Class of 2007Active: 1978 - 2007
148 Open Victories
Karch Kiraly is generally recognized as the greatest volleyball player to play the game, equally as dominant on the beach and indoors. A three-time gold medalist, Karch holds the record for the most beach tournament victories and the most prize money won. His name is synonymous with volleyball.
Karch learned the beach game at East Beach in Santa Barbara playing with his father Laszlo Kiraly. He earned his AA rating when he was 15 and his AAA rating at age 17. He attended high school at Santa Barbara High, where he led his team to a CIF Southern Section Championship and went on to lead the UCLA Bruins to three NCAA Championships. Between 1979 and 1981 during his summer breaks from college, Karch teamed with Sinjin Smith to win over 20 Opens, including two Manhattan Opens.
After graduating college, Karch turned his attention to the U.S. National indoor team as well as a professional indoor career in Europe. He led the United States indoor volleyball team to gold medals in the 1984 and 1988 Olympics as well as multiple NORCECA and World Championships. In-between his indoor obligations, Karch squeezed in as many beach tournaments as possible. But it was not until after the 1988 Olympics that he was able to devote himself full-time to the sand game.
Following the 1988 Olympics, Karch soon established himself as the dominant player on the AVP tour. He eventually formed a partnership with a young Kent Steffes and racked up five consecutive seasons between 1992 and 1996 in which the pair recorded double-digits in victories including a record 19 tournaments in 1993. He capped off his partnership with Steffes by winning the gold medal at the inaugural Olympic beach volleyball completion at the 1996 Atlanta Games.
There was little Karch Kiraly could not do on the volleyball court. Superb at all aspects of the game there were no weakness for opponents to target. But as great as his physical attributes, it was his mental approach to the sport that set Karch apart. Karch trained harder than any player of his era and his laser-like focus on the court was legendary. The bigger the moment, the bigger Karch played, making impossible plays at the most crucial moments. As hard a Karch competed and as intense as he was on the court, he was universally respected by his opponents and played the game with class and integrity.
Karch won his last open in 2005 at the age of 44. He won tournaments with many partners, including Sinjin Smith, Kent Steffes, Tim Hovland, Mike Dodd, Ricci Luyties, Pat Powers, Brent Frohoff, Scott Akyakatubby, Adam Johnson, Brent Doble, and Mike Lambert. He finished his career with a record 144 victories as well as well as the title of “the greatest of all time.”
(Written by: Chris Warshaw)