With three returning state champs – Catasauqua’s Matt Gerhard, Easton’s Jack Cuvo, Liberty’s Mickey Torres and many state place winners returning, the ’83-’84 season was shaping up as a strong one for Lehigh Valley wrestlers. The PIAA implemented a new calendar for winter sports. As a result, the start of wrestling practice was delayed to November 28th, and the first day of competition delayed until December 17th.
The Morning Call declared “East Penn: Easton in a Walk?” Beyond the Rovers, with ten returning starters including a state champ and finalist, there was much depth competing for the #2 spot. Allen, Allentown Central Catholic, Bethlehem Catholic, Liberty, Northampton and Phillipsburg all had strong squads and expected to contend.
Northern Lehigh had won the last two Centennial League crowns and was expected to be challenged by Northwestern. The Bulldogs were stung by heavy graduation losses, but still returned eight starters. The Tigers returned “five high-caliber starters” per The Morning Call. In the Colonial League, Nazareth was the recognized favorite to win their 4th league title in a row and Matty from Catty was favored to win state title #4.
In a non-league bout on December 17th, Northern Lehigh outpaced Don Rohn’s Konkrete Kids 34-21 before “a nice crowd in Northampton borough” per The Morning Call. While Northern Lehigh with eight returning starters from a very strong team was “expected to win”, Coach Rohn wasn’t conceding anything in establishing a new attitude for the Konkrete Kids. Brian Snyder (138) and Bill Mack (145) had key falls for the Bulldogs; Sean Finkbeiner who had transferred from Saucon Valley to Northampton had a fall at 155. Shikellamy defeated Liberty 39-25.
Easton took a 2nd in the Phillipsburg-Osceola Tourney as Jack Cuvo (105), Jerry Hulbert (145) and Kevin Benton (185) won titles. Thurston Nichols (112), Jim Best (126) and Kevin Kloiber (155) were 1st as Parkland finished 3rd in the West York tourney.
Easton had three champions – Jack Cuvo, Brian McIntyre and Jerry Hulbert – to win the Pat Reilly Memorial Tournament. The tourney featured some great performances. Emmaus’ Rusty Moyer upset both defending state champ Mickey Torres 4-0 and Allen’s Felix Rosado