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.
Rachel Grygiel, 2014 Inductee
In 1992 Ridgewood High School head girls soccer coach Jeff Yearing stated for a newspaper article that “Rachel Grygiel is every coach’s dream and every opponent’s nightmare!” Truer words have never been spoken about an athlete that has been inducted into the RHS Athletic Hall of Fame or any hall of fame for that matter. Beyond her productivity on the pitch, Rachel Grygiel reflected the complete embodiment of the term student athlete. While her exploits on the field were being looked at in amazement, her desire to achieve academically and to serve her community reflected the same passion and desire she brought to the field each day.
Strong in stature and character, no one was going to beat Rachel physically nor would they be able to out think or finesse her. Rachel worked very hard to maximize her technique and skill on the ball and became a master strategist in applying her skill to the tactical situations she faced during competition. Rachel usually won her individual battles, but most importantly she used her individual capabilities to raise the level of her team’s ability to win by raising the level of her teammates. She would do this by exerting a “never give in” attitude that presented itself through her gritty determination to find a way to succeed. To describe Rachel as being a coach’s dream is meant to reflect her unselfish attitude about putting team above self. Rachel would play anywhere at any time if she felt it contributed to the teams capability to win. Spending most of her playing time as a central midfielder and part time forward, Rachel in her senior season (after an injury to a key team member half way through the season) volunteered to move to central defense to help shore up the RHS back line. She emphatically embraced the teams’ philosophy “that if your opponents can’t score they can’t win.” With Rachel leading the charge, the 1992 team amassed 20 wins against 3 losses with 1 tie. They were league and state sectional champions, losing a trip to the county finals on a last second goal vs. Northern Highlands with 32 seconds remaining. The same kind of fate awaited the team in the state semi final loss to Westfield on a goal scored with six seconds remaining in overtime. That team which Rachel led as a Co-captain finished ranked #8 in the state and held the #17 ranking nationally during the season. .
Over the course of Rachel’s four varsity seasons at RHS the team became a prominent force in the Bergen County and New Jersey High School soccer scene. Rachel Grygiel helped four RHS varsity teams to four League (NNJIL) titles with an undefeated league record of 57-0-2 while amassing an overall record of 66-10-2 . She contributed to Ridgewood’s first state sectional championship in 1989 (a thrilling 1-0 victory vs. Kearny) and a second state sectional championship in 1992 with a significant 4-0 victory vs. Immaculate Heart Academy. The 1991 team reeled off 20 consecutive wins (still a record at RHS) before losing a heart breaking “first” county final 2-1 to Northern Highlands. In 78 matches played while Rachel was a member of the Maroons ladies soccer squad, the team outscored its opposition by over 400 goals with 444 scored for RHS and 40 scored against. The team compiled 54 shutouts in the 78 matches due in part to the team’s defensive tenacity that Rachel helped ingrain as a matter of pride. Never letting her personal ambitions over shadow the team, Rachel always showed complete humility when it came to her individual accolades. Over all Rachel is ranked #5 on the all time scoring list for Ridgewood with 71 goals scored to go along with 44 assists. She was named first team All NNJIL (when it was a twelve team league) three times, First team All Bergen County Twice in 1991 and 1992 as a midfielder, Named to the New Jersey Girls Soccer Coaches Association First team all state in 1991, and First team all North Jersey in 1992. She was named to the National Soccer Coaches Association of America Regional All American team in 1991 and selected in December of 1999 to the Bergen Records All 20th Century team as a midfielder.
Upon graduation from RHS Rachel made her way to American University and then transferred to Georgetown University. She received her BA as a history major from their College of Arts and while at Georgetown she was a member of the women’s Division 1 soccer team. She co captained that team during the 1996 season and was awarded the Big East’s “Defensive Player of the Week Award” during that season.
She continued her education at St. Peters College receiving her Masters Degree in Public School Administration. Rachel went on to work three seasons 2002-2005 as an asst. women’s soccer coach at Stevens Institute of Technology, helping it gain its first NSCAA post season appearance.
Like so many of our RHS Hall of Fame Inductees, Rachel has also been on the cutting edge of outstanding work experiences. From June 1998 until February 2001, she was the production coordinator for ABC News Nightline with Ted Kopel. Starting in September 2001 Rachel began a professional career as a Social Studies teacher and Digital Media Coordinator at Hoboken High School in Hoboken New Jersey.
In 2011 she was one of four teachers honored nationally by Princeton University for excellence in teaching.
In conclusion, Rachel Grygiel is a winner and champion by every definition of those words and is, by example, a beacon for others to follow. She is a great example of Ridgewood’s proud “Tradition of Excellence” and an outstanding addition to the Ridgewood High School Athletic Hall of Fame.
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