Five local individuals chosen for WPIAL Hall of Fame
Larry Maggi has served in the United States Marine Corps, was a Pennsylvania State Trooper for 24 years and is currently a Washington County Commissioner.
In his illustrious career, he has come across all types of individuals, sometimes in not-so-nice situations.
“I have arrested people, given out tickets and now have the ability to raise people’s taxes,” said Maggi. “But I have never made people so angry than when I officiate wrestling. People have come up to me and said, ‘You called my kid for stalling in a match in 1987.’”
Maggi, who has been a wrestling official for 43 years, is one of five local individuals who will be inducted into the WPIAL Hall of Fame during ceremonies June 6 at the DoubleTree Hotel in Green Tree.
The others local inductees are:
• Mike Vernillo, who graduated in 2000 from Fort Cherry High School as the leading rusher in the WPIAL with 7,646 yards.
• Jon Vallina, who had a distinguished career as athletic director and golf coach at Burgettstown High School and who was an administrator for the WPIAL and PIAA.
• Arnold Galiffa, who led Donora to high school football and basketball titles in the 1944-45 season, a first in WPIAL history.
• Ralph Cindrich, a two-sport athlete at Avella High School and Pitt who played in the NFL.
Maggi began officiating in 1971 and worked 26 regional finals, 18 WPIAL Team Tournament championships and nine PIAA Championships. He has officiated at the Pittsburgh Wrestling Classic for 28 years.
“I love wrestling,” he said. “I think it builds character. It’s hard to believe I’ve been doing this for so long. My kids know, and my wife knows, that when December hits, Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays are off limits because those are wrestling nights.”
Maggi is the President of the Washington County Wrestling Officials Association and served as the WPIAL wrestling rules interpreter. On three different occasions, he was named Pennsylvania Wrestling Official of the Year.
“What I like about wrestling is that there are a lot of moments of intense situations,” he said. “Being involved in a match of two great teams and you have to make the call. They might not like what you say, but they trust you to do it.”
Maggi picked the match between Canon-McMillan and Connellsville in the 1991 WPIAL Team Tournament finals as the one he we will always remember.
“Canon-McMillan won by one point,” he said. “I think it was 26-25. They only used one referee, and I was the only official. It was an intense match from 103 to heavyweight.”
Vernillo’s rushing record stood until Rushel Shell of Hopewell broke it in 2011. Vernillo was Player of the Year on the Observer-Reporter’s All-District Football Team. As a sophomore, he gained 426 yards in a game against and was one of only a handful of area players to surpass 4,000 career rushing yards. Vernillo played at West Virginia and Slippery Rock universities.
“Wow, 14 years later, but it doesn’t seem that long,” said Vernillo. “It’s just an awesome honor. It’s hard to get into the hall of fame. I think I was the youngest one (at the news conference) so the timing is a little suprising.”
Vernillo is employed by Education Management Corporation in Pittsburgh.
Interestingly, Vernillo will return to the same hotel Sept. 27 because it also is the site of his wedding reception.
“We’ve been planning it since last year,” said Vernillo.
Vallina will be honored as a contributor. He served on the WPIAL Board of Control for 12 years and was a member of the PIAA Board of Directors. Vallina said one of his most satisfying accomplishments came in golf.
“I really enjoyed working on the golf (steering) committee,” he said. “The highlight for me was getting the second classification in golf.”
Vallina served as president of the Tri-County, WPIAL, and Pennsylvania State Athletic Directors Associations and still found time to coach the Burgettstown golf team to 370 victories and five WPIAL team championships.
“I was surprised (to be inducted),” he said. “I’ve only been retired for a year. This really caps my career.”
In the community, Vallina established the Burgettstown Area Scholarship Foundation, which has raised more than $120,000 to fund scholarships for high school seniors.
Galiffa was one of the best multi-sport athletes from Washington County, earning 12 letters, and the 1944-45 season was one of the finest for any athlete. Donora’s feat of a football and basketball title in the same season was the first in WPIAL history.
Even better things were ahead when Galiffa received an appointment to West Point and played football under legendary Army coach Earl “Red” Blaik. Galiffa lettered 11 times at Army and quarterbacked the team to a 22-2-3 record. In 1949, Army went 9-0 and was ranked fourth in the country. Galiffa was fourth in the Heisman Trophy voting.
Galiffa spent a season with the New York Giants and one with the San Francisco 49ers before heading to the Canadian Football League for two years. Galiffa died in 1978 at age 51 after working for 23 years for U.S. Steel. He was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 1983.
Cindrich was a two-sport star at Avella, winning a WPIAL title and qualifying for two PIAA Wrestling Championships and leading the Eagles to the 1966 football title game.
Cindrich also was a two-sport athlete in college, earning All-America status in football and wrestling. He spent four seasons in the NFL among the New England Patriots, Houston Oilers and Denver Broncos. Cindrich has a law degree and is a player agent.
The other inductees are Dante Calabria of Blackhawk (basketball); Shannon Davis of Sacred Heart (basketball); Kelly Deep Panucci of Moon (tennis); Beth Friday Bovay of Upper St. Clair (basketball and soccer); Eric Kasperowich of North Hills (football); Bob Jacoby of Bishop Canevin (football coach); Dave Meloni of Springdale (soccer coach); Tom Sankovich of Connellsville (baseball coach); Don Yanessa of Aliquippa and Baldwin (football coach); the 1960 Beaver Falls football and 1989 Baldwin girls volleyball teams. The late Bill Suit of Shaler was named the Courage Award winner.