“District XI – Wrestling Country, USA”

Over the years, I’ve heard District XI referred to as “Wrestling Country, USA” and often wondered when exactly this term was coined.  During the 1979 season in which District XI teams won both the AAA and AA state team titles and collectively crowned 5 state champions.  According to a February 1980 Morning Call article, first bumper stickers appeared and then T-Shirts proclaiming “District 11 – Wrestling Country” were sold at both AAA & AA District tournaments.

Christmas City Wrestling
Freedom Nipped Bethlehem Catholic to Win the 1979 Christmas City Title (Photo Courtesy of Chris Saraceno from Globe Times)

District XI had achieved great success during the mid-late 1970’s at the state tournament.  In addition, District XI wrestlers had won 6 NCAA Division I titles from 1970-75.  In fact, Liberty’s Coach Frank Gutierrez completed the incredible feat of having Liberty wrestlers crowned as PIAA state champion and NCAA Division I champion on the same date, March 15th, twice!  In 1975, Brian Statum was a state champ, and John Fritz won an NCAA title for Penn State.  In 1980, Jim Bresnak was a state champ, and Matt Reiss won an NCAA title for North Carolina State.   During those times and years since, certainly other areas of the state have taken the lead during various periods, but District XI has always produced more than its share of great wrestlers.  Collectively, the State of Pennsylvania continues to turn out some of the best wrestlers in the country!

Jim Bresnak
Jim Bresnak Battles Doug Billig (Photo Courtesy of Liberty HS Yearbook)

The 1979-80 season was no exception to the incredible competition that had developed within the Lehigh Valley and beyond.  Dual meets continued to dominate the landscape with almost all teams wrestling 15+ matches and some now approaching 20.  A balance of the old guard and teams trying to break through into the upper tier of the Valley’s three leagues was part of this season.  No local teams were able to emerge unbeaten for the season.

East Penn League Champs – Easton 10-1 (16-1 Overall)

Colonial League Champs – Saucon Valley 8-0 (12-7-1 Overall)

1980 Colonial League Wrestling
Saucon Valley Had 4 Champs to Win the Colonial League Tourney Team Title (Photo Courtesy of Chris Saraceno)

Centennial League Champs – Notre Dame 8-0 (16-2-1 Overall)

District XI Team Champs:  AAA – Easton & AA- Notre Dame

PIAA State Champs – AAA – John Cuvo, Jim Bresnak & Bernie Brown; AA – Kurt Wentz, Greg Stewart & Mark Correll as Northwestern is 2nd and Notre Dame is 3rd.

John Cuvo
John Cuvo Won the Brad Weaver Memorial Award & a State Title (Photo Courtesy of Easton HS Yearbook)
Bernie Brown
Becahi’s Bernie Brown Riding Opponent (Photo From Morning Call)
Greg Stewart
Two-Time State Champ Greg Stewart (Photo Courtesy of Northwestern HS Yearbook)
Kurt Wentz
State Champ Kurt Wentz (Photo Courtesy of Northwestern HS Yearbook)

Coming Soon – The full story of District XI’s ongoing quest for success as Wrestling Country, USA.