After 33 years at Naperville Central, Reimers has stories

 
 
Updated 5/8/2019 8:28 PM

On Glen Reimers' first day teaching at Naperville Central, he drove up ... and got rear-ended right in front of the place.

"Whoo, what a start," he said of that inauspicious beginning.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

Talking with the jovial man, now in his final weeks before retirement after 33 years as a physical education teacher and Redhawks gymnastics coach, it sounds like this is just the tip of his zany-story iceberg.

Early in his career he rented a house in Naperville (now the Lisa Rene Salon) with Redhawks football coach Mike Stine, a University of Illinois classmate also retiring from teaching this spring, and Tony Amabile, who started at Naperville Central, moved to Addison Trail and is now an assistant principal at Norco High School in California.

"I lived in the basement with all the millipedes and centipedes," Reimers said.

A friendly guy like this isn't long for the basement. He emphasized togetherness as head coach of the Redhawks girls gymnastics team starting in 1986 and the boys starting in 1994.

"The biggest thing is they come in and I try to make it more of a team atmosphere, more of a family," Reimers said.

A late starter in the sport, Reimers began competing in still rings as a junior at Mundelein and fell in love with it, qualifying into sectionals his first season. (He eventually fell in love with a classmate and fellow gymnast, Chris, and the two were married in July 1986.)

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Reimers took a somewhat circuitous route into coaching. From a six-month stint at the Wyoming Technical Institute to become a diesel mechanic -- simultaneously coaching mornings at the Wyoming School of Gymnastics -- he returned to Mundelein, where Barb Hartwig of the Gymnastics Spot put him in touch with University of Illinois women's coach Bev Mackes.

Assisting Mackes as an undergrad -- thus helping coach his future wife, Chris, a fellow Illini -- Reimers studied to become a teacher, which would enable him to coach in high school.

"I have to credit Barb Hartwig, she's the one who really got me going," Reimers said.

Imprinted by Illinois High School Gymnastics Coaches Association Hall of Fame members Bob Bohl (Mundelein), Neil Krupicka (Hinsdale Central) and Tom Temple, his Naperville Central boys predecessor, Reimers coached state champions Keith Lage and Sunni Steck.

One of his highlights was the Redhawks' 1996 girls team that squeaked out of sectionals by .15 of a point then placed third in state.

His final meet came May 2, a seventh-place finish at the Glenbrook North boys sectional.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

"We've improved almost 20 points from the beginning of the season, so we're happy," he said hours before that meet.

Glen and Chris Reimers have four children, three of them military veterans. In retirement they'll visit their children and plan their future as they go.

Periodically bothered by spending more time with other people's children than his own, Reimers credits his coaching longevity to his partner.

"My wife has been a tremendous support through all these years. There have been times when I wanted to give it up because I'd started to not like it. She supported me and said, why don't you give it some time and see what happens," Glen Reimers said.

"She's been my biggest supporter," he said. "Without her I couldn't have done this."

Ms. 400

The tantalizing scent of celebratory chocolate brownies may have been a tipoff, but Glenbard West boys volleyball coach Christine Giunta-Mayer didn't realize she'd won her 400th match until someone told her.

"I'm not counting games. I'm more working on the experiences," said the Hilltoppers' 14-year head coach.

Time flies when you're having fun. So do the victories. Giunta-Mayer said her last milestone before No. 400 on May 2 at Downers Grove South came in the Hilltoppers' unbeaten 2016 season when she reached 300 wins.

That spring Glenbard West went 42-0, part of a streak between 2015-2017 where the three-peat state champs didn't lose a set in 61 games and were unbeaten in 69 straight matches.

"That was a real special team to me," said Giunta-Mayer. "This one is, too. They're just a really nice group of kids. I enjoy every challenge that they give me."

Another challenge is what she termed Glenbard West's "ridiculous" schedule packed with heavyweights. A third of the Hilltoppers' last 22 matches came against teams ranked among the state's top 10, said Giunta-Mayer, a graduate of Glenbard West's Class of 1992.

With a record of 28-3 before hosting Hinsdale Central on Tuesday, Glenbard West co-captains Ryan Swartz, Connor Williams and their teammates continue to take on all comers as wins and experiences mount.

"For me it's always been not about me," Giunta-Mayer said. "I don't really care -- I do care, it's such a great accomplishment -- but I do it for them."

Farewell

A former American Football League All-Pro from Wheaton, Bob Zeman passed away late last week.

A star wingback and defensive back in high school drafted out of Wisconsin first by the Cleveland Brown in 1959 and then by the Los Angeles Chargers in 1960, Zeman played six seasons in the AFL with the Chargers and Denver Broncos.

Playing defense only in the pros, in 1961 Zeman's 8 interceptions with the Chargers ranked fourth in the league according to the Pro Football Reference website. Nonetheless the next season he played at Denver, earning AFL All-Pro honors with 6 interceptions, including a 55-yard touchdown return.

Returning to the then-San Diego Chargers his last two seasons, Zeman was injured in the last game of the 1966 season and went into coaching. During 21 seasons as an NFL assistant, Pro Football History.com noted Zeman coached with two Super Bowl winners, the 1976 Oakland Raiders and the 1989 San Francisco 49ers.

A co-captain of Wisconsin's 1960 Rose Bowl team that won its first Big Ten title in 47 years in 1959, Zeman was inducted into the Wheaton Warrenville South Athletic Hall of Fame in 2010.

A graduate of Wheaton Community's Class of 1955, he was 82 years old.

Close for comfort

Those who throw implements in track and field create a close community. Friendships grow when herded together far from normal people outside the range of an airborne discus.

Sean Denard, a 2008 Naperville North graduate, is the throws coach at Grand Valley State. He remembers his roots.

Of the nine male throwers in the program, five are from Illinois. Two of them are the Cwiok twins, Tom and A.J., out of Neuqua Valley. An elder statesman is redshirt junior Mike Prestigiacomo, a two-time all-state discus thrower at Lake Park.

"I think that it's the familiarity of being from the area, the connections, that we all know the same people," said Denard, referred to the Cwioks by another former all-stater, Neuqua graduate Carlos Varela-Hernandez.

Denard is on a long list of throwers who've gone into coaching, including but certainly not limited to former Lake Park state champion Scott Block, head coach at Southern Illinois-Edwardsville; Wheaton North graduate Pat Trofimuk, assisting at Waubonsie Valley; Glenbard East's Ben Sullivan, now with Montini; Naperville North head coach and Wheaton Warrenville South grad Chris Arthurs; and Dave Ricca, who coaches throwers at his alma mater, Neuqua Valley.

Prestigiacomo won't enter this fraternity, at least not initially. A senior academically, he's got three last-chance meets lined up this week at Grand Valley State, North Central College and Wisconsin-Lacrosse.

If he doesn't reach one of the roughly top 20 discus marks in Division II and qualify into nationals, that'll be it. He'll apply his hospitality and tourism management major starting this summer at Eaglewood Resort & Spa in his hometown of Itasca.

He's enjoyed his time talking Portillo's, pizza, pike, shot and disc with the Cwiok twins.

"They're real easy to get along with," Prestigiacomo said. "All they want to do is throw and fish."

doberhelman@dailyherald.com

@doberhelman1

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