The newest class of the WPIAL Hall of Fame includes a current NFL player, a former NFL head coach and a high school coach who sent almost a dozen players to the NFL.
The 2017 class was announced by the WPIAL at a news conference Thursday at the Heinz History Center. This is the 10th anniversary of the Hall of Fame.
The inductees with NFL ties are: Terrelle Pryor, who played for the Cleveland Browns last year and has signed with the Washington Redskins; former New York Jets head coach Joe Walton; former Woodland Hills coach George Novak, who sent 11 players to the NFL.
The WPIAL selects Hall of Fame members based on nominations in different categories: Athlete, Coach, Contributor, Team. The WPIAL also picks individuals to receive the Heritage Award and the Courage Award, named after John Challis.
Here are the 2017 inductees:
Leigh Curl, North Hills class of 1981 – Calling Curl one of the WPIAL’s best two-sport stars in the past 40 years might not be an overstatement. In 1981, she was good enough to be selected to the Post-Gazette Fabulous 5 in basketball and also was the newspaper’s softball player of the year. She was 31-2 as a pitcher her final two years at North Hills and helped the Indians win a state title in 1980, pitching five games over five consecutive games. She went on to score more than 1,000 points for the University of Connecticut women’s basketball team and became the first female to be a team orthopedic doctor in the NFL. She is still the Baltimore Ravens orthopedic doctor.
Brian Generalovich, Farrell class of 1960 – Generalovich was a tremendous all-around athlete and was actually drafted by three different professional sports teams – the NBA’s New York Knicks, the NFL’s Pittsburgh Steelers and the AFL’s Boston Patriots. Generalovich starred in football and basketball at Farrell High School and was on some great basketball teams under coach Ed McCluskey. He was an all-state selection in football and basketball and won two PIAA titles in basketball. He played basketball at Pitt and scored more than 1,000 points in his career, but he also played one year of football for the Panthers.
Dan Mazzoco, Baldwin class of 2002 – In the early 2000s, Mazzocco was one of the top distance runners in the state. He won WPIAL track titles in the 1,600 as a sophomore and the 3,200 as a senior. He also won WPIAL and PIAA cross-country titles as a senior He went on to run at Penn State and had to battle through injuries. But he still was a two-time All-American in cross country.
Nico Megaludis, Franklin Regional class of 2011 – Megaludis was one of the greatest wrestlers in the history of the WPIAL. He lost one match his freshman year but never lost again. He finished his career with a 170-1 record with four WPIAL titles and three PIAA championships. He had a very successful career at Penn State, winning the 2016 NCAA championship and finishing second twice. He also wrestled in the World University Games in 2016.
Melanie Morgan, Gateway class of 1989 – One of the most decorated swimmers in WPIAL history. She won the 50-yard freestyle four times and the 100 three times and set records in both. She also won both races at the PIAA level as a sophomore, junior and senior. She went on to swim at the University of Florida and was a member of four Southeastern Conference championship teams. He was was a five-time SEC individual champion and also swam at the U.S. Olympic Trials.
Terrelle Pryor, Jeannette class of 2008 – Few athletes in WPIAL history dominated in two sports as much as Pryor. He was considered the No. 1 football player in the country in the class of 2008. He was Parade magazine’s national player of the year. He was the only player in Pennsylvania history to rush for 4,000 career yards and throw for 4,000. But he also was a 6-foot-6 forward-guard who dominated in basketball, scoring 2,285 career points. He won two WPIAL titles and one PIAA championship in football, and one WPIAL and one PIAA in basketball. He went on to play quarterback at Ohio State. Played receiver for the NFL’s Cleveland Browns last year and has signed with the Washington Redskins.
Annessa Schnur Steele, Butler class of 2000 – During her career at Butler High School, Schnur Steele won varsity letters in five different sports – track and field, basketball, cross country, tennis and soccer. But she was at her best in track. She won 10 WPIAL titles in five different events during her career at Butler. She was a member of WPIAL championship teams also. She ran track at the University of Michigan and competed in the heptathlon. She is Butler’s girls track coach now and won a team title.
Joe Walton, Beaver Falls class of 1954 – Most know Walton as a coach. But as an athlete, he was no average Joe. At Beaver Falls, Walton stood out in football, but also had success in basketball and baseball. He was an all-state football player in 1953 before becoming an All-Amercian football player at Pitt. He spent time as an assistant coach in the NFL before becoming the head coach of the New York Jets for a few years. He started Robert Morris University’s program years ago and was the Colonials’ coach for 20 seasons.
George Novak, football – Novak retired from coaching only after last season. The WPIAL immediately selected him for the Hall of Fame. Novak was Steel Valley’s coach from 1977-86 and coached Woodland Hills from 1987-2016. He won a WPIAL title at Steel Valley and five at Woodland Hills. He is one of only seven coaches to win six WPIAL titles and, as mentioned before, 11 of his Woodland Hills players made the NFL, and one the Pro Football Hall of Fame (Jason Taylor). Novak also was an outstanding three-sport athlete at old Munhall High before going on to play football at Goergia Tech.
McKeesport football 1994 – This team was the toast of McKeesport’s town after going 15-0 and winning WPIAL and PIAA titles. They were coached by George Smith, who just retired a few years ago. The Tigers featured Brandon Short, who went down as one of the greatest linebackers in WPIAL history. Short already is in the WPIAL Hall of Fame. The defense was tremendous and the run-heavy offense used a triple-option attack. McKeesport beat Upper St. Clair in the WPIAL title game at Three Rivers Stadium and Downingtown for the PIAA title.
Robert “Tick” Cloherty – Cloherty was a top official in football and basketball. He officiated WPIAL football for 35 years and basketball for 25 and worked seven WPIAL championships. He became the WPIAL 4A officials commissioner for a decade and was an “observes” for years. Cloherty also has served a president of Western Chapter of Pennsylvania Sports Hall of Fame for 30 years.
Jim Collins – Collins passed away suddenly last year, and he ran the WPIAL Hall of Fame since its inception in 2007. He spent years as a teacher and principal and also was the football coach at Deer Lakes for a few years. Upon retiring from education, he became assistant to the executive director of the WPIAL and also served on various WPIAL sports committees.
Joe Thomas, Uniontown class of 1960 – This award is given to someone who had a big impact in the WPIAL more than 50 years ago. There was no doubting Thomas as one of the best distance runners in the country as a senior at Uniontown. In 1960, his mile run of 4:14.69 was the fastest of any runner in U.S. high school history. He won two PIAA titles in track and two in cross country, five WPIAL individual titles in track and two in cross country. He won an NAIA national cross-country championship at Southen Illinois.
This award is given in honor of John Challis, former Freedom High School athlete whose battle with cancer became a national story years ago.
Emmanuel Hilton, Blackhawk – Hilton is an inspirational story. Despite having no legs below the knees, Hilton played goalkeeper on the Blackhawk junior varsity soccer team. He was an orphan in the Democratic Republic of Congo but was brought to this country by a family in Blackhawk.
Jerry Roman – Roman died last year after a battle with leukemia. He was an instrumental figure in the WPIAL golf community. He Headed the league’s golf committee for a number of years and helped get the WPIAL golf championships at top area courses. He also was an assistant principal at Bethel Park for 14 years and coached girls basketball once at Ambridge.