Hall of Fame induction a happy homecoming for Valley, North Carolina wrestling standout
Saturday, April 29, 2023 | 11:01 AM
Joe Galli didn’t lose many matches while wrestling at Valley High School in the mid-1970s. But, when he did, the people around New Kensington took notice.
Regardless of the time of day or weather, Galli responded to a setback on the mat by embarking on a 7-mile run up and down some of the hilliest streets in his hometown.
“People would see me running in horizontal winds with ice pelting and snow,” he recalled. “They would call my mom and say, ‘Your son is running. Is Joey OK? Is he out of his mind?’”
Galli relied on those grueling runs as a motivational tool.
“I did it as a mental thing, like, ‘I’m better than this.’ But I also thought I had to do more (physically) to get over the hump,” he said.
Galli did more than get over the hump. He became the first Valley wrestler to advance to a WPIAL championship match and compete in the PIAA tournament. He went on to the University of North Carolina, where he was a four-year letterman, team captain and ACC champion.
For his wrestling prowess, Galli is among those scheduled for induction into the Alle-Kiski Sports Hall of Fame on May 20 at the Pittsburgh Shrine Center in Harmar.
Galli, who lives in Florida, was inducted into the National Wrestling Hall of Fame & Museum in 2016. He described his feelings about getting into the two halls as “drastically different.”
“The national hall of fame is prestigious, but no one there knows you personally,” he said. “I grew up in New Kensington and learned how to wrestle there. That’s home.”
Galli credits Moe Guin, the legendary New Kensington YMCA youth wrestling coach, with recruiting him to the sport. A 2011 A-K Sports Hall of Fame inductee, Guin spied Galli in a gymnastics class as a sixth grader and persuaded him to move to the wrestling program.
“Moe was my hero and mentor and changed my life,” Galli said. “I was little in high school. I wrestled at 91 pounds as a junior, and I was a 105-pounder as a senior. Without wrestling, I wouldn’t have had a sport.”
A 1976 Valley graduate, Galli compiled a 21-2 record as a senior, with his only losses coming in the WPIAL final (by one point) and in the PIAA tourney’s second round. He was selected for the Dapper Dan Wrestling Classic, where he upset a three-time Ohio state champion.
That performance caught the eye of then North Carolina wrestling coach Bill Lam. After the match, he offered Galli a scholarship to wrestle for the Tar Heels.
As a college freshman, Galli grew five inches. He developed into a four-year starter in various weight classes, capturing the ACC title at 142 pounds as a senior.
“My first three years, I lost in the semifinals and took third in the ACC,” he said. “Finally, I won the whole thing my senior year. It was a great way to finish up.”
Galli’s final college match came with some extra pressure. The Tar Heels needed him to record a pin to clinch the ACC team crown. He responded with a first-period fall over a nationally ranked wrestler.
“I achieved my individual goal, but it was five times more powerful because my team won the ACC,” he said.
Since graduating from UNC in 1980, Galli has applied the lessons learned in wrestling to help attain considerable success in the business world. He is the chief executive officer at Techtronic Industries, which had $13.3 billion in sales in 2022 with 44,000 employees. Considered a global leader in the power tools industry, TTI’s brands include Milwaukee, Ryobi and Hoover.
“I have worked hard to give back to the sport of wrestling,” he said. “Right now, we have 27 former Division I wrestlers working for us, including two Olympians and six national champions.
“I’m not doing it to be gratuitous. I’m doing it because a wrestler who develops the fundamental success factors — the grit and determination, the ability to get knocked down and get back up, the will to win – can be very good in a corporate environment.”
While Galli’s career has taken him away from home, he still looks to get back to the Pittsburgh area as much as possible.
“I love Pittsburgh — and I love the Steelers, Pirates and Penguins,” Galli said. “I’ve been all over the world, and some people just don’t understand it. They look at Pittsburgh as a smoke stack and steel mill city. But when you come through the tunnels and see those rivers at night, there’s nothing better.”
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