North Allegheny’s Ray Brinzer takes place among other WPIAL all-time greats

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Saturday, June 10, 2023 | 11:01 AM


Thinking back to his 109-match winning streak in high school, former North Allegheny wrestler Ray Brinzer admits he was a little surprised.

Not surprised that he was winning, but surprised people were keeping track of his wins and losses on the mat.

“I was partway through my freshman year before I realized somebody was actually counting these things,” Brinzer said with a laugh when the former high school and college champion was inducted into the WPIAL Hall of Fame.

Eventually, those folks counted only wins.

Brinzer went undefeated as a sophomore, junior and senior and won three consecutive WPIAL and PIAA titles from 1988-90. He added three junior national titles and was named Asics wrestler of the year as a senior.

Yet the streak wasn’t his motivation, but rather a drive to always chase bigger goals.

“In my mind, I was training for the world championships,” he said. “I was like, ‘This is what I have to do. I’m moving in that direction.’ ”

Brinzer was among 13 individuals and two teams selected for the WPIAL’s 2023 class. The group was inducted June 2 with a banquet at the DoubleTree in Green Tree.

The other athletes were Bethel Park’s Emily Carter (swimming), Serra Catholic’s Laura Grimm (basketball), South Fayette’s Jonathan Hayes (football), Valley’s Greg Meisner (football/track and field), Valley’s Tom Pipkins (basketball) and Peters Township’s Sarah Riske McGlamery (tennis).

Also inducted was broadcaster Don Rebel of TribLive HSSN, Serra Catholic girls basketball coach Bill Cleary, Sto-Rox softball coach Bill Palermo and softball umpire Bob Osleger.

The late James “Lash” Nesser, a boys basketball coach who won a state title with Uniontown in 1981, was inducted as the heritage selection.

Seneca Valley goalkeeper Virginia Fronk, who was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma before her senior season, yet returned to the field, received the WPIAL Courage Award.

The teams inducted were the 2000-01 Oakland Catholic girls basketball team that went 31-1 and won WPIAL and PIAA Class 4A titles under coach Suzie McConnell-Serio, and the 1981-82 Monaca boys basketball team that went 28-1 and won the WPIAL Class A title with no player taller than 6-foot-2.

For many, the induction banquet was a night for reminiscing.

In 1993, Pipkins set the career scoring record for WPIAL boys basketball. His 2,838 points stood for 30 years, until his record was broken this past winter.

“I remember the people were cheering for me, even the competition I was playing against,” said Pipkins, who later played at Duquesne. “It was a pleasure to have people looking at me in that light … to be looked at as one of the best in the WPIAL.”

This was the 16th class inducted into the WPIAL hall.

“The best memories (of high school athletics) are family,” said Hayes, the South Fayette graduate who became an All-American tight end at Iowa and had a 12-year playing career in the NFL. “My mother and dad would take me everywhere to every game. Looking up in the stands, I’d see them there. My dad always stood at the fence.”

Family got Brinzer into wrestling.

“My father wrestled for Slippery Rock and everything I heard about growing up was how this guy was so tough,” Brinzer said. “By the time I was in second grade, I was saying, ‘Let me wrestle! I need to do this!’ ”

Brinzer was part of a dominant North Allegheny wrestling program in the late 1980s and was named a high school All-American three times. He wrestled in college at Oklahoma State and later Iowa, where he was a two-time Big Ten champion at 177 pounds, earning All-American honors in 1993 and ’95. He placed third at the NCAA tournament both years, falling each time to the eventual national champion.

On an international scale, Brinzer was the U.S. Greco-Roman runner-up in 1998 and competed with the national team that year.

Chris Harlan is a TribLive reporter covering sports. He joined the Trib in 2009 after seven years as a reporter at the Beaver County Times. He can be reached at charlan@triblive.com.

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