Jim Gemler is a former Rambler and a member of the Prep class of 1998. He played quarterback in football, shooting guard in basketball, and shortstop for baseball during his four years at Prep.
He attended the University of North Carolina at Asheville and then transferred to the University of Akron. Gemler got his undergrad degree while at Akron and coached there shortly after, and he received his master’s degree from Penn State Behrend.
Gemler believes his calling to Prep came as a result of his family’s history with Cathedral Prep. His love for athletics and academics also played a role in him attending the school.
“My family, [such as] my father, my uncle, my brother, all went to Prep,” he said. “I was very involved with athletics, and Prep was kind of the best place, in my opinion, and in our opinion, in the area to go for athletics. Of course, with that, it’s the same thing on the academic side. It was pretty well thought of and known that Prep was the best option for school as well.”
One of the main talking points amongst alumni about favorite things at the school is the brotherhood of Cathedral Prep. Gemler believes this too, along with loving the preparation for life that the school gave him.
“Camaraderie [was a favorite of mine] between friends, teammates, teachers, and other staff members,” he said, “Truthfully, it was just a very fun place to go to school. It made school just enjoyable, because you had a ton of friends and camaraderie with everybody involved.”
“It was a good balance of having a good time and learning,” Gemler said. “You not only learned academic subjects, but also discipline and how to act in life and with others, such as adults. So it was a good mix of all that stuff, and I just remember having fun almost every day whether it was with a teacher, one of the administrative people, or other students.”
His involvement in athletics is also remembered fondly.
“Playing football, basketball, and baseball and having a ton of friends and success because of that. Just the camaraderie of going to school every day and having a fun place of a lot of hard-working people that was relaxing and also on the athletic field with building success and having a lot of friendships,” he said.
Gemler always had a love for sports during his life. Coupled with his experience in business, he took both of these fields and now finds himself working in a mix of the worlds of sports and business as the chief program officer at Factory Athletics.
“As CPO, I oversee all on-field events,” he said. “Factory Athletics is a sports marketing company, and what I work on is operations, so we run events for athletes and our goal is to help them get better and help them understand where they stand as athletes as compared to the rest of our country.
The company works with high school and middle school athletes.
“So, for a high school baseball player, we evaluate and film them. We help them get better as a baseball player with the ultimate goal to go on and play at the next level: college baseball and hopefully beyond that,” he said. “My job, more specifically, is to oversee all of our operations for those events. So when it comes to finding a venue to hold an event and finding a staff and professional scouts and college coaches to help run the event, all the way to setting up hotels, arranging travel, and putting together itineraries before events, everything that goes into pulling off that event, which you might compare to a combine like the NFL but for baseball and softball.”
Gemler feels that the preparation provided at Cathedral Prep is similar to what he talked about in his favorite things about Prep.
He said, “Being able to interact and understand being in life and in the real world, you’ve got to be able to do that. You’ve got to be able to interact with all different walks of life. You’ve got to know how to problem solve, [and] that’s another thing that Prep was really good with. They helped you understand, preparing you for college and then after life, and you got to be able to figure things out when you’re faced with a problem, being able to walk through the steps of always having solutions in mind and being helpful towards finding a solution for whatever that problem is. So, I think it was a very well-encompassing sort of process at Prep that helps you do that.”
Although Gemler works a great job at Factory Athletics, he wanted to pursue a career as an athlete or coach at first.
“Well, you know, at college I went and played college baseball at a big college; and it was something that I wanted to do,” he said, “Then I went on and got my master’s degree in business and MBA, and from there, I wanted to be an athlete. I wanted to do things like that or [become] a coach, and what I found is that I really loved to do something in sports. I studied business in college, so anything in sports and business, and that’s where I’ve kind of landed. Being able to be involved with athletes, be involved with sports, and make a nice career and living doing it. So from a business perspective, it’s kind of the best of both worlds for me.”
Gemler also reflected on his favorite teachers, faculty, and coaches at Prep and how they influenced him during and after his time as a Rambler. When asked about those people, the first name he mentioned was Mr. Achille, who coached Gemler at Blessed Sacrament before he attended Prep.
“He was a big reason why I went to Prep because he was such a Prep advocate,” Gemler said. “He and I were very close, and he’s a great teacher and was always very helpful for me at Prep. Mina George was a football coach, and I had him for history; he’s great. Coach Marcel Arribi, who was also a teacher, was one of the best coaches Prep has ever had. He was my basketball coach, and I learned a ton from him. He was very, very intense and tough, and when I look back now, what I learned from his was invaluable when it comes to hard work, perseverance, and being able to handle adversity because he certainly would challenge to a point of adversity. You had to know how to work through that.
Gemler mentioned several teachers that had a positive impact on him.
“I loved Frank Mezler. He was our computer teacher back in the day,” Gemler said. “Stan Brzezicki was my baseball coach; he was great. He recently passed, unfortunately, but Stan helped be tremendously as well. So, for me, a lot of the people that influenced me a lot and were great for me were not only teachers, but most of them coaches.”
Gemler excelled in many classes at Prep, including courses such as algebra and history.
