By Ken Wunderley Tri-State Sports & News Service
Just inside the door to Greensburg Salem’s wrestling room is a plaque that honors the accomplishments of Thomas Abraham. “When my wrestlers ask me about the plaque, I tell them that they wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for Thomas Abraham,” Greensburg Salem coach Randy Parsley said. “He’s one of the founding fathers of Greensburg’s junior program.”Abraham graduated from Greensburg High School in 1939 and was one of the inaugural members of its high school wrestling program.
The WPIAL began conducting championship tournaments in 1936. Abraham was a WPIAL runner-up in 1937 and 1938. He concluded his high school career in 1939 with a WPIAL title at 135 pounds. “His senior year in high school was also his final year as a wrestler,” said Robert Abraham, one of his three sons. “He started working for the Elliott Company in Jeannette after graduation. They built engines and turbines for the defense department.”
Thomas Abraham never lost his interest in wrestling, despite reaching the end of his wrestling career. When his three sons started wrestling, Abraham decided to start a junior program so they could learn the sport at a young age.
“Washington and Greene counties had become the hotbed for wrestling with the Bronson House [where young athletes got their first taste of competition],” Parsley said. “Thomas and a few others started the Greensburg youth program so their kids had a chance to learn the sport at a young age.”Robert Abraham and his brothers, Tom and Jim, came through Greensburg’s youth program and eventually wrestled for Greensburg Salem High School.
“All three were very good athletes,” Parsley said. “Tom was a WPIAL runner-up in 1961 and Bob was a WPIAL runner-up in 1964. Jim also wrestled, but his best sport was tennis. He went on to play tennis at Edinboro University and is a member of the school’s hall of fame.”
Young Tom attended the U.S. Military Academy at West Point and placed fourth in the Eastern Intercollegiate Wrestling Association Tournament his senior year. Robert was a three year starter at Penn State and placed third in the EIWA his senior year.
“All three of us wrestled in high school, but Jim decided to [concentrate on] tennis his senior year,” said Robert Abraham. “It was great to have our dad as our coach.”
Thomas Abraham’s passion for wrestling continued until the day he died. He passed away in November at the age of 90.
“Thomas was my coach when I started wrestling at age 5,” said Parsley. “His guidance played a big part in my overall success. There are hundreds of area wrestlers who will tell you the same thing.”Parsley is glad to see that Abraham’s many years of service is finally being recognized.
“He attended every Greensburg Salem match until five years ago, when he became bedridden,”Parsley said. “It was so great to see him in the stands cheering the team on.”
For his incredible contribution to wrestling, Thomas Abraham has been named the 2011 recipient of the Kurt Nellis Community Service Award. The awards ceremony will take place at the Dapper Dan Wrestling Classic. “We were very surprised and grateful to hear that dad is being honored for his contributions to wrestling in Southwestern Pennsylvania,” Robert Abraham said. “It’s an appropriate venue, because our family has attended the Dapper Dan Wrestling Classic since it’s inception in 1975.”
Robert Abraham was the head coach at Chartiers Valley when the Dapper Dan Wresting Classic began. Colts wrestler Bill Amelio was a member of the first Pennsylvania All-Star Team at 155 pounds.
“Our family has been in attendance for every Classic,” Robert Abraham said. “I’ve been to all but one Classic. My dad attended every one until five years ago, when he became bedridden. We buy approximately 10 tickets every year. The entire family will be there this year to receive this great honor on behalf of our dad.”
Thomas Abraham worked 42 years at Elliott Company and was married for 59 years to his wife Adele, who is also deceased.