Joliet Catholic High School “Hilltoppers”

Joliet Catholic High School
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Home of the Hilltoppers (courtesy of Joe Randles)

                                The History of Joliet Catholic High School

Joliet (population 129,519) is located in northeastern Illinois, about 35 miles southwest of Chicago. The community has grown in recent years from over 106,000 in the 2000 census to the number noted above. Not only is it the county seat of Will County, but also has extended its city limits into Kendall County to the immediate west.

A number of routes have served as ways to reach Joliet, including the legendary Route 66, which was replaced by Interstate 55, along with Interstate 80, US Routes 6, 30, 45, 52, and Illinois Routes 7, 53, and 171. The rail service has been provided by the Elgin, Joliet, and Eastern (EJE) RR, along with the AT & SF RR, & the former Rock Island RR, which shut down in 1980. Daily commuter service to Chicago is offered by Metra (short for Metropolitan Train Service) from the Regional Transportation Authority based in Chicago. The Des Plaines River also flows thru the heart of Joliet, and the community also served as a primary stop on the Illinois & Michigan Canal.

Joliet was settled in 1834 under the name Juliet as a honor to settler James B. Campbell’s daughter, although some felt that it had something to do with William Shakespeare’s novel “Romeo & Juliet” since there is a Romeoville about 10 miles north of Joliet. The name and spelling changed to its current form in 1845 to honor Louis Jolliet, a French explorer that visited the area with Father Jacques Marquette in 1673. The town was incorporated in 1852, and has earned many titles, including “All-American City,” “City of Stone,” and “Crossroads of Mid-America.”

it is believed that Joliet first offered education to students in the mid-1850’s, but parochial education was begun in 1869 with the formation of St. Francis Academy for girls. Boys did not receive the same opportunity until 1918 when DeLaSalle High School was opened by the Christian Brothers order, under the direction of George Cardinal Mundelein of Chicago at the former St. Patrick’s Church Hall. DeLaSalle started out with 45 boys & grew as an all-boys’ institution as a school was built and opened in 1927 (see picture below).

Joliet Catholic High School Building 2013
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However, due to the growth along with the Great Depression of the 1930’s, the Christian Brothers relinquished control to the Carmelite order in August of 1933, who renamed it Joliet Catholic. The order also started fresh with new school colors (brown and white), plus changed the nickname to Hilltoppers in honor of the school’s location on high ground above the Des Plaines River.

The school remained open as an all-boys’ facility on an elevated site above the Des Plaines River until 1990 when St. Francis Academy merged with Catholic High to form Joliet Catholic Academy. That school is located in the St. Francis Academy site. The Catholic High building is still standing & in use as an assisted living facility for senior citizens that is called Victory Centre Senior Housing, owned by Pathways Senior Living, LLC.


Year that name changed to Joliet Catholic:         1933

Year school closed:                                          1990

School colors:                                                  Brown & White

School nicknames:                                          “Hilltoppers”

JCHS fight song:                                              JCHS Loyalty

(words and music courtesy of

Joliet Catholic High, we’re for you
Get in that battle, win that fight
Joliet Catholic High, we’re for you
With your colors Brown and White … fight, fight, fight!
You’re the kind of men, who’s courage
We want our foes to see
Joliet Catholic High march onward

C-A, C-A, C-A-T-H
O-L, O-L, O-L-I-C
Hey, Catholic High!

Gordie Gillespie
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222-54-6 in 27 years at Joliet Catholic


While its doors were open to the high school-aged males of Joliet and the surrounding area, Catholic High offered football, basketball, baseball, golf, wrestling, swimming, tennis, track, and possibly cross-country, excelling in these activities at the state level. More information is needed about cross-country at the school, so we welcome more input about that sport at the addresses listed below.


If there was any one sport that was closely idenitified with the school, football was it. Even though it had a slow start under the DeLaSalle moniker, Catholic High would wind up winning SIX state championships, five of them under the legendary Gordie Gillespie. No single coach that mentored the Brown & White had more success at the school or stayed as long as Gillespie did, posting a 222-54-6 record in 27 years at JCHS from 1959-85.

