Larry Brammell did not travel to Hershey for the PIAA Wrestling Championships, but he did follow the progress of Penn-Trafford wrestlers Shane Young and A.J. Brentzel.
"It was great to see Penn-Trafford have a couple kids in the PIAA finals, and even more exciting to see Shane Young win a state title," said Brammell. "Shane has been wrestling since he was five years old. A.J. has improved significantly over the last few years." Young became Penn-Trafford's first PIAA champion by claiming the Class AAA 103-pound title, while Brentzel placed second at 171 pounds. It was the most successful showing by the Warriors at the state tournament, and Brammell played a part in that success.
"Larry Brammell is 'The Grandfather of Penn-Trafford Wrestling'," said Warriors varsity coach Vince Testa. "He was here long before I came to Penn-Trafford. He started our junior program, which is now one of the best in the WPIAL." Brammell has been involved with the Penn-Trafford Junior Wrestling Program so long that he can't remember when it started. "I think it was 1969," said Brammell.
"The merger that formed Penn-Trafford occurred in 1971. A few years earlier, my oldest son John became interested in wrestling. " And that's when Brammell became interested in wrestling.
"My high school (Turtle Creek) didn't have wrestling when I attended, so I was never exposed to the sport until my sons started wrestling. I quickly fell in love with the sport and got together with a few other parents to start the Penn Trafford Junior Program." The Penn-Trafford Junior Program began with 50 kids and is now one of the biggest junior programs in Western Pennsylvania.
"We consistently have more than 100 kids and this year we have 140," said Testa. "The great success we've had is a testament to the hard work Larry has put in over the years working with our youth program.
"That's why we have the 'Larry Brammell Award'," said Testa, referring to an award that was started in 1990. "It's for the Penn Trafford senior who shows the most dedication to the sport of wrestling," And for Brammell's dedication to the sport of wrestling for almost 40 years, the Harrison City resident has been named the 2007 recipient of the Dr. Kurt J. Nellis Memorial Award.
The award was created to memorialize Dr. Nellis for his community service and dedication to amateur wrestling. The award recognizes an individual who has served their community through the sport of amateur wrestling from Western Pennsylvania.
"I was very surprised to receive the Nellis Award," said Brammell. "I don't feel that I've done that much. I just did my part over the years, but so have a lot of other people." The award will be presented to Brammell by Diane Nellis, Kurt's widow, and Dan Vukmer, Vice President and General Counsel for UPMC Health Plan.
"The things that give me the most enjoyment is when the kids come back and remember me," said Brammell. "I haven't changed, but they have. And they always thank me for my help. That makes all the time I've put in over the years worthwhile." Brammell was also a founding member of the Keystone Wrestling League, along with former Nellis Community Service Award winners Bill Petrina, in 2002, and Don Sandala, in 2004.
"Our focus was providing the kids an opportunity to wrestle against kids from other clubs," said Brammell, who is retired after 39 years of working with the Bell Telephone Company. "The league has thrived and has expanded to 30 teams." In 1997, Brammell was inducted into the Pennsylvania Sports Hall of Fame, East Borough Chapter. He was also honored with an award from Area 3 of the Pennsylvania Amateur Wrestling Federation for outstanding leadership.
"Area 3 includes Westmoreland County and parts of Armstrong and Indiana Counties," said Brammell. "The plaque they gave me said '40 years and going strong.' It's not quite 40 years yet, but pretty close." Brammell, who is still the Treasurer of Area 3, likes the sport of wrestling because the coaches don't dictate who starts.
"The kids determine who starts," said Brammell, who has been married 43 years to his wife Jean. "In most team sports, the coach chooses who the starters are. In wrestling, the kids have to prove themselves. They have to win to earn a starting job." Brammell was glad The Dapper Dan Wrestling Classic is on a Sunday (March 25), because he's scheduled to work at the Area 3 Wrestling Championships, which conclude the night before in Johnstown.
"I'm not as involved as I used to be, but I still enjoy working at the tournaments and attending various matches," said Brammell. "I plan to stay involved as long as my heath allows."