George Lamprinakos, the wrestling coach at Mt. Lebanon High School for more than three decades who tutored Olympic gold medalist Kurt Angle and 12 other state champions, died Saturday due to complications from dementia. He was 87.
Mr. Lamprinakos taught physical education at Mt. Lebanon for 38 years and revived the wrestling program in 1956 after it was discontinued during World War II. He was one of only 15 coaches in the history of the Western Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic League whose teams earned 300 victories.
In his 32 seasons as wrestling coach, Mr. Lamprinakos was 332-129-6. His teams won 22 section titles and seven WPIAL team titles, and he coached 33 WPIAL individual and 13 Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic Association champions.
It did not take Mr. Lamprinakos long to make Mt. Lebanon into a contender. By 1962, six years after restarting the program from scratch, Mr. Lamprinakos developed his first PIAA champion, Drew Bachman in the 120-pound weight class.
"He was a role model, a man of integrity," Mr. Bachman said. "He was a mentor to all of his young guys. I'm very proud to come from that program. Wrestling is an individual sport, but coaches play a prime role.
"Coaches are important in motivating and getting athletes to do what they don't think they're capable of doing. George was able to do that. He was great with his athletes. He got a lot of wrestlers to get over that hump, to go that extra mile. He made the kids believe in themselves."
From 1962 until Mr. Lamprikanos' retirement in 1988, Mt. Lebanon was a WPIAL power. From 1970 to '75, six Mt. Lebanon wrestlers won PIAA championships.
"One of the reasons Mt. Lebanon was so good was the competition in practice," said Russ Jones, an assistant athletic director at Mt. Lebanon High School who wrestled for Mr. Lamprinakos from 1968 to '71. "Back then, we were five or six deep in every weight division. Some of the best matches I ever saw were in practice."
Mr. Lamprinakos' most famous pupil was Mr. Angle, who won the 1996 Olympic gold medal in freestyle wrestling. Before becoming a two-time NCAA champion at Clarion University of Pennsylvania and an Olympic champion, he won two WPIAL titles and a PIAA title with the Blue Devils.
On his Twitter account, Mr. Angle wrote the following tribute to Mr. Lamprinakos: "I'm Very Upset that My Coach, Mentor and 2nd father George Lamprinakos Passed Away. He Was the Greatest High School Coach that Ever Live[d]."
Mr. Jones said many of his former wrestlers thought of Mr. Lamprinakos in the same way.
"If you wrestled for him he was like a father to you," Mr. Jones said. "He was very sensitive and caring, but he didn't tolerate any bad behavior. He was a tremendous teacher. A lot of people can coach, but they don't know how to teach. He was a great teacher, too."
Chris Perri was one of seven brothers from his Mt. Lebanon family who wrested for Mr. Lamprinakos. He won the WPIAL title in the 119-pound weight class in 1984 and later coached under him during his final season at Mt. Lebanon in 1988.
"He had a great way of dealing with kids," said Mr. Perri, who remains involved with the Mt. Lebanon wrestling program. "He would always tell stories about the wrestlers that came through the program. If someone would miss a practice, he'd say, 'Drew Bachman never missed practice. He won a state championship because he was always at practice.' That was his way of doing things."
Before embarking on his teaching career, Mr. Lamprinakos served in World War II in the Army Air Corps and was a graduate of the University of Pittsburgh.
He is survived by his son, John G. Lamprinakos of West Chester, Pa.; and daughters RoseAnn Orr of Greensburg and Christine Liotta of Franklin, Pa.
The funeral is at 9:30 a.m. today at Holy Cross Greek Orthodox Church, 123 Gilkeson Road, Mt. Lebanon. Memorial contributions may be made to The Coach Lamprinakos Memorial Scholarship Fund, 393 Hannastown Road, Greensburg, 15601.
Ray Fittipaldo: email@example.com and Twitter @rayfitt1.