A-K Valley Sports Hall of Fame inductee was top Fox Chapel wrestler before PSU football career

Saturday, April 16, 2022 | 9:01 AM

Rich Kriston is recognized as one of the best heavyweights in the storied history of the Fox Chapel wrestling program.

Kriston won three consecutive section titles from 1970-72 and was the first of 25 section champions at Fox Chapel in the ’70s.

After two years of covid-related postponements, Kriston, who died in 2013 at age 58, will be honored May 21 as one of 10 inductees at the 51st Alle-Kiski Valley Sports Hall of Fame banquet at the New Kensington Quality Inn.

“Rich was one of the top athletes ever at Fox Chapel and was an even better person,” said Ron Frank, former Fox Chapel wrestling coach who now acts as a volunteer assistant with his son, Michael. “He was inducted in the Fox Chapel Sports Hall of Fame as one of our first inductees.”

Frank has seen more than his share of great athletes at Fox Chapel. He is a longtime executive committee member of the Fox Chapel Area School District Sports Hall of Fame, and he ranked third in the WPIAL in wins when he retired after 38 years as Fox Chapel’s wrestling coach.

He has served as president of the WPIAL Wrestling Coaches Association and on the executive committee of the Pennsylvania Wrestling Coaches Association.

His wrestlers have competed for Maryland, Pitt, Duquesne, Navy, West Virginia, Virginia Tech, Pitt-Johnstown, Gannon and Arizona State, and he has coached athletes who have become doctors, Peace Corps volunteers, Army officers, neurosurgeons, and one who became a monk.

As such, Frank understands the place Kriston and his competitive spirit hold in Fox Chapel athletics history.

“Inducting Rich into the A-K Hall of Fame is certainly long overdue,” Frank said. “This tremendous honor recognizes the tremendous impact that Rich had on Fox Chapel athletics in three sports, and his excellence as a multiyear starting linebacker at Penn State.”

Fox Chapel never had a winning season in football until Kriston played for the Foxes from 1969-71.

He ended his playing days at Fox Chapel holding career records in rushing at 3,125 yards and touchdowns with 45, along with winning the three section titles on the mat.

Kriston lettered in football, wrestling and baseball each year in high school and led the baseball team to a section championship in 1972.

As a Penn State linebacker, Kriston played in the 1973 Orange, 1974 Cotton and 1975 Sugar bowls.

“Gil Damico, our athletic director for three decades, always said Rich was the best athlete he ever saw at Fox Chapel,” Frank said.

“I started at Fox Chapel when Rich was already playing at Penn State. I watched him start at middle linebacker for multiple seasons.

“Rich student-taught at Dorseyville Junior High and helped coach football for multiple years. When I became Central Catholic’s wrestling coach (for one season) in 1979, Rich agreed to join me as an assistant coach.”

Kriston later was hired as athletic director at Pine-Richland.

He was a member of the distinguished Fox Chapel Area School District’s Sports Hall of Fame Class of 1977, gaining HOF entrance with Ed Boyle, Frank Christy, Frank Fuhrer III, Gary Nelson, Leo Wisniewski and Michelle Michanowicz-Thompson.

He will be joined in induction to the Alle-Kiski Valley Sports Hall of Fame by Chris Como, Jeff Cortileso, Harry “Shorty” Crytzer, Robert Foster, Dianne Haney, Frank Phelps, Terry Preece, Lizzie Suwala Shaeffer and Bobby White.

A-K Valley Sports Hall of Fame

What: 51st induction banquet

When: 7 p.m. Saturday, May 21

Where: Quality Inn, New Kensington

Tickets: $30

Contact: Larry Lutz 724-822-3695; Bill Heasley 724-882-3079; Fred Soilis 412-736-1809


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