Hilltoppers celebrate another state football title
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courtesy of Joe Randles
Joliet Catholic Academy HS Athletic Success Sign
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His success has carried over to other sports at Lewis University, the University of St. Francis, and Ripon (WI) College in baseball as he coached four NAIA baseball champs and he developed other winners in mens’ and womens’ basketball at the collegiate level. Gillespie passed away on February 28, 2015 at the age of 88, having won 2,402 contests in football, baseball, and basketball, and was inducted as a member of numerous hall of fames, including Joliet Catholic Academy’s “Hall of Champions.”

1933   5-1-1                                Coach John Carroll

1936   5-4                                   Coach Fr. Gilbert Burns

1937   5-4-1                                Coach Fr. Gilbert Burns

1940   8-1   (great record!)     Coach Fr. Gilbert Burns

1950   7-2                                   Coach Gene Dwyer

1951   6-2                                   Coach Phil Cantwell

1952   6-3                                   Coach Phil Cantwell

1953   8-0   (great record!)     Coach Phil Cantwell

1954   6-3                                   Coach Ernie Zaleski

1955   4-1-2                                Coach Ernie Zaleski

1956   5-3                                   Coach Ernie Zaleski

1957   5-3                                   Coach Ernie Zaleski

1958   4-3-2                                Coach Ernie Zaleski

1960   4-3-2                                Coach Gordie Gillespie

1961   5-4                                   Coach Gordie Gillespie

1962   7-2                                   Coach Gordie Gillespie

1963   5-4                                   Coach Gordie Gillespie

1964   6-3                                   Coach Gordie Gillespie

1965 10-0 (GREAT RECORD!) Coach Gordie Gillespie

                Suburban Catholic Conference Champions

1966   8-1 (excellent mark!)   Coach Gordie Gillespie

                Suburban Catholic Conference Champions

1967   9-0 (GREAT RECORD!)  Coach Gordie Gillespie

                Suburban Catholic Conference Champions

1968   6-3                                    Coach Gordie Gillespie

1970   6-2-1                                 Coach Gordie Gillespie

                Illini-8 Conference Champions

1971   6-2-1                                Coach Gordie Gillespie

1972   8-1                                    Coach Gordie Gillespie

1973   9-1                                   Coach Gordie Gillespie

1974   7-4  Illini-8 Champs      Coach Gordie Gillespie

                 State Class 4A Playoff Qualifier     

                   Beat Tinley Park 22-8

                   Lost to Barrington 28-20 in quarterfinals

1975  13-0  Illini-8 Champs     Coach Gordie Gillespie

                 4A PLAYOFF STATE CHAMPS! 

                   Beat Bradley-Bourbonnais 20-7

                   Downed Country Club Hills Hillcrest 20-16

                   Beat Naperville Central 20-8

                   Defeated Springfield Griffin 34-14 in title game

1976   12-1 Illini-8 Co-Champs  Coach Gordie Gillespie

                  4A PLAYOFF STATE CHAMPS! 

                   Defeated Country Club HIlls Hillcrest 28-14

                   Beat Roselle Lake Park 34-14

                   Edged Rockford Boylan 8-7

                   Beat Danville HS in title game 16-8

1977   13-0 Illini-8 Champs     Coach Gordie Gillespie

                  4A PLAYOFF STATE CHAMPS!

                   Beat Crete-Monee 42-8

                   Defeated Glen Ellyn Glenbard South 20-3

                   Downed Woodstock HS 26-7

                   Beat LaSalle-Peru in championship game 30-6

1978   13-0 Illini-8 Champs     Coach Gordie Gillespie

                  4A PLAYOFF STATE CHAMPS! 

                   Shutout West Chicago HS 22-0

                   Blanked Olympia Fields Rich Central 26-0

                   Beat Lake Forest HS 33-0

                   Shutout LaSalle-Peru in finals 25-0

1979     9-4 Illini-8 Co-Champs  Coach Gordie Gillespie

                  Chicago Prep Bowl Finalists 

                   Lost to Chicago Julian 30-22 in championship game

1980     5-4                                  Coach Gordie Gillespie

1981   13-0  Illini-8 Champs    Coach Gordie Gillespie

                   5A PLAYOFF STATE CHAMPS!

