North Xtra: Storied coaching earns Giel a nod as Hall of Famer

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Tim Giel's coaching career began after a bout of horseplay.

"I was doing my student teaching as an athletic trainer at Shady Side Academy in 1981," Giel said. "I walked into the wrestling room and one of the wrestlers grabbed me."

The student was just fooling around, but Giel surprised him with a counter move.

"I put the kid on his back," Giel laughed as he recalled the event. "Coach [Bob] Grandizio saw what happened and asked if I would join the coaching staff. I worked as a volunteer assistant that year, then as a full-time assistant the following year."

In 1983, the head coaching position opened up and Giel began a 28-year run with the Indians.

"We had 35-40 kids in the wrestling room at the time," recalled Giel, who was inducted into the Pennsylvania Wrestling Coaches Association Hall of Fame Sunday. "I couldn't have asked for a better situation."

Shady Side Academy was a member of the Interstate Prep School League at the time and the Indians had four national champions in a 12-year stretch.

The Indians made their debut in the WPIAL during the 1994-95 season and became a powerhouse under Giel's leadership. The Indians qualified for the WPIAL Class AA team tournament 12 of the next 16 years and advanced to the title match four times, winning the title in 2001.

Shady Side wrestlers were even more impressive in the individual championships, as they collected 25 WPIAL titles and nine PIAA crowns.

"I've been very fortunate in my career to have so many good wrestlers and assistant coaches," said Giel, prior to joining the 2014 class of the PWCA Hall of Fame in a ceremony that took place at the State College Ramada Inn.

"To say that I was surprised is an understatement," said Giel, who is now the head coach and athletic director at Avonworth High School. "This came out of nowhere. I had no idea that I had been nominated.

"I took a look at the list of past inductees and it's pretty humbling to know that I am joining that list. It's a who's who of wrestling in the state of Pennsylvania."

Giel was a little disappointed that the ceremony was on Mother's Day.

"I had a lot of people who planned on attending, but backed out when they saw the ceremony was on Mother's Day," Giel said. "But my family was there to share this honor with me."

Giel is a 1976 graduate of Shaler Area High School who attained bachelor's and master's degrees at the University of Pittsburgh in 1981 and 1985. Giel was a two-time section champion and one-time WPIAL runner-up (1976) for coach Bob Siar at Shaler.

He also wrestled at Pitt, but injuries ended his career prematurely.

Giel recently completed his fourth year at Avonworth and has a career mark of 318-226, which places him 10th on the WPIAL's all-time victory list. He also was inducted into the Southwestern Pennsylvania Wrestling Hall of Fame in 2012.

"I started from scratch at Avonworth," Giel said. "The district had considered dropping the program, but gave me a chance to rebuild the program. It's been both rewarding and frustrating at the same time, but we're moving in the right direction."

Giel was one of 13 PWCA inductees and one of four who have ties to the WPIAL.

The others are Jim Horner, a former coach at Churchill and Bethel Park who became one of the district's top match officials; Ernie Yates, a Valley High School graduate who coached 25 years at Berwick in Columbia County; and Robert Parker, a Keystone Oaks High School graduate who coached 24 years at Commodore Perry in Hadley, Mercer County.

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