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Inductees - See All

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John Hassler John Hassler
Inducted: 2011 - Graduated: 1968

John Hassler took losses hard. In a sport like football, one player cannot make or break the fortunes of an entire team, but John certainly tried. Playing for the small-school Golden Knights against schools two or three times larger, John was a two-time All-County defensive lineman, a pass-catching offensive end and co-captain his senior year.
“He was very much a perfectionist,” says Jan Trieschman, John’s widow. “He wanted to win every game, and
he was always disappointed after a loss. He thought about what he could have done differently.”
On the wrestling mats, John’s single-minded focus and dedication found its ideal outlet. A three-year varsity
letterman and two-year captain, he swept the 1968 RCPSAL and Section 9 titles at 154 pounds and made school
history by fi nishing fourth in the New York State championship tournament – Nanuet’s fi rst state place-winner
in wrestling. He ended his mat career as Nanuet’s leader in wins and pins through his senior year.
John attended Nanuet schools from kindergarten through 12th grade, starting at Highview Elementary School
and moving on to Nanuet Junior-Senior High School. At Highview he was introduced to wrestling by Coach
Ray Stedge, a highly infl uential fi gure who instilled in him a love of the sport and helped maximize his
potential. Their athlete-coach relationship was durable enough to withstand vehement disagreement – as when
John took Jan to the State tournament in Syracuse against Stedge’s wishes. “Coach Stedge thought that
girlfriends just got in the way, and that I would take away from John’s concentration for wrestling,” says Jan,
a 1968 Nanuet graduate whose maiden name is Kenney. “But it helped him. John tended to worry prior to a
match. Having me there kept him loose and less stressed.”
John played football under Coach Mike Achille his sophomore year and Coach Chuck Holland his junior and
senior years. He co-captained the 1967 team, which posted the program’s best record to that point, 2-4-1, and he
fi nished as Nanuet’s career leader in receptions and tackles through ’67. He was named second-team All-County
defensive end as a junior and, after being moved to tackle, was fi rst-team All-County defensive lineman his
senior year. “He was a great leader; he led by example,” says Peter Bonomolo, the team’s quarterback in ’67.
Dick Berich, the Knights’ All-County fullback that year, describes John as “a quiet guy … he played all the
time, both ways.” Bonomolo and Berich are fellow inductees in the Hall of Fame class of 2011.
In the 1967 All-County article in The Journal-News, Coach Holland was unstinting in his praise of John: “He’s
like having a coach on the fi eld. He was the fi nest all-around football player on our team.” One of John’s
highlight-reel moments came in November 1966, when he hauled in a 76-yard bomb from quarterback Brian
Fay to score Nanuet’s fi rst touchdown in a 19-0 blanking of Pearl River in the Little Brown Jug game. He also
fi gured in the second touchdown and his interception in the fourth quarter led to the Knights’ third score. The
victory snapped a 16-game Nanuet losing streak dating back to 1964.
John’s determination, drive and competiveness were fueled by the presence of his parents George and Gloria
Hassler, who were in the gym or the stands for every game, every match and every tournament – supporting
John, his teammates and the school. “They never missed a football game or wrestling match in his career,” says
Jan, a former Nanuet cheerleader. At graduation John was awarded the Jerry Leo Memorial Fund Grant Award
and the Nanuet Rotary Grant Award.
Many people remember John’s exploits in football and wrestling but few may know of his prowess in
gymnastics. He was a founding member of the school’s gymnastics club and with the encouragement of Stedge
(himself a gymnast at Springfield College) and Coach Dave Hanson, he began training and competing in AAU
and open competitions. When the Black and Gold Club brought members of the U.S. Olympic gymnastics team
to Nanuet for an exhibition and fundraiser, John trained with the team and took part in the exhibit.
Through Hanson, John was introduced to Abie Grossfeld, then an assistant coach for the Olympic gymnastics
team and later its head coach. The connection would prove valuable, as Grossfeld also served as gymnastics
coach at Southern Connecticut State University, where John would eventually earn his college degree. John
continued his gymnastics development under Grossfeld at Southern Connecticut, a powerhouse in that sport.
John attended Indiana Institute of Technology and West Chester (Pa.) State University for one year each
before transferring to Southern Connecticut. He and Jan were married in 1970, after his year at West Chester.
With a degree in physical education and kinesiology John began teaching phys ed and coaching football and
gymnastics at Roger Ludlow High School in Fairfield, Conn. Next he took a job at the Lakeside School in
Spring Valley, a school for emotionally troubled children from New York City, teaching and coaching boys ages
12 to 14. He left when the school was closed due to city budget cuts.
John, Jan and their two young children, Jennifer and Kurt, moved in 1975 to the Nashville suburb of Franklin,
Tenn., where John took a job as a manufacturing plant supervisor. Eager to stay involved in sports and work
with young people, he coached in the American Youth Soccer Organization and with the Special Olympics in
gymnastics and wrestling. He also taught physical conditioning and therapy to recovering heart attack patients.
Tragically, John died in April 1979, at age 29, in an accident involving a horse that had escaped from a pasture
near his home. Concerned for, and protective of, the many young children in his neighborhood, John attempted
to steer the horse back to the pasture but was kicked sharply in the chest, directly over the heart, and died instantly.
Jan remarried 15 years ago and now lives in Gallatin, north of Nashville, with husband Greg Trieschman. She
works as a project manager for Cigna Health Care and has five young grandchildren. Daughter Jennifer, age 40,
lives in Ojai, Calif., and has three children age 5 or younger, and son Kurt, 39, resides in Brooklyn and has two
children, ages 8 and 6. Jan’s brother, Brad Kenney, captained the Nanuet football team in John’s sophomore
year and they later became best friends. Brad also graduated with John’s brother, Bill, in 1966.