                    Beat Olympia Fields Rich Central 30-18

                    Downed Darien Hinsdale South 30-13

                    Defeated Champaign Central 44-7

                    Edged Deerfield in title game 8-7

1982   10-1  5A Qualifiers       Coach Gordie Gillespie

                   East Suburban Catholic Conference (ESCC) Champs

                    Shutout Bradley-Bourbonnais 40-0

                    Lost to Chicago Mt. Carmel 28-22

1983   11-1  5A Qualifiers       Coach Gordie Gillespie

                   ESCC Champs

                    Edged Sterling HS 26-21

                    Beat Peoria Richwoods 28-21

                    Lost to Bartonville Limestone 31-28

1984   11-1  5A Qualifiers       Coach Gordie Gillespie

                   ESCC Champs

                    Blanked Chicago Julian 36-0

                    Beat Orland Park Sandburg 22-13

                    Defeated by Peoria Richwoods 27-15

1985   10-2  5A Qualifiers       Coach Gordie Gillespie

                   ESCC Champs

                    Defeated Chicago Robeson 50-26

                    Downed Chicago Young 34-6

                    Lost to Park Forest Rich East 14-7

1986     7-4  5A Qualifier          Coach Jim Boyter

                   ESCC Co-Champs 

                    Edged Crete-Monee 20-14 in 3 OT

                    Lost to Chicago Heights Marian Catholic 14-0

1987   12-2  5A STATE CHAMPS! Coach Jim Boyter

                   ESCC Co-Champs

                    Beat Bolingbrook 40-19

                    Downed Palos Hills Stagg 24-6

                    Shutout Lansing Thornton Fractional South 23-0

                    Beat Belvidere 34-15

                    Edged Peoria Richwoods in title game 14-13

1988     7-4  5A Qualifier          Coach Jim Boyter

                   ESCC Co-Champs

                    Defeated Addison Trail 27-7

                    Shutout by Wheaton Central  28-0

1989   10-2  5A Qualifier          Coach Bob Stone

                   ESCC Champs

                     Beat Oswego 34-11

                     Shutout New Lenox Providence Catholic 15-0

                     Defeated by Oak Lawn Richards 34-12

A very informative website about the history of Joliet Catholic High football is handy when needing facts about past Hilltoppers football feats at which was kept by JCHS alumnus Mike Menozzi.

Joliet Catholic Victory Light
Was lit after each Catholic High victory
RB Andy Bebar
Offensive leader of 1981 state champs (courtesy of Joe Randles)
A good fan of the Glory Days website, Mark Jurenga, provided the following information on the JCHS football program:

“All info from the book Hilltopper Pride:  The Triumph & Tradition of Joliet Catholic Football. 2005. Mojo Media, Inc.

-In Coach John Carroll’s last year, 1934, JCHS played South Bend (St. Hedewig), IN at South Bend in Notre Dame Stadium.

1951 coach Cantwell comes to JCHS after playing and coaching for Frank Leahy at Notre Dame.

-First season JCHS plays Joliet (Twp.)

1953 first win (21-19) over Joliet (Twp.)

1954 Zaleski replaces Cantwell. Zaleski had played for Leahy at Notre Dame.

p. 13 in the book, talks about Gordie Gillespie’s “Most Memorable Games.”

1951- First  Joliet (Twp.) vs. JCHS game

1976 vs. Rockford (Boylan) 8-7 win

1975 vs. Hillcrest 20-16 victory

1981 vs. Deerfield in state championship 8-7 win

1981 vs. Chicago (Mt. Carmel) 16-15 win

1965 vs. Niles?????? (Notre Dame) 19-10 win

“All of our games vs. Lockport.”

1977 state championship vs. LaSalle-Peru 30-6

1966 at Mundelein (Carmel) 26-20 win”


In its early days as DeLaSalle, the school built up a great program and won two National Catholic Invitational Basketball Tournaments (hosted by Loyola University) under John Carroll’s guidance. The school won another National title in its first year as Joliet Catholicm but did not join the IHSA until sometime in the late ‘40’s, and won seven regional titles, six of them in class AA. Catholic High returned to hoops prominence in the late 1970’s and 80’s under Mike Gillespie, son of the legendary football coach at the school. The better seasons of the Hilltoppers’ basketball seasons are listed below.

