4 PJ student-athletes sign NLI to NCAA schools for wrestling, XC, track

By ANTHONY SPAULDING
Director of Communications
Pope John XXIII Regional High School
anthonyspaulding@popejohn.org

SPARTA — Jake Rotunda, Jimmy Zignorski, Grace Campbell and Reece Muldoon have done everything in their power to excel in their respective sports during their time at Pope John XXIII Regional High School.

The blood, sweat and tears these four outstanding senior student-athletes have put into athletics have led them to their one of the best moments of their young lives recently, as they each signed their National Letter of Intent to compete and continue their education at a NCAA Division I or Division II college next year.

Rotunda, Zignorski and Campbell each committed to a D-I school. Rotunda signed his letter of intent to compete as a D-I wrestler for The Citadel; Zignorski signed his letter of intent to compete as a D-I cross country and track and field runner for Lafayette College; and Campbell signed her letter of intent compete as a D-I cross country and track and field runner for Manhattan College.

As for Muldoon, he committed to a D-II school. Muldoon will compete as a wrestler at Millersville University.

“We are so happy for our students,” Pope John XXIII Regional High School President and Principal Father McHugh said. “It’s great to recognize them for their wonderful achievements academically and athletically. They have worked so hard with their teachers, coaches and parents to get where they are today.”

Rotunda earned his commitment to The Citadel after being one of the rocks to the Lions’ resurgence on the mat. Rotunda ended his Pope John career as the school’s all-time leader in wins after posting a 130-24 record, including a 40-6 campaign this season at 132 pounds. He surpassed Brian Unkert’s (1986-90) previous mark of 109 wins.

Rotunda’s final season featured him becoming a fourth-place finisher at the NJSIAA Wrestling Championships, Pope John’s second four-time state qualifier, second four-time Region 1 Tournament finalist, fourth four-time district champion, sixth two-time Region 1 champion and first three-time HWS Tournament champion. Rotunda also helped the Lions win their first state championship and sectional championship in 24 years by leading them to the Non-Public B title and the Non-Public, North B crown.

For Rotunda, this commitment was special because had overcome a lot of adversity during his career at Pope John. He had to injury default from the state tournament twice during his career (neck injury as a freshman in 2015 and shoulder injury as a junior in 2017) and lost in the quarterfinals of states as a sophomore and senior before placing this season.

“This is a big step in my life,” Rotunda said. “There were some ups and downs in my career, but I think everything happens for a reason. I wouldn’t be here today if those things didn’t happen.”

Zignorski earned his commitment to Lafayette after becoming one of the Lions’ top distance runners in both cross country and track.

In cross country, Zignorski posted top-five finishes at the Hunterdon Warren Sussex Championships, New Jersey Catholic Track Conference Championships and at the Non-Public A Championships in his final season on the trails. He won the NJCTC in 15:47.30, which was the fastest time ever by a Pope John runner, placed third at HWS, and took fifth at Non-Public A.

Zignorski also led the Lions to an NJAC American Division title, a runner-up finish at both the HWS and NJCTC meets, a third-place finish at Non-Public A, and a spot in the Meet of Champions for the first time since 2013. For his efforts, he was named to NJ.com’s Non-Public A first team, the New Jersey Herald’s first team and the NJAC American Division first team.

In indoor track and field, Zignorski helped the Lions’ 4x800-meter relay team place fourth at the Meet of Champions this past winter. In outdoor track, he has helped the Lions win three NJAC American Division titles, finish in the top five at Non-Public, North A three times and take fifth in Non-Public A once.

Even though he is in the middle of his last outdoor season with the Lions, Zignorski felt he would not have been able to get to this point without Pope John head coach Brian Corcoran and the cross country and track programs being there for him.

“I’m so happy I can continue this for another four years,” Zignorski said. “I’ve had a solid career here. I accomplished a lot and I grew a lot, which is all you can ask for when you come through this program under Coach Corcoran. I’m ready to go onto the next level.”

Campbell earned her commitment to Manhattan after coming on strong as a distance runner for Pope John’s girls cross country and track and field teams.

In cross country, Campbell guided the Lions to two NJAC American Division titles, a NJCTC title in 2016, two top-three finishes at Non-Public A and two top-12 finishes at the MOC. In her final season, Campbell earned a spot on the New Jersey Herald’s first team and the NJAC’s second team.

In indoor track and field, Campbell helped the Lions’ 4x800-meter relay team place third at the 2017 Meet of Champions. In outdoor track, she has helped the Lions win two Non-Public, North A championships, claim two NJAC American Division titles, finish in the top five twice at the Non-Public A meet.

Campbell was so ecstatic about her commitment because she didn’t believe she would get to this point when she first started competing.

“I’ve definitely surprised myself,” Campbell said. “Four years ago, I never thought I would be competing at the level I am right now at high school, let alone continuing my career at a Division I program. I definitely owe that to Mr. Corcoran and the Pope John cross country and track and field program. We have had so many great athletes come out of it and go on to compete in college, and I am glad that I am one of them.

Muldoon earned his commitment to Millersville after he also performed well on the wrestling mat for the Lions for the last two years.

Muldoon ended his career as a seventh-place finisher at 182 pounds at states this year, a Region 1 champ at 160 in 2017, a two-time state qualifier, a two-time Region 1 qualifier, a District 2 champion in 2016 and a 100-match winner. He also helped the Lions not only win state and sectional titles this year, but also win two of their three consecutive NJAC American Division titles, two straight HWS Tournament championships and a District 2 title.

Muldoon felt his commitment to Millersville was made possible because of how much he developed at Pope John.

“My wrestling career really got better once I came to Pope John,” Muldoon said. “This team helped me get a chance to continue my career for the next four years.”

Published Print