The historic Western Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic League — the WPIAL for short — oversees competitive sports at more than 170 schools across, to no one’s surprise, Western Pennsylvania. Each of these schools is unique, especially when it comes to its team name; some are unique in a good way and some in a bad way.
For example, the worst has to be the Indiana Little Indians. Not only is the term politically incorrect, but the school named its team after children. That has to also be the least-intimidating name of any team this side of the Washington Prexies (which is plural for Prexy, which is a completely unnecessary synonym for “president”).
There are also a lot of very ordinary and traditional team names. There are tons of Tigers, Panthers, Spartans, Vikings, Cougars, Eagles, Warriors and way too many teams named Indians. But a few schools had the foresight to take an unusual team name and not play it safe. I admire their moxie. Here’s my list of the 10 best team names in the WPIAL.
10. Ambridge Bridgers. There are easily a couple thousand bridges across Western Pa., but only one school in the conference shows these structures proper respect. With so many bridges and waterways, maybe we are the Venice of Appalachia, not the Paris. It’s a fitting team name that fits perfectly with the Beaver County town’s history.
9. Avonworth Antelopes. This is a great team name. Almost any team named after an animal goes for a predatory one. That’s why we see a plethora of tigers, lions and bears. But Avonworth chose an animal known for its speed and grace. The school is also known for producing Mercury Morris; he was a Pro-Bowl running back on the 1972 Miami Dolphins team that won the Super Bowl and went undefeated. His teammates still celebrate that accomplishment every year when the last undefeated NFL team loses.
8. Armstrong River Hawks. Our area is known for its abundant rivers, and Armstrong is the only school to incorporate that into its name. A river hawk is a threat on land or water. It’s just a unique, solid name.
7. Western Beaver Golden Beavers. Middle-school giggles aside, the school did manage to get the word “beaver” into its name twice. Well done, sirs or madams. The beaver is an overworked and underappreciated animal, and kudos to Western Beaver for finding a golden one and putting it in the limelight.
6. Carmichaels Mighty Mikes. This might be a small school, but it is not afraid to claim its might. The name is a simple and unique play on the Greene County town’s name. Either that or they’re named after a Dutch darts champion who uses the same moniker.
5. Greensburg Central Catholic Centurions. Any team named so specifically is OK by me. This name describes a professional officer in the Roman army. The name alone forces you to look up ancient Roman history. Not only that, but it’s one of the most athletically successful high schools not only in the WPIAL, but in the state.
4. Canon McMillan Big Macs. This isn’t a corporation selling its product through athletic advertising. However, that day will sadly surely come; I’m sure a certain restaurant chain would love to put a cheeseburger on this team’s helmet. Until then, enjoy the name for its uniqueness and for being the only name on the list that makes you hungry.
3. Mars Fightin’ Planets. The town has an unusual name and the team committed to it. When you play Mars, you play the entire planet. There’s a cool logo to boot; it’s probably one of the only schools that can sell merchandise to out-of-towners.
2. Butler Golden Tornado. One of the great non-plural names of all time. Better than a shower, a tornado is an unstoppable and unpredictable force. The name is similar to my favorite all-time college- team name, the Marshall Thundering Herd. Golden Tornado alums include former Steeler Terry Hanratty, ex-big-league pitcher Matt Clement and Andre the Giant’s arch enemy, Big John Studd.
1. Steel Valley Ironmen. It’s as tough sounding and Pittsburgh as it gets. You have the words “steel” and “iron” right in there. Even the female athletes are Ironmen. Both Luke Getsy and Charlie Batch quarterbacked their way through Steel Valley on the way to the pros. Of all the names in the WPIAL, this one is simply the best.