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Looking back: The GNA Insider shares a 2015 article, “The history of the Jungle”

Welcome to the Jungle: 2015 marks the 30th anniversary of the Jungle!

Taylor Zabrenski and Sarah Benscoter

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Trojan Pride is a simple yet effective concept that is often overlooked at GNA but can become the difference between simply attending Nanticoke and being a Trojan. Through school spirit, we as students can be a part of something exciting and unique. When the student body is involved in events on and off campus, it demonstrates a passion for Trojan Pride that is both immeasurable and contagious. School spirit evolves into higher expectations of one’s self and their surroundings, superseding all ages, races, and creeds.

The year was 1985 when three young Nanticoke High School students, John Yudichak, George Graboske, and Gary Grodzicki had an idea to make every Nanticoke basketball game an exhilarating experience for GNA students. “We wanted to put our stamp on Nanticoke’s basketball history by becoming the best student section in high school sports,” quoted Senator John Yudichak. They certainly made their mark; the Trojan student section quickly gained a reputation for their rowdy ways and caught the eye of a local newspaper reporter who famously stated, “If Hazleton’sbasketball gym is known as the ‘Zoo,’ then Nanticoke must be the ‘Jungle!’” Adopting the “Jungle” label, they grasped onto the title and proudly declared it as their official student section name. “What started out as a few animals shouting from the bleachers, quickly turned into a ‘Jungle’ of animals showing up at every game to cheer on the Trojans,” said Senator Yudichak.

Although the fan presence itself has a major impact on the final outcome of the game, it’s the intensity of the “Jungle” that creates the atmosphere. “The ‘Jungle’ was ear piercingly loud with all different kinds of chants,” said Holly Kozlowski, a guard on the 1990 Trojanette state championship team. “I always counted my blessings that we would make it through the game without the bleachers collapsing.” Riley Klepadlo, who is currently a point guard for the Trojanettes, agrees with Kozlowski’s feelings regarding the “Jungle,” even after 25 years.

“A student section is nothing if it doesn’t give off energy,” she indicated. “Yelling, cheering, jumping, and literally anything that shows support for the team makes the game that much more intense.” Scott Stout, another current member of the boys’ basketball team also appreciates the enthusiasm of the “Jungle”: “The ‘Jungle’ is crazy loud. It’s filled with so many boisterous students ready to cheer their team on. Seeing it before every game makes me extremely nervous, almost to the point of puking, but when the game starts, it pushes my team and I to play better. It is very difficult for me to describe the feeling I get when the crowd gets into the game. When they start cheering, everything gets a lot more intense.” The “Jungle” sets the tone of the game by daunting opponents and by rooting on our mighty Trojans and Trojanettes. “The ‘Jungle’ was intimidating to all visiting teams. It had installed a lot of confidence in our players and was always a great motivating factor, which made my job easier,” quoted coach James Zubritski, a former Nanticoke basketball coach for both boys and girls (1970-2008).

The massive support of the “Jungle” has undoubtedly influenced the players both on and off the court. With the devoted support system behind them, the players are encouraged to strive for greatness and to play their very best ateach game. “You can’t do it alone – you need the support of the school and the town. That is why GNA has been so successful,” said legendary Nanticoke basketball coach, Rich Rutkowski, who has 615 wins throughout his coaching career (1965-1999). “Some of my best memories during my coaching years were enjoying the success of the GNA basketball teams and the tremendous support of the ‘Jungle.’ It motivated the teams enormously. When having the support of the student body, the players get determined not to let their school down.” “Being able to play in front of a packed house was like having a ‘sixth player.’ It certainly made us, as players; thrive on the excitement and hype. You also knew you had the support of the school as well as the local community itself. The enthusiasm and support was unbelievable,” stated Casey Comoroski, also a member of the 1990 Trojanettes state championship team. “No one accomplishes anything by themselves. Every player has several people that helped him or her achieve their success. You need people to keep you grounded when you’re successful and people to pick you up when things don’t go well; which the ‘Jungle’ was a perfect example of,” coach James Zubritski articulated. Coach Jim Carey, who led the Trojans from 1989-1993, also expressed his gratitude of the “Jungle”: “The ‘Jungle’ was a remarkable asset to our teams during my coaching years. The players couldn’t wait to take the court, knowing their classmates were there to cheer them on. We could always count on the enthusiasm and support of the student body. We knew we had the best supporting fan base in Eastern Pennsylvania.”

Throughout the years, the “Jungle” efficaciously brought the student body together as a whole with one common purpose: to cheer on the Trojans. Coach Jim Carey added, “A student section exemplifies school unity and support. It creates a family atmosphere that cannot be overstated.” Coach John Beggs, who currently coaches the Trojans and who was once a star point guard for Nanticoke, reiterated the same notion: “Students enjoy the opportunity to bond together and have a common purpose. Athletic events give the remainder of the student body the opportunity to show Trojan pride and school spirit.” Senator Yudichak agreed: “The creation of the ‘Jungle’ brought the student body together because everybody was included. It did not matter if you were a freshman or a senior. No one cared about what group you were a part of in school because, on game night, we were one, united ‘Jungle,’ committed to having fun and cheering on our team.”

Never was the “Jungle” more appreciated than in Hersheypark Arena on March 5th, 1990, when the Trojanettes battled their way to victory in the state championship game. Holly Kozlowski and Casey Comoroski, two members of that legendary team, expressed the importance of the student section: “It is really hard to put into words what the ‘Jungle’ has meant to me. My heart still skips a beat when I think about our state title season and remembering the sights and sounds of the ‘Jungle’ cheering for us at every game. My appreciation of the ‘Jungle’ will last a lifetime and more,” said Holly Kozlowski. Casey Comoroski continued, “The ‘Jungle’ adds a lot of school spirit to the high school community. It creates an environment of entertainment, excitement, and most of all, fun. This is where traditions are made.”

Since its founding in 1985, the Nanticoke “Jungle” has devotedly supported both the Trojans and the Trojanettes from their buzzer beater shots to their heart-breaking losses, unquestionably becoming the “sixth man on the court.” “I am proud of my GNA roots and the roll I played in founding the ‘Jungle’ with my friends. Most of all, I am proud of the GNA students, past and present, who have kept the spirit and legacy of the ‘Jungle’ alive for thirty years,” quoted Senator Yudichak. John Yudichak, George Graboske, and Gary Grodzicki’s goal was to make Nanticoke’s student section the very best that they could, but little did they know, their accomplishment would go down in GNA history.

About the Writer
Taylor Zabrenski, Student Writer
My name is Taylor Zabrenski and I am a senior. I enjoy playing soccer, throwing javelin for the track and field team, fishing, taking pictures, doing makeup, and spending time with my family and friends. I am a 4 year member of and letter recipient on the girls varsity soccer team, a 4 year member...
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Looking back: The GNA Insider shares a 2015 article, “The history of the Jungle”