Members of the Ridgewood High School Athletic Hall of Fame are those that have made a lasting impact on the school’s sports program as either student players, coaches, or supporters. Often the student players have continued to influence their chosen sports after high school by ongoing participation in athletics.
Dennis Sullivan, 2012 Inductee
Dennis Sullivan is one of the rare student athletes who has excelled not only on the field of play but also has excelled as a leader, a teacher, and a coach. Sullivan graduated from Ridgewood High School in the spring of 1992 as one of the few true three sport athletes of his era. A fierce and intelligent competitor it would not be fair or accurate to put the “pound for pound best athlete” label on him as his size was irrelevant to his success and ability to compete. He was a great student athlete and a great leader for the Maroons, period. Starring on the gridiron for Chuck Johnson, the hardwood for Jim Stroker and the lacrosse field for Steve Jacobsen, Sullivan competed and succeeded against athletes of all sizes. Maybe the biggest testament to how special a person Sullivan is the fact that he Captained the football, basketball and lacrosse teams his senior year before heading off to Brown University to play lacrosse for the Bears.
Sullivan played lacrosse in the “Glory Days” of the Ridgewood Lacrosse Program. Lettering in three Varsity seasons he starred as the only player to start in all 44 games of the legendary 44 consecutive game win streak the Maroons put together between 1990 and 1992. Those 44 wins included State Championships in 1990 and 1991 before a runner-up plaque in 1992 ended the streak. He was voted Honorable Mention All-State in 1990, Second Team All-League and Second Team All-State in 1991, and First Team All-League, First Team All-State, and All-American in 1992. He was selected as a defense man for the 1992 New Jersey North South All-Star Game where he was voted the team Captain of the North Squad by his teammates.
His success was just as significant on the gridiron for Ridgewood High School. A two year Varsity letter winner at halfback and defensive back Sullivan was described by Coach Johnson as: “an amazing leader, an amazing presence, and an amazing person. I really wish I had a better word than ‘amazing’ as he was more than amazing for us.” Johnson went on to add; “he played the three biggest sports at RHS at 5’ 7” and 145 lbs. Anytime someone tells me that they are too small to play football I tell them about Dennis Sullivan. In all my years of coaching I have never had a young man with more of a dynamic presence than Dennis Sullivan.”
That dynamic presence and outstanding athletic talent combined to create great things on the football field for RHS. In the fall of 1991 Dennis Sullivan and Co-Captain Dan Burns led the Maroons to the Group IV Sectional State Championship with a win over North Bergen. In recognition of his outstanding senior season Sullivan was named First Team All-NNJIL and First Team All-Bergen County as a defensive back while earning his second Varsity letter in football. He was selected as a starter for the North Squad in the annual North South All-Star Game played in Giants Stadium. Between the football and lacrosse seasons Sullivan excelled on the basketball court winning two Varsity letters while using his speed, quickness, and guile as a prototypical “pass first” point guard who was a fearless defender on the other end of the floor.
Dennis was recognized in the spring of 1992 by the coaching staff of Ridgewood High School as the most outstanding athlete in the class of 1992 by being awarded the prestigious “Ridgewood High School Award For Excellence In Athletics”. It is the highest honor an athlete can receive at the school and represents all four years of athletic endeavor for that individual at RHS. Once called the Rutgers Cup, today the award is named the “Dave Vanderbush Award For Athletic Excellence” in honor of one of Ridgewood’s long time athletic directors.
After graduating from Ridgewood, Sullivan moved on to Brown University where he played lacrosse four years for the Bears alongside his former Ridgewood teammates Eric Benedict and Brett Sowers. During his time at Brown the Bears won the Ivy League Championship in both 1994 and 1995 and advanced to the NCAA Semi-Finals in ‘94 and the NCAA Quarter-Finals in’95. Sullivan completed his collegiate lacrosse career in 1996 as the Captain of the Bears and was named First Team All-Ivy League and Honorable Mention All-American. He was awarded the Cliff Stevenson Award as the Most Valuable Player and chosen to play in the USILA North South All-Star Game and the New England East West All-Star Game where he was chosen to Captain each of his respective squads. After graduating from Brown he played one season professionally for the NJ Pride in the MLL.
As have some other members of the Ridgewood High School Athletic Hall of Fame, Sullivan chose teaching and coaching as a career path. He returned to his alma mater and assisted both the football and boys lacrosse programs. He coached the 2001 Freshman Football Team to the first ever undefeated season in program history which was an indication of things to come as that group went on to win back to back Group IV State Sectional Championships in Giants Stadium during their varsity years. Sullivan also became the head coach of the Boys Lacrosse Team for the 2002 season and led them to the State Championship game where they fell to Delbarton. He left Ridgewood and took his teaching and coaching skills to Oregon where he is a teacher and coach at the Oregon Episcopal School. During his tenure coaching the Aardvarks he has led the team to numerous Lacrosse State Championships and has been instrumental in promoting the sport of lacrosse in the northwest.
A lifelong competitor, teacher and leader, Sullivan has not only the credentials as an athlete and a coach to enter the Hall of Fame, he also possesses the intangibles that separate the good from the great. A great player, a great leader, a great teacher, and a great coach, Dennis Sullivan rightfully takes his place alongside the other members of the Ridgewood High School Hall of Fame as one of the best all-around athletes to ever compete for the Maroons.
John Marshall, Jim Bruni, Mark Romeo, Jean Hughes, Chris Van Note, Nancy Hogan, RHS Football Team 1913, Don Taylor, Rachel Grygiel, John Cerf, Paul Tornatore, Michele Marangi, RHS Boys’ Lacrosse 1990-92
Craig Halyard, Tom Flatt, Tricia Pappalardo, Mike Henderson, Kandie Latham, Leigh Jester, Tom Dusel, Roger Sweeney, Linda Zabielski, Patty Capasso, Dennis Sullivan, Nick & Dottie Capasso, Track and Field (Bain-Daley-Oliver Era)
Kitty Batterson, Henry Blauvelt, Frank L. Bradley, Jr., Lucia Cancelmo, Chris DuFlocq, Renee DuFlon, RHS Girls’ Basketball 1922-1923, Harry Grundy, Jim Jones, Joe LeMay, Jen McDermott, Shannon McGarrigle, Tony Napier, Margaret Niemann, Vince Robertiello (Jamie Roberts), Damian Ross, Mike Springer
Paul Arrigoni, Pete Campbell, Doug Cook, Becky Deetz, Otis Grendler, Jodi Hartwig, Gene Links, Debbie O’Connell, Aimee McGuire, Walt Perdue, Tom Simos, Kazbek Tambi, Jack Van Yperen, Bob Whitaker, Margaret Scutro