“A lot of the standard stuff Stan Brzezicki taught was calculus and geometry. Bob Achille, again, was my algebra teacher, which was one of the main subjects that you needed to learn and be proficient with. And he was fantastic; I learned a ton from him in algebra. There was [also] a class that Dave Wenrick taught: history vs. video, where he would basically teach us about history, and then we’d watch a movie about it. I thought that was cool, and I know I learned a lot about history by doing that, so that was a good thing,” Gemler said.
When it comes to how he was so proficient in those classes, Gemler attributes his excellence to his interest in those courses.
“I think I was interested in the history vs. video class because you got to watch some movies and [then] apply it to things you were learning,” Gemler said. “It put into perspective what you read in the textbook and put it into action for you so that you could see it. It was kind of fun that way.”
He credited Mr. Achille’s teaching style for helping him in algebra class.
“Mr. Achille was very regimented, very organized and just kept you on task with homework and the process [of algebra],” he said. “He was very good at that, and that’s another thing I learned from him: process. Being able to create and be organized with a system to teach, and he did that very well.”
When Gemler was choosing where to attend college, he had many offers through baseball, so his decision to attend UNC Asheville was primarily based on a baseball scholarship.
“I was fortunate enough to play baseball at Prep. I had some scholarship offers and [UNC Asheville] was the one I chose,” he said. “I wanted to go south and be in North Carolina to play. And they gave me a good offer, and that’s why I chose there, but Prep afforded me that because we were pretty good at baseball and I was able to showcase my abilities because we were good.”
Baseball, football, and basketball were Jim’s favorite activities while at Prep, and his love for the three sports goes back to his earliest years.
“I just grew up with it [and] loved it,” he said, “I was able to do it enough where I was pretty good and decent enough to start and that kind of stuff. Sports truly was, and still is, my life. I mean, I still work in sports, [I’m] 41 years old, graduated in ’98, and I’ve really never been out of sports. I’ve been in sports since I was 2, 3, [or] 4 years old, and my dad had me out hitting and shooting jump shots when I was around that age. Being able to do it, [and] I felt like I was pretty good at it. I went and played all three [sports], so I was not only lucky enough to able to play on the team, but also start and have a major role and have a lot of success.”
Up until Jim graduated, Cathedral Prep basketball was huge at the time. The Ramblers played in the state championship three out of four years in the 90s. In 1996, Gemler was a sophomore on the team that made a run to Hershey, and he still has fond memories of playing on the court throughout his four years attending Prep.
“We played in the state championship game against Kobe Bryant when I was a sophomore,” Gemler said. “I, unfortunately, did not get to play in that game, but that was certainly a memorable thing. Unfortunately, we lost. So as a team, it was just really cool to get to that point.”
In 1997, the team played in the Bass Pro Tournament of Champions in Springfield, Missouri. Prep defeated two teams that were incredible, nationally-ranked teams, and Gemler made the All-Tournament Team. He also won the Fr. John Savage Award, as the person in the tournament that had the best sportsmanship.
“It was just an unbelievable, awesome experience to play in front of four or five thousand fans every night,” Gemler said. “I would say that the [tournament] was my number one basketball moment.”
As mentioned earlier, Prep played against the late, great Kobe Bryant and the Lower Merion Aces in the 1996 state championship game. Although Gemler didn’t play, he remembers the practices before in which he was used as a Kobe clone in order to prepare for the game.
“For me personally, it was a lot of fun because we spent a lot of time preparing to play Kobe Bryant, who was the number one-ranked player in the country,” he said. “We had played against some other guys that were very, very good just like he was, and believe it or not, [sometimes] just as good as he was. So, for me, we were really able to control and limit him.
The Rambler defense held Bryant to a season low 17 points in the state championship game.
“It was all because of our team effort to prepare for him and to obviously execute against him,” Gemler said. “They did win the game, but I think he [Kobe] averaged around 30 points a game, and we held him to about half of that, so we were very successful in limiting Kobe’s production. It allowed us to contend to win the game.
Looking back, Gemler is proud to have been a part of that team that prepared for the challenge of facing a player of that caliber.
“It’s funny because when we were preparing all week and practicing against what we thought Lower Merion was going to do, I actually [posed] as Kobe Bryant for our backup team against our starting lineup,” Gemler said. “Basically, Coach Marcel said to me, ‘Jimmy, whenever you touch the ball, you just got to find a way to get a shot off.’ So that was fun for me to be able to prepare that way because every time I touched the ball, I just got to shoot. I think I was able to help because we shut him down, frankly, and did a really good job [defending] him. For me, it is a cool thing to think back on and talk about and be proud of.”
Obviously, Cathedral Prep alumni from around the world will tell you about how many brothers they met at Prep. Gemler is no different from those alumn. He still has multiple friends from Prep he considers brothers.
When asked about his brothers from Prep today, Gemler said, “Oh yeah, there’s a bunch. You know, your dad [Jason Bish] is one of them. Chris Dudley, Craig Wilcynski, and Ryan Nietupski, as well. Greg Dufala was another one of them. Mike Carroll was a wrestler and a football player; he’s still a brother of mine. There’s at least six or seven and then there’s probably another 25 that I’m pretty close with, but I wouldn’t consider them brothers. Still, I’m very close with them.”