating, coaching junior varsity girls soccer and working as an official at track and field meets.
Bernie and his wife Ellen have been married for 29 years and have two sons, Bernie, Jr., an engineer at Electric Boat in Groton and Dan, who is completing his final year at the University of Connecticut School of Dental Medicine.
John has dedicated nearly 50 years to teaching the sport of wrestling to the youth of Westport and southwestern Connecticut. He founded and coached the following programs -- the YMCA team, PAL travel team, Parks & Recreation clinics in Westport, Fairfield County Day Middle School team, Greens Farms Academy Middle School team, Old Greenwich Community Center clinics and Tarrytown, N.Y., clinics. He also helped establish the first wrestling club at Staples High School in 1963.
From 1969-79, John coached at Bedford Junior High School in Westport where most of his wrestlers placed first or second in their Division Championship meet. John also coached soccer, swimming, track and field and gymnastics in town. In 1977, he was recognized by the Sportsmen of Westport for his many years of coaching.
John was the head wrestling coach at Staples High from 1980 to 1985 where his teams were always competitive. The Wreckers won the FCIAC championship in 1985. John spent 15 years as a wrestling official and taught physical education for 37½ years before retiring in 1998. Today, he coaches the intramural wrestling program at Staples.
Ken grew up in a wrestling family in Bayville, New York on Long Island. All five boys in the DeStefanis family wrestled for Locust Valley high school and were captains. Rob, Al and Carl were two-time New York state champions while Carl won a NCAA championship in 1984 with Penn State. Ken wrestled at Central Connecticut State, twice being named All-New England and qualifying to wrestle in the NCAA Division II tournament.
After college, Ken spent five seasons as an assistant coach at Hand High in Madison, helping the Tigers win a state title. He was an assistant coach at Wesleyan (one year) and Central Connecticut State (two years) before being named as the head coach at Central in 1982. At CCSU, he helped transform the program from a Division II contender to a Division I powerhouse that won three New England championships and an East Coast Conference title. He coached 16 wrestlers that won New England Division I titles and 30 that qualified for the NCAA Division I tournament. He was twice named New England coach of the year.
After Central Connecticut dropped the sport for financial reasons following the 1996 season, Ken continued to work in the sport. He founded the Competitive Edge wrestling camp. In 27 years, over 25,000 wrestlers from 21 states and seven countries participated with over 2,000 coaches attending camps and clinics. Ken provided over 500 scholarships to deserving elementary, junior high and high school wrestlers to attend the camp and clinics.
Today, Ken is an administrator in the Central Connecticut State athletic department and is a coach with the Southington Youth Wrestling program, working with Dave Kanute, a member of the National Wrestling Hall of Fame. Ken’s high school coach Matt Sanzone is also a member of the National Wrestling Hall of Fame.
Joe was born in Durham, Conn., and graduated from Bristol Eastern High School where he wrestled for the Lancers. He enlisted in the U.S. Army in September 2001. Sergeant First Class Kapacziewski has served in the Army for over 10 years in 3rd Ranger Battalion and the Ranger Special Troops Battalion. He is the first amputee serving with the Rangers in combat.
SFC Kapacziewski was injured by an enemy grenade in October 2005 in northern Iraq. He suffered severe damage to his lower right leg, tissue damage to his right hip and arterial and nerve damage in his right arm. He spent seven months at Walter Reed Army Medical Center receiving treatment and rehabilitation. In March 2007, SFC Kapacziewski had his right leg amputated below the knee due to complications with the range of motion and chronic pain.
He wanted to return to active duty and his previous position as a squad leader. SFC Kapacziewski re-qualified on the Ranger physical standards by conducting an Army physical fitness test, 5-mile run in under 40 minutes, 12 mile road march in less than 3 hours, fast rope out of a helicopter, and parachute with a combat load. He then regained a squad leader position and was promoted to a platoon sergeant position. SFC Kapacziewski was the first Ranger to return to the line with a prosthetic and has deployed to Afghanistan 5 times with an artificial limb.
Kapacziewski has been recognized several times for his service to his country. In May 2011, he receiver the “No Greater Sacrifice Freedom Award” in Washington, D.C. Joe is the first non-commissioned officer to receive the award, which recognizes individuals who epitomize selfless service to the nation. SFC Kapacziewski has deployed 10 times in support of the Global War on terrorism.
Kapacziewski and his wife, Kim, have two sons, Wyatt and Cody.
Six Connecticut men inducted into National Hall of Fame
LEDYARD, April 20, 2013 -- In front of 500 people, six Connecticut men were recognized Saturday night at the MGM Grand Hotel at Foxwoods for their accomplishments in wrestling with inductions into the National Wrestling Hall of Fame by the Connecticut chapter of the HOF. The men are:
n John Chacho, the former coach at Staples High in Westport and former official
n Frank Chaves, the former coach at Simsbury High and a current official
n Ken DeStefanis, the former coach at Central Connecticut State University and current youth wrestling club coach in Southington
n Staff Sergeant Joseph Kapacziewski, a former wrestler at Bristol Eastern High, who is currently an Army Ranger. He has been on multiple deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan.
n Bernard Nasser, a long-time official and former coach at Fitch High in Groton
n Ricky Shook, the coach at Danbury High School
Chaco, Chaves, DeStefanis, Nasser and Shook will receive a Lifetime Achievement award for coaches, officials, media or contributors with at least 20 years of service. Kapacziewski is being honored with a Medal of Courage, an award for a wrestler or former wrestler who has overcome insurmountable challenges.
Each recipient will be permanently recognized in the National Wrestling Hall of Fame (Stillwater, Oklahoma) with an embossed name plaque, They also receive a plaque and jacket. These six joined 29 other inductees from Connecticut in the National Wrestling Hall of Fame.