PJ dedicates new weight training center to late coach Vic Paternostro

Director of Communications
Pope John XXIII Regional High School

SPARTA — Vic Paternostro’s name and legacy will always live on in a big way at Pope John XXIII Regional High School.

On Saturday afternoon, the school honored the late football coach, educator and administrator for his 43 years of service he put into helping the Lions on and off the field by dedicating a new state-of-the-art weight training facility — the Coach Paternostro Training Center — in his name.

The Coach Paternostro Training Center will serve as a combination of weight training, cardiovascular, speed training and wrestling practice areas for all students, athletic teams, alumni, faculty and staff.

 “It’s really exciting today to see so many alumni, parents, students and friends of the Pope John family to be here for the dedication of Mr. Paternostro,” Pope John Vice President for Institutional Advancement Mr. Craig Austin said. “Mr. Paternostro will always remain a pilar of this institution. So this facility in and of itself is so important to continue his legacy going forward.”

Mr. Paternostro, who passed away on Jan. 30, 2012 at the age of 68, built the Lions into a state power on the gridiron under his leadership from 1968-2010.

After being hired as an algebra teacher and an assistant coach in 1967, Mr. Paternostro guided the Lions to 20 state championships, 19 SCIL titles and two NJAC crowns en route to amassing a final record of 373-68-5. His 373 career wins are the most in the state of New Jersey.

But his legacy cannot be captured in just numbers.

Mr. Paternostro made sure to be an educator first, whether he was a teacher or the vice principal of the school until his retirement in 2010. He also served as a softball coach and was involved in the wrestling program.

And one of his biggest visions he had was for the school to have an updated weight training facility to help enhance students health and provide a proper space for all athletic teams to train throughout the year.

“When Mr. Paternostro arrived in the late 1960s, he came to this school in a little town in Sussex County and it had new, but small facilities,” Mr. Austin said. “He, along with the help of many coaches, athletic directors, parents, students and friends of all the other sports, helped the school’s programs grow into winning programs. And as they grew, we felt we didn’t have the facilities behind these programs.”

Which is why Mr. Austin, a 1988 graduate and former player under Mr. Paternostro, met with Pope John President and Principal Father McHugh and others to kick around the idea of building this facility. After doing some research on costs, Mr. Austin seemed it was going to be a massive project that would cost millions of dollars, which he said would be “cost prohibitive.”

But, it wasn’t until Pope John’s Director of Operations/Facilities Mr. Jim Reffi suggested to Mr. Austin that the school could build the center right under the eighth grade wing, which the space underneath it at the time served just as an extra space for parking.

“He came up with the concept,” Mr. Austin said. “When we looked at it, we said, ‘Wait a minute! That’s a great space, the infrastructure is in place and it would be half the costs.”

When they got the idea for the space, Mr. Austin had to find a way to fund the project. He didn’t have to go too far, as he reached out to fellow alums and friends of the Pope John family. Most of them were all on board because of what Mr. Paternostro had done for them.

“Two of the greatest life lessons I learned are from Coach Vic,” said John Gareeb, a 1977 graduate who played football and competed as a wrestler for the Lions. “In football, he helped teach me toughness. In wrestling, I learned great discipline. I’ve carried those things throughout my life and in my business. So, I just wanted to be a small part of making this facility by contributing financially.”

After Mr. Austin and the rest of the administration got over 150 donors to fund the project, the Coach Paternostro Training Center is now about a month away from full completion.

The school has completed the first phase of the project, which was creating the center itself. The center is 4,200 square feet and it cost $300,000 to construct.

The second phase is completing the flooring and walls. The school will also bring in all of the weights and equipment, which feature a number of bench and incline presses plus squat racks.

The third phase will be a complete cardio room, which will be housed where the old training room is just down the hallway in the new gymnasium.

“It’s going to be very special,” Mr. Austin said. “Now, it gives us the opportunity to change the curriculum at Pope John High School. This is for all 850 students plus all the students at Pope John XXIII Middle School and Reverend Brown. We can start teaching them healthier ways to live and train. And from an athletic standpoint, now each team has a place to train accordingly because we have all the tools. This will be an equivalent to a college-level training facility.”

So, it is only fitting that the school named this special place after Mr. Paternostro. After all, he played a big part in making Pope John the great institution it is today.

“It was very important we dedicated this to him,” Mr. Austin said. “This facility got built because of him.”

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