JCA proudly presents Class of 2015 inductees for Hall of Champions


Dan Sharp mentioned respect and reverence, history and tradition, passion and purpose.

At Thursday night’s Hilltopper Banquet, Sharp announced Joliet Catholic Academy’s inductees for the Hall of Champions: Mike Alstott, Terry Gannon, Mark Grant, Tippy Madarik and Liz Tortorello-Nelson.

This second group, touted as second to none, will be honored as the Class of 2015. Last fall, Gordie Gillespie, Bill Gullickson, Allie Quigley, Jim Stefanich and Tom Thayer were named the inaugural class.

Sharp also mentioned another word: excellence.

“It’s an outstanding class,” said Sharp, JCA’s athletic director and chairman of the Hall of Champions committee. “The names truly speak for themselves. We could not be more proud of this class, our inaugural class, and the many that will follow. They represent the best of our four great schools.”

In fact, Alstott, Gannon, Grant, Madarik and Tortorello-Nelson represent graduates from Joliet Catholic, St. Francis Academy and JCA. De La Salle preceded Joliet Catholic. The ties to the past resonate today.

Mike Alstott (’92) led JCA to the Class 4A state football title in 1990, transformed himself into a fullback at Purdue University, then was drafted in the second round by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. He played 12 years in the NFL, made six Pro Bowls, won the Super Bowl, and is now coaching high school in Florida.

“What you hear constantly about Mike is his tremendous work ethic,” Sharp said. “He set a goal to play professional football, and no one worked harder to achieve that goal. He worked harder than anyone else out there to be the best, and he’s teaching what it takes to be the very best to his players today.”

Terry Gannon (’81), a standout basketball player, led the Hillmen to regional titles as a junior and as a senior, earning a scholarship to the North Carolina State. He won the national championship under Jim Valvano in 1983, the same year he led the nation in 3-point shooting. He’s an announcer for ABC Sports.

“Terry’s a multitalented young man, and Valvano recruited him for his shooting ability, knowing the ACC was going to the three-point line,” Sharp recalled. “He also was a tremendous pitcher in baseball. You combine his work ethic, preparation, personality and quick wit, and it makes him a great broadcaster.”

Mark Grant (’81) was drafted in the first round, 10th overall, by the San Francisco Giants only days after leading Joliet Catholic to the second of back-to-back state final appearances. He pitched in the major leagues for San Diego, Atlanta, Colorado, Houston and Seattle. He’s a color analyst for Padre games.

“Mark pitched one of the greatest games I ever saw,” Sharp said. “It was at Joliet West, and he struck out 20 of 21 batters. Off the field, he’s one of the funniest, most enthusiastic, happiest people. He’s like a magnet — everybody wants to be around him. He has a strong passion for baseball, people, and JCA.”

Elmer “Tippy” Madarik (’40) played football at the University of Detroit-Mercy before enlisting to fight in World War II. He later played in the NFL for both the Detroit Lions and Washington Redskins, and was noted for his versatility as a halfback, wingback or tailback in the single-wing offenses of that era.

“We have Coby Fleener playing in the NFL right now with the Colts, but Tippy was our first,” Sharp said. “His family, the Madarik name, is woven in the fabric of our school. I’ve always heard about how great of player he was, and that says something that his legacy, from 1939 and 1940, still lasts to this day.”

Liz Tortorello-Nelson (’88) was the first star of the volleyball program. She took consecutive Angel teams downstate, led Wisconsin to the Big Ten title and Sweet 16 of the NCAA tournament, and coached at Loyola University for 11 years. She’s an athletic director at Latin and works for the Big Ten Network.

“When you look at the history and the tremendous job Christine Scheibe is doing with the program, it all started with Liz getting things going as a player,” Sharp said of Tortorello-Nelson, JCA’s first female winner of the Paddy McGowan Award. “The Tortorello name is synonymous with Angel volleyball.”

Alstott, Gannon, Grant, Madarik and Tortorello-Nelson will be introduced at halftime of the first home football game on Friday, Sept. 4, against Wheaton North, and will take part in the Alumni Golf Outing that afternoon. An induction ceremony will be held in the Student Activity Center on Saturday, Sept. 5.

Contact Sue Bebar, JCA’s director of alumni relations and Hall of Champions co-chair, for more details.

“We’ve worked closely with Sue, who has done a tremendous job with our alumni relationship,” Sharp said. “We have the golf outing, and with such strong attendance at our football games, it makes a great introduction on a signature weekend. We feel the Hall of Champions is very prestigious, very deserving.”

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