1933-34     30- 3 NATIONAL CHAMPS!!  Coach John Carroll 

1935-36  16- 4 (good record!)                Coach John Carroll

1936-37  26- 4 (excellent record!)       Coach Howard Bond

1937-38  15- 9                                     Coach Howard Bond

1940-41  20-11                                    Coach Frank Gaglione

1941-42  13- 9                                     Coach Frank Gaglione

1942-43  15- 6                                     Coach Frank Gaglione

1943-44  11- 9                                     Coach Owen Cote

1944-45  12- 7                                     Coach Owen Cote

1946-47  17-13                                    Coach Stan Sosnowski

1948-49  15- 8                                     Coach Bob White

1949-50  16- 7                                     Coach Bob White

1951-52  16-10                                    Coach Gordie Gillespie

1952-53  14-10                                    Coach John Goonen

1953-54  19- 5 (good record!)                Coach John Goonen

1955-56  27- 3 REGIONAL CHAMPS!!  Coach Leroy Lesile

1956-57  18- 9                                     Coach Leroy Lesile

1957-58  19- 9                                     Coach Leroy Lesile

1958-59  17-11                                    Coach Leroy Lesile

1961-62  13-10                                    Coach Don Berg

1962-63  18- 6                                     Coach Jim Gannon

1963-64  17- 9                                     Coach Jim Gannon

1965-66  15-10                                    Coach Jim Gannon

1966-67  13-12                                    Coach Jim Gannon

1967-68  21- 2 GREAT RECORD!!        Coach Jim Gannon

1968-69  21- 4 GREAT RECORD!!        Coach Jim Gannon

1973-74  15-10 REGIONAL CHAMPS!! Coach Dusty Rhodes

1974-75  17- 8                                     Coach Dusty Rhodes

1977-78  19- 7                                     Coach Mike Gillespie

1978-79  25- 5 REGIONAL CHAMPS!!  Coach Mike Gillespie

                        SECTIONAL CHAMPS!!
Lost in Normal Super-Sectional to Quincy Sr. 47-46

1979-80  18-10 REGIONAL CHAMPS!! Coach Mike Gillespie

1980-81  20- 7 REGIONAL CHAMPS!!  Coach Mike Gillespie

1981-82  17-10                                    Coach Mike Gillespie

1982-83  18- 9 REGIONAL CHAMPS!!  Coach Mike Gillespie

1987-88  15-15 REGIONAL CHAMPS!! Coach Dan McCarthy    


                         Lost in Aurora East Super-Sectional to Chicago Hts. Bloom Trail 58-56




Joliet Catholic baseball has its place in Joliet sports history. The Hilltoppers qualified for the state tournament on five occasions, bringing home a second place trophy in the school’s final year of being an all-boys’ institution. The school also opened some eyes with its performances in the early ‘80s, which earned them a place in the IHSA record books (

1952                District Champions                Coach unknown

1957                Regional Champions              Coach unknown

1959                Regional Champions              Coach unknown

1960                Regional Champions              Coach unknown

1977   26- 7     Regional Champions           Coach Roger Gifford

                            Sectional Champions

                            State Tournament Qualifiers

                             Beat Canton in Quarterfinals 3-1

Lost to Glenbard East in Semifinals 2-1

1980   38- 9     Regional Champions           Coach Jack Schimanski

                            Sectional Champions

                             AA State Tournament Qualifiers

Lost to Winnetka New Trier East 6-0 in Quarterfinals

1981    45- 9-1  Regional Champions          Coach Jack Schimanski        

                             Sectional Champions

                             AA State Tournament Qualifiers

Shutout Wauconda 4-0

Lost to Chicago Brother Rice in Semifinals 7-4  

1982                 Regional Champions            Coach Jack Schimanski

1988    34- 6     Regional Champions          Coach Jack Schimanski

                          Sectional Champions

                            AA State Tournament Qualifiers

Lost to Edwardsville 4-0 in quarterfinals

1990    25- 6     2nd in AA State Finals!!       Coach Joe Rodeghero   

                          Regional Champions         

                           Sectional Champions

                            AA State Tournament Qualifiers

                             Beat Machesney Park Harlem 10-3 in quarterfinals

                             Edged Oak Park-River Forest 3-2 in semifinals

Lost to Edwardsville 4-1 in championship game



The school competed on the mats and was represented by several grapplers who medalled at the state wrestling finals in Champaign.

