James Pihakis

Jamo was born in Canonsburg, Pennsylvania, to Greek immigrant parents. He was the second born of five children.

He attended Canonsburg High School from 1947-1951. In high school, Jamo was the runner up in the extremely competitive WPIAL Division two years in a row. In 1951 he lost to Ed Peery, who went on to win three NCAA titles and be inducted into the National Wrestling Hall of Fame as a Distinguished Member. Jamo was the first person in his family to graduate from high school.

He lettered in wrestling and received a scholarship to Waynesburg College, which is now Waynesburg University. While in college, Jamo had to wrestle-off with his roommate Tony Gizoni, a two-time NCAA champion who is also a Distinguished Member of the National Wrestling Hall of Fame. Later, Jamo would teach the famous "Gizoni Special" to wrestlers across the state of Alabama.

In 1956, Jamo enlisted in the US Navy and served two years. While in the Navy he continued his wrestling career. He wrestled in the All-Navy Olympic Qualifying Tournament in Norfolk, Virginia. At this time, only first-place finishers could attend the Olympic Trials. So, after placing second in the 1956 All Navy tournament, Jamo retired from live wrestling. In 1959 when Jamo completed his service to the country, he moved to Birmingham, Alabama.

He entered the insurance business with his cousin Jim Pihakis, a fellow HOF inductee.

Jamo began officiating wrestling matches and tournaments all over Alabama. In 1960 he helped create the Referee Association of Alabama. In addition to officiating, he mentored, trained, and coached numerous wrestlers who went on to win state titles. Jamo continued to officiate until a heart attack and open-heart surgery in 1979 prevented him from continuing. However, Jamo went on to mentor coaches and wrestlers.

Jamo has been married for 61 years to Helen Joyce and they have 3 children: Agatha, Sam, Dino (Jennifer), and two grandchildren, Lexi, and James Andrew.

Jamo was and continues to be an enthusiastic ambassador for wrestling. He continues to follow Alabama and national wrestling closely. He will sit down and talk about wrestling with anyone who shows interest and even to those who don't.


Lifetime Service to Wrestling

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