West Road neighbors leave their mark on Woodland athletics
BEACON FALLS — The playgrounds of New York and Compton, the frozen ponds of Minnesota and Canada, the sandlots of a thousand small towns — for decades, they’re where kids have become athletes before they’ve become legends.
If Woodland Regional High School has a breeding ground of its own, then look no further than a two-minute drive up Rimmon Hill and around the corner.
West Road is home to the Kingsleys, the indisputable first family of Woodland athletics. But over the last four years, the street corner’s legacy grew to include another neighbor whose qualifications are as good as any.
Zach Bedryczuk is five years younger than Tanner Kingsley. Long before their athletic legacies at Woodland were intertwined — the only two 1,000-point scorers in the school’s boys basketball history, both All-State baseball players, and both starting quarterbacks — they mixed it up in their adjoining yards.
“Every sport I played, I always played with him — in my backyard, on the trampoline, everything,” Bedryczuk recalls. “I always played basketball, baseball and football with him. I always looked up to him. I always wanted to be like him, be on the 1,000-point banner like him. He’s a role model for me.”
There was usually something going on at the Kingsley compound, whether it was Tanner’s friends or older brothers, Shane and Cody, and before long it started to include Bedryczuk.
“Whenever I’d have friends over, I’d be playing in the yard, basketball or baseball or football, he’d always come over,” Kingsley says. “He’d always pop in and play with us.”
Participation was about the only thing the Kingsleys gave the youngster.
“I was always the smallest one,” Bedryczuk says. “I had to work hard for everything. They wouldn’t give me an easy shot. They wouldn’t give me anything. I had to work for everything I got.”
That was, after all, the way Tanner learned from his brothers, and so it was the best way for the youngest Kingsley to pass on all the stuffed shots, strikeouts and hard tackles he’d endured for years.
“When he’d come over and get involved in the games, we never made it easy on him,” Kingsley says. “But we knew from when he was younger that he’d be a talented athlete.”
Like his neighbor, Bedryczuk became one of the best athletes in Woodland history. The only major difference in their careers came on the gridiron.
Kingsley put together one of the most statistically impressive quarterback careers in the history of Connecticut high school football, including the state record with 113 career touchdown passes. His 2015 graduation, after which he played football at Central Connecticut State, left a starting void just as Bedryczuk matriculated to Woodland.
Coach Chris Anderson decided to start the rookie — one of the few things at Woodland that Kingsley didn’t do — and Bedryczuk managed the offense during a 7-3 season in which he threw nine touchdown passes.
But after becoming a freshman starter in basketball and baseball, too, and knowing he eventually wanted to pursue a baseball career, Bedryczuk decided to cut one sport from his regimen.
“Becoming the starting quarterback as a freshman is something a lot of people wouldn’t walk away from, but I did,” he says. “My one year playing football in high school was a great year and I enjoyed it a lot, but after that year I knew I wanted to become more serious about baseball … during the fall and get looked at by colleges.
“I am happy with my decision because I am going to play baseball in college,” continues Bedryczuk, who will play hardball at Southern Connecticut State. “I would say yes, I have thought about what it would have been like (to have kept playing football), but it hasn’t made me regret my decision. I did what I thought was right for me.”
Bedryczuk finished his basketball career with 1,218 points, just shy of Kingsley’s 1,312, and became the best 3-point shooter in school history. In the spring, Bedryczuk earned All-State honors as a shortstop and led the Hawks to their second-best season in school history, culminating in a trip to the Class M semifinals.
“This season was one of the most fun seasons I’ve been a part of,” Bedryczuk says. “We were all close and were a team. We all have been playing with each other since Little League, so we have that bond and trust in each other. It was a season I will never forget.”
Now, both as Woodland alumni, the old neighbors got a chance to reflect on each other’s careers.
“Tanner was a great teammate and leader,” Bedryczuk says. “We both strive to be the best we could be and just compete. No matter the outcome, he and I would put in the work. (We were) always there to help our teammates and lead the right way. Tanner was a very talented player and I knew I wanted to strive for the same goals he had. I just wanted to be the best player I could be all around.”
“I always thought, especially this year, he was a great leader,” Kingsley says. “He’s just the type of kid who does everything right. He leads by example. You could tell that when he was going good, the whole team was going good. You could tell he had a lot of respect from his teammates.”
The next great Woodland athletes may not come from the top of West Road, but two of the best give similar advice that they learned on the lawn shared by their childhood homes.
“It takes a lot of hard work,” Kingsley says. “Especially at Woodland, when you’re the leader on the team, you’ve got people looking up to you, and you’re always trying to set the right example.
Whatever sport it was, all of us gave it everything we had every game. Guys like us, I don’t think you could ever say we took a play off.”
“You have to put in the work to see results,” Bedryczuk adds. “Even when you don’t want to go work out or practice, push yourself. You will thank yourself later. Always put in that extra work and don’t be afraid to compete. Have that mentality to be a winner and to be the best player you can be.”