Tom Creamens  1966       4th place                      133 lbs

Pat Mudron       1966       4th place                      Heavyweight

Pat Mudron      1967       STATE CHAMPION!!!!  Heavyweight

Fred Fey           1969       5th place                      103 lbs

Scott Sheen      1985AA   6th place                      126 lbs

Tony Marchio    1986AA   3rd place                      126 lbs


The Hilltoppers made their mark on the links, finishing in the top three of the state meet for four consecutive springs (1957-60, including the title in 1958) before the sport was switched the fall by the IHSA in 1974. Joliet Catholic qualified for the state meet 12 times before it merged with St. Francis Academy in 1990.

1935     Catholic League Champions            coach unknown

1949     District Champions

            Team finished 6th in State           Coach unknown

1  Kewanee                                    648

2  Pekin                                         659

3  Highland Park Deerfield-Shields    668

4  Decatur                                      672

5  Rockford East                             678

6  Joliet Catholic                           687

7  Hinsdale Twp.                             692

8  Centralia                                     694

9  Mt. Vernon                                 703

Chicago Schurz                          703

1951     Individual Medalist

                   Joe Korst—-7th in State (shot 163)

1956     District Champions                      coach unknown

Qualified for State Tournament

1957     District Champions

            Team finished 3rd in State          coach unknown

             1  Rockford East                    648

2  Quincy Sr.                         650

3  Joliet Catholic                  650  

4  Northbrook Glenbrook         655

5  Arlington                            658

6  Kewanee                           660

7  Peoria Central                    661

8  Chicago Taft                      662

9  West Frankfort                   666

10  Champaign                        670


                   Jay Swardenski & Jack Thorington–tied for 9th (shot 159s)


           STATE CHAMPIONS!!!                  Coach Rev. Berthold Fahey

              1  Joliet Catholic                  634

              2  Highland Park                     637

3  Waukegan                          640

4  Winnetka New Trier             641

5  Barrington                          642

6  Berwyn-Cicero Morton         646

7  Champaign                         651

Peoria Central                    651

9  Arlington                            652

LaGrange Lyons                 652


           SECOND IN STATE FINALS!!!   

               1  Highland Park                              637

2  Joliet Catholic                            657

3  Arlington                                      661

4  Peoria Central                              662

Urbana                                        662

6  Chicago Heights Bloom Twp.         665

7  Quincy Sr.                                   669

8  Rockford East                              670

Joliet                                           670

10  Winnetka New Trier                       672


Frank Mores—-4th in state (shot 152)


            3RD IN STATE FINALS!!!                        

             1  Peoria Richwoods             663

2  Urbana                            666

3  Joliet Catholic                670  

4  Downers Grove                  677

Elgin                                677

6  Wheaton Central               684

7  Galesburg                        685

8  Evanston                          689

9  Crystal Lake                     693

10  Alton                                694

1964    District Champions                       Coach unknown

Qualified for State Tournament

1965    District Champions                       Coach unknown

Qualified for State Tournament

1971    District Champions                       Coach unknown


Mike Komar—5th in class AA meet (155 score)

1981    AA District Champions                    Coach unknown

1983    AA Regional Champions                Coach unknown

Qualified for State Tournament

1985    10th in AA STATE FINALS               Coach unknown

             1   Rockford Guilford              602

2   Edwardsville                     621

3   Pekin                              629

4   Deerfield                          631

5   St. Charles                      631

6   Springfield H.S.                632

7   Rockford East                  636

8   Lake Forest H.S.             637

9   Homewood-Flossmoor      640

           10  Joliet Catholic                645

1986    AA Sectional Champions

Qualified for AA State Tournament



JCHS had several tankmen that came away with medals at the state finals, and even placed a team in the top ten standings in 1951.

1951    Team finished 8th in State Finals     Coach unknown

Individual Medalist

             (???) Talbot—3rd in 100 freestyle

1980    Individual Medalist

            Dave Sims—3rd in 200 freestyle

STATE CHAMPION in 500 freestyle!!!! 

1986    Individual Medalist

            Michael Wiegand—9th in 200 freestyle

1987    Individual Medalist

John Rubocki—8th in 200 Individual Medley (IM)

1988    Individual Medalist

            John Rubocki—11th in 200 IM


During the 1970’s, Joliet Catholic developed a reputation for having a solid program on the tennis courts, winning several district and sectional titles. The names of the coaches from these teams are unknown, so if there is anyone that has information, please let us know.

