Bill DiFabio's Sports Column
Cindrich-Joyner match one of the all-time greats
Ralph Cindrich during his playing days at Pitt.
Avella’s Ralph Cindrich and State College’s Dave Joyner are high-profile professionals in the sports field. Joyner is currently the athletic director at Penn State. Cindrich is one of the best sports agents in America.
Cindrich sold his sports agency to DeBartolo Sports in 2005 and is currently a consultant with DeBartolo and continues to negotiate contracts for NFL players.
There was a time when Cindrich and Joyner were high-profile wrestlers at the high school and college level.
At Avella High School, Cindrich was an outstanding football player and excelled as a wrestler.
“I loved football, but wrestling was my first love. It’s all on you. You lose, it’s your fault. You win and it’s very rewarding. It takes a lot of hard work to be successful in wrestling,” Cindrich said.
“At Avella, you had to work hard. A lot of tough kids became winners. We had good coaches, who were tough but fair, and they made us work hard.”
Joyner found success at State college, a school that was a powerhouse in football and wrestling.
“Losing was not acceptable,” Joyner said. “The wrestlers were tough and aggressive and there was always tough competition in the weight room.”
In the 1967 PIAA finals held at State College, these two heavyweights collided in a match wrestling historians still talk about.
Before that matchup, Cindrich and Joyner met at a wrestling camp in July 1966.
“I remember talking to Pretty Boy (Joyner’s nickname). We got to work out, and on the day we departed from camp, Joyner looked at me and told me be to prepared because I’ll be seeing you in the finals at states,” Cindrich said.
Cindrich was no stranger to the state finals. In 1966, he lost in the finals to Pete Drehman, 6-1. That 1966 season was a disappointing one for the WPIAL. Several of the area’s best wrestlers went to states expecting to win a title, only to lose.
“We had great wrestlers going to state,” Cindrich said. “Trinity had three outstanding guys, John Abajace, Ron Junko and Champ Long. Wash High had a good kid named Reggie Sharon, Waynesburg had a great 95-pounder in Dale Murdock. We came home empty-handed. Everyone was stunned that the WPIAL came home without a winner. But that’s wrestling – you never know.”
Cindrich would return to the state tournament in 1967. He knew if he could win his way to the finals he would meet Joyner.
The much-anticipated battle of the titans was classic stuff.
The two battled to a 1-1 tie in regulation, but in the second period Cindrich broke two bones in his right hand.
“Oh my, I couldn’t use my right hand,” Cindrich recalled. “No way was I going to quit. My coach (Ray Buzzoli, a former state champ from Chartiers-Houston) left it up to me. I got to go on.”
Imagine wrestling for two periods and you’re tied with your opponent, then you have to wrestle an overtime period and you’re handicapped.
There was no happy ending for the Avella native. Joyner beat Cindrich, 2-1. Joyner was awarded a penalty point when Cindrich grabbed Joyner’s singlet.
It was a disputed call.
Bill DeFabio writes a biweekly column for the Observer-Reporter.