David J. Phillip, Associated Press
Before he became a legend on the PGA Tour, Arnold Palmer was the first player to win back-to-back WPIAL and PIAA championships in 1946-47.
A golfing legend, the all-time assists leader in NCAA women's basketball, an NFL all-pro, a longtime Steelers assistant coach and an Olympic wrestler are among the individuals in the inaugural class of the WPIAL Hall of Fame.
The WPIAL announced the 16-member class yesterday during a news conference at the Heinz Pittsburgh Regional History Center. The inductees' names will be inscribed on a plaque at the History Center and they will also be honored at a banquet June 22 at the Embassy Suites in Moon.
Executive Director Tim O'Malley talks about how athletes were selected for the WPIAL Hall of Fame.
Suzie McConnell-Serio discusses what induction means to her.
The golfing legend is Arnold Palmer, who played at Latrobe High School, and the all-time assists leader in NCAA women's basketball is Suzie McConnell-Serio, who played at Seton-LaSalle.
Dick Hoak played at Jeannette and retired as Steelers running backs coach after last season. Bill Fralic, a Penn Hills graduate, made his mark as a lineman at Pitt and then the NFL. Cary Kolat of Jefferson-Morgan made it to the 2000 Olympics.
"You think of all the players, coaches and administrators who have been in the WPIAL, and to be singled out as one of the first ones to go in the Hall of Fame, it's a special thing," Hoak said.
Hoak and McConnell-Serio both attended the news conference.
"To me this is very special," said McConnell-Serio, recently hired as the women's basketball coach at Duquesne University. "When you look at the WPIAL, it's 100 years old, and there are only 16 being inducted in the inaugural class. It's truly amazing to me that I've been selected."
The WPIAL picked Hall of Fame members from five different categories -- athlete, coach, team, official and contributor. Every school in the WPIAL could submit one nomination in each category.
Some great athletes from the WPIAL didn't make the inaugural class. You can be sure people will wonder why Hopewell's Tony Dorsett or Central Catholic's Dan Marino weren't selected. But there was a reason. Only 50 percent of the schools in the WPIAL submitted nominations.
A committee then selected the 16 members. But the key point is only those nominated could be selected. Many great athletes from the WPIAL weren't nominated, including Dorsett and Marino.
"Unfortunately, 50 percent is what we've come to expect in regards to feedback from our schools," WPIAL executive director Tim O'Malley said. "But that shouldn't take away from these people going in because all of them very much merit induction.
"We're hopeful going forward that the schools will get on board and recognize what we're attempting to do, and put forth nominations."
Here are the 16 inductees, including two teams:
Jennifer Flynn (Oldenburg), Baldwin -- One of the best all-around girl athletes in WPIAL history. Won 12 varsity letters in volleyball, basketball and softball from 1992-96. Played volleyball at Ohio State and also professionally.
Bill Fralic, Penn Hills -- One of the best football linemen ever in the WPIAL. A Parade All-American in high school, Fralic went on to play at Pitt and the NFL. He also had a 98-7 record as a wrestler.
Dick Hoak, Jeannette -- Star quarterback/defensive back on Jeannette's 1956 WPIAL championship team. Was all-state in football, all-section in basketball and three-year letterman in track. Played at Penn State and with the Steelers.
Cary Kolat, Jefferson-Morgan -- Had a perfect high school wrestling career, finishing 137-0 with four PIAA championships. Made the U.S. team in the 2000 Olympic Games.
Suzie McConnell-Serio, Seton-LaSalle -- A basketball star who led Seton-LaSalle to its first PIAA Class AAAA championship in 1984. She had 1,934 career points, 934 assists and 813 steals. Also was a standout in softball and volleyball, played basketball at Penn State, won an Olympic gold medal and was a championship girls' coach at Oakland Catholic.
Arnold Palmer, Latrobe -- Before he became a legend on the PGA Tour, Palmer was a star on the high school level. Became the first player to win back-to-back WPIAL and PIAA championships in 1946-47.
Sean Shapert, Moon -- A soccer player and a 1985 graduate who scored 213 career goals, which still stands as the national record.
Pete Antimarino, Gateway -- Legendary football coach at Gateway from 1958-89. Had a 255-93-13 career record (including a few years at Pitcairn), with three WPIAL titles and two co-championships.
Pat Campbell, Bethel Park -- In 21 seasons as Bethel Park's boys' swimming coach (1969-88 and 1996), Campbell won 11 WPIAL titles, including eight in a row at one point. Also won six PIAA titles.
Don Graham, North Catholic -- Winningest boys' basketball coach in state history. Coached 51 years and had an 801-436 record.
Dave Nichol, Monaca -- Won 967 games in basketball and baseball. In 39 baseball seasons, he won 492 games. In 30 years in basketball, he won 475 games with a WPIAL and PIAA championship.
North Hills football, 1987 -- Finished 13-0 and ranked No. 1 in the country by USA Today. Outscored opponents, 435-20, and first-team defense did not allow a point all season.
Bethel Park boys' swimming, 1996 -- Had six swimmers reach All-American status and finished ranked No. 2 in the country. Scored 176 points at the PIAA championship, the most ever by a boys' team.
Norm Crawford, Coraopolis -- A 1940 graduate of Coraopolis, Crawford has worked as a starter for track meets for more than four decades. Has been the head starter at the PIAA championships the past 20 years and was a starter at the Olympics in 1984 and '96.
Jim Horner, Montour -- Has officiated high school wrestling for 27 years. Has worked close to 700 dual meets, the WPIAL individual tournament 25 times and the state tournament eight times.
Charles "Ace" Heberling -- Executive director of the WPIAL for 21 years (1976-97).