1972    District Champions

1974    District Champions

1976    District Champions

1977    District Champions

1980    District Champions

1982    District Champions

1983    Sectional Champions

1984    Sectional Champions

1990    Sectional Champions


The Hilltoppers offered this spring sport, even though they never had a track to really call their own to host meets…always going on the road. One Brown & Gold athlete represented the school and medalled at the state finals.

1983AA   Individual Medalist

                Kurt Schneider  Discus—5th Place


At one point in the late 1960’s and early ’70s, Joliet Catholic was competitive with other schools in speech, bringing home three district plaques and three more medals from individuals.

1970     District Champions

Individual Medalist

             Jim Hickey               After-dinner speaking—3rd place

1971     Individual Medalists

             Jim Hickey               After-dinner speaking—4th place

             Larry Zinkiewicz      Extemperaneous speaking—5th place

1972     District Champions

1973     District Champions

Memories regarding the speech program from Joseph Monshau, Class of 1969

“Under the inspired coaching of Father Cyprian Hibner, O.Carm., a number of us achieved notable success in I.H.S.A. speech competition.  In addition to numerous distinctions earned by many of the team members at various invitational contests, in 1968, three of us, Frank Sanello, Paul Preston and Joseph Monshau, won medals at the district or regional levels of the I.H.S.A. State competition.  In my case, Father Cyprian’s coaching laid the groundwork for the Ph.D. I earned eventually at Vanderbilt University in a closely-related discipline.”


Before merging with St. Francis Academy, the Hilltoppers made it to three consecutive state meets, placing within the Final Four each time out, including a second place finish in 1990.

1988 35- 9  Sectional Champions       Coach Daniel Puetz

                  State Qualifier

                   Beat Charleston 395-247 in first round

                   Defeated Murphysboro 301-219 in quarterfinals

Lost to Quincy Sr. in semifinals 384-142

(Quincy Sr. eventual state champion)

1989  30- 8 Sectional Champions          Coach Br. Tom Murphy

                  State Qualifier

                   Downed Evanston 316-234 in first round

                   Defeated Winnebago in quarterfinals 349-190

                   Lost to Aurora Illinois Math & Science Academy (IMSA) 451-205

                   (Aurora IMSA eventual state champion)

1990   41- 3 Sectional Champions            Coach Br. Tom Murphy

                   State Qualifier

                   Defeated Taylor Ridge Rockridge 371-202 in first round

                   Edged Springfield Southeast 256-239 in quarterfinals

                   Beat Carlinville 334-227 in semifinals

Lost to Aurora IMSA in championship match 365-331


There have been a number of students have walked the halls of DeLaSalle/Catholic High that went on to make their marks in the world, most of them in athletic endeavors.

George Mikan (1937-38) — Although he wound up becoming the first “big man” in the NBA, Mikan did not play prep basketball while enrolled at Joliet Catholic his freshman year. Mikan later transferred to Quigley Prep Seminary in downtown Chicago with the intention of becoming a priest, so he never did play in high school. However, DePaul coach Ray Meyer worked with him as a college freshman and turned the 6-10, 245 center into a household name. The bespectacled giant became an All-American his junior and senior years, and later went on to professional basketball where he played on four championship teams in his first six years with the Chicago Gears and Minneapolis Lakers. He was voted into the NBA Hall of Fame in 1959, and served as the first commissioner of the ABA from 1967-69.

Daniel (Rudy) Ruettiger (class of 1967) — As an undersized player, Rudy was a member of the 1965 football team that went 10-0. After a stint in the military and working back home in Joliet, he decided to follow his dreams and enroll at Notre Dame for a chance to try and play for the Fighting Irish. Even with some setbacks, he worked his way thru Holy Cross Junior College (next to the Notre Dame campus) to get into the Golden Dame, then continued the same type of ethic onto the practice squad at the school. In the final 27 seconds of the last game in 1975, Rudy got into the game and made the most of his opportunity, sacking the quarterback on the final play of the game before being carried off the field. Ruettiger graduated in 1976 from Notre Dame and his life was made into a movie in 1993, starring Sean Astin. Today, Rudy is in high demand as a motivational speaker and uses his real life experiences as proof that dreams can come true.

Terry Gannon (class of 1981) — Long before he became a fixture on ABC Sports’ coverage of figure skating, Little League baseball, college football and basketball, along with World Cup Soccer and many other sports, Terry was a star for the Hilltopper hoops program, leading his teams to regional championships in his junior and senior years. From there, Gannon attended North Carolina State University on scholarship, majoring in history while leading the Wolfpack to the 1983 NCAA Division I title. He set the school record for career free throw percentage at .854, and has the seasonal free throw percentage award named after him. Gannon also shot a school record .589 from three-point range during the 1982-83 season to set the single-season mark for the Wolfpack.


Bill Gullickson (class of 1977) — After leading his Hilltopper baseball team to its first-ever state tournament appearance, the Montreal Expos (now Washington Nationals) used the second pick overall to select him in the June 1977 amateur draft. He came up for good in 1980, recording a 10-5 mark that season, and was 7-9 the following season when the Expos made the playoffs for the only time in franchise history. Gullickson was 17-12 in 1983 during a stretch where he recorded 10 or more wins for seven consecutive seasons. Bill also pitched for Cincinnati, New York Yankees, Houston, and Detroit, along with two seasons in Tokyo before hanging up his spikes in 1994. Gullickson’s best season was 20-9 in 1991, and wound up with a 162-136 mark in MLB history with a 3.93 ERA.

Mark Grant (class of 1981) — Just like Gullickson, Grant was a first round pick in the MLB amateur draft, just days after leading his team to a state tournament. Mark was the 10th overall choice, taken by San Francisco, and worked his way thru the Giants’ farm system before getting called up in 1984 for a late-season appearance. Grant was later traded to San Diego and had his best season in 1989 with an 8-2 mark & 3.33 ERA. He also played for Atlanta, Houston, Colorado, and Seattle during his career before quitting in 1995. Grant is still involved in the game today as a broadcaster on the Padres television network.

Tom Thayer (class of 1979) — One of the key linemen in the 1977 & 1978 seasons that won a pair of 4A state championships, Thayer wound up at Notre Dame like Ruettiger and was an honorable mention All-America his senior year. Tom went on to play professionally with Chicago and Arizona of the former USFL from 1983-85, before joining the Bears in their Super Bowl season (staying until 1992) along with a season in Miami. Thayer still has ties to the Bears organization as a color commentator on their radio network, along with being a regular with long-time Chicago radio personality Steve Dahl on the latter’s afternoon show on radio station WCKG.

Elmer (Tippy) Madarik (class of 1939) — In a time when players went both ways for the entire game, Madarik was involved with Joliet Catholic football before enrolling at the University of Detroit prior to World War II. Tippy was versatile enough to play halfback, wingback, and tailback in the single-wing offense used in the 1930’s and ’40s before it was replaced by the T-formation. Madarik played with Detroit and Washington between 1945-48 before hanging up his spikes.

Mike Alstott (1988-1990) — As an up-and-coming football player who would later be an all-state fullback at Joliet Catholic Academy, as well as star for Purdue University and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers…making the Pro Bowl six times and starting for the Super Bowl XXXVII champions. Alstott saw action on the varsity football team as a sophomore durng JCHS’ final season, and wound up with 3,877 career rushing yards in three seasons. More about the “A-Train” can be found at,

Jack Perconte (Class of  1972) (From the Joliet Catholic Hall of Champions)Perconte played seven seasons in the major leagues with the Los Angeles Dodgers, Cleveland Indians and Seattle Mariners, finishing up with the Chicago White Sox . His best season was .294 with 29 steals and 31 RBIs in 1984 with Seattle. A second baseman, he batted .270 for his career.

He played in college at Murray State University before being taken by the Dodgers in the 16th round of the 1976 amateur draft. He’s the author of two books on baseball and the website

Jack was a member of the first Hillmen baseball team to capture an Illini-8 Conference Title. In 1972 as a senior he finished second in the area in batting average (.434) and first in steals (13). He was a two-time All-Conference and All-Area nominee.       


We’re looking for more information about the history of Joliet Catholic High School, and we can certainly use your help. Items such as the school fight song (words and music), names of coaches and individuals, win-loss records, etc. of successful seasons, photos, and more are needed to tell the story of the school’s history prior to the merger with St. Francis Academy. Just send your information to us at or by regular mail at:

Illinois High School Glory Days

6439 North Neva

Chicago, IL  60631

Joliet Catholic High School today (2006)
A picture containing grass, outdoor, tree, sky

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Now Victory Centre Senior Housing (courtesy of

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