Valley great Tom Pipkins highlights 2023 WPIAL Hall of Fame class

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Wednesday, January 18, 2023 | 10:58 AM


Tom Pipkins jokes that he might already be retired from working if high school athletes could’ve signed endorsement deals back in his day.

That’s how much interest there was around the former Valley basketball star when he broke the WPIAL career scoring record 30 years ago this month. As part of the hype, Pipkins recalled, he was asked to autograph souvenirs before the game, keepsakes for a record that still stands three decades later.

“They had me signing buttons that they were going to pass out or sell or whatever,” said Pipkins, with a laugh. “Nowadays, people make money off that.”

His scoring record likely will fall this winter, but Pipkins soon will own another piece of WPIAL history. The 1993 Valley graduate will be inducted into the WPIAL Hall of Fame this spring as part of the 2023 class.

The list of inductees was revealed Wednesday in a news conference at the Western Pennsylvania Sports Museum inside the Heinz History Center. The induction banquet is June 2 at the DoubleTree in Green Tree.

Also featured in the class of 13 people and two teams were former NFL players Jonathan Hayes of South Fayette and Greg Meisner of Valley, championship coaches Bill Cleary of Serra Catholic and Bill Palermo of Sto-Rox and broadcaster Don Rebel of TribLive HSSN.

Meisner, like Pipkins, went to high school in New Kensington.

“There’s great pedigree there of players from my generation, my father’s generation, my grandfather’s generation,” said Meisner, a 1977 graduate who played 11 seasons in the NFL. “Growing up, all you heard about was these people and you wanted to be like them.”

Meisner was among the athletes who gathered Wednesday morning for the WPIAL’s announcement.

“I was very honored and very humbled,” he said. “Western Pennsylvania is full of great athletes in all facets. To be recognized with that group is a great honor.”

The other athletes selected were North Allegheny’s Ray Brinzer (wrestling), Bethel Park’s Emily Carter (swimming), Serra Catholic’s Laura Grimm (basketball) and Peters Township’s Sarah Riske McGlamery (tennis).

The late James “Lash” Nesser, a former boys basketball coach at Uniontown, was the heritage selection. Nesser won 680 games combined at St. John and Uniontown, where he also won a PIAA Class 3A title in 1981.

The teams picked for induction 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.

Softball umpire Bob Osleger, who worked numerous WPIAL and PIAA championships, was chosen for his work as a game official.

Seneca Valley senior Virginia Fronk, who was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma before the fall soccer season, will receive the WPIAL Courage Award. Fronk, a George Mason recruit, helped lead the Raiders to a 13-2-2 record and the WPIAL semifinals.

Rebel, who started his broadcasting career in 1988, has been a recognizable voice around WPIAL sports for decades. He also changed the way fans listen to games by helping to launch the online streaming site MSA Sports Network, which became TribLive HSSN in 2017.

This is the 16th class enshrined in the WPIAL Hall of Fame since its formation in 2007.

Pipkins, who broke the WPIAL record with an alley-oop dunk Jan. 29, 1993, said he had wondered when his induction day might come.

A paraprofessional in the Quaker Valley School District, Pipkins lives in Beaver County with his wife Danielle and son, Thomas III, who is a sophomore on the Hopewell basketball team. His daughter, Jaqueline, 24, lives near Los Angeles.

Pipkins, who later played college basketball at Duquesne, graduated from Valley with 2,838 career points. The previous WPIAL record was set in 1955 by Wampum’s Don Hennon with 2,376 points.

Pipkins scored 29 points the night he broke Hennon’s record in a 97-63 win over South Park at home in New Kensington.

“People don’t know how nervous I used to be before those games,” Pipkins said. “I’m a real quiet type of person. I don’t like the attention. To be getting all of that attention was way overboard for me.”

However, Pipkins’ record could soon fall. Aquinas Academy senior Vinnie Cugini, who on Tuesday pushed his career total to 2,659 points, is within 179 points of Pipkins’ total.

Truthfully, Pipkins said, he is somewhat surprised it took this many years.

“Definitely, because the game has changed over the years,” he said. “Even before Vincent Cugini came about, there were a lot of other people who were getting a lot of shots. Even the NBA and college games have changed. People are playing from the outside in and taking more 3-pointers than before.”

How will Pipkins feel when his record does finally fall? He’s not sure.

“You can’t really react to something proactively,” he said. “You don’t know how you’re going to feel until you get there.”

Meisner was a multi-sport standout at Valley, where he starred in football, set javelin records in track and also wrestled and played basketball. He was picked for the Big 33 Football Classic in 1977. The former Pitt defensive lineman later played 11 NFL seasons. He also served as football coach at Hempfield for seven seasons and was athletic director from 2005 to 2020.

Brinzer earned three consecutive WPIAL and PIAA wrestling titles for North Allegheny from 1988-90, and he won 109 consecutive matches in those three years. He later wrestled at Iowa, where he was a two-time All-American in 1993 and ’95.

Carter led the Bethel Park swimming team to consecutive state titles in 1998 and ’99 while collecting seven WPIAL and five PIAA individual gold medals. She set two WPIAL meet records and one PIAA record before competing for Stanford.

Cleary was one of only four WPIAL girls basketball coaches to win more than 600 games. He finished 657-156 in his 34 seasons, winning 18 section titles, four WPIAL titles and one state championship in 2005. Serra Catholic reached the WPIAL finals 10 times.

Grimm went 103-12 in four seasons on the Serra Catholic girls basketball team and became the program’s all-time leading scorer with 1,940 points. The Eagles reached the WPIAL finals all four seasons, winning two WPIAL titles and one state championship. She later played at Colgate.

Hayes was a football standout at South Fayette and was picked for Big 33 Football Classic in 1981. He later became an All-American tight end at Iowa and played 12 seasons in the NFL with the Kansas City Chiefs and Pittsburgh Steelers.

Palermo went 589-137 as Sto-Rox’s softball coach and never had a losing season in a 35-year career that included 10 WPIAL titles and one state championship. He’s the winningest coach in WPIAL softball history.

Riske McGlamery was one of the WPIAL’s all-time best girls tennis players, winning three WPIAL singles titles and adding consecutive state championships in 1997 and ’98. She later earned All-American honors at Vanderbilt and played professionally until 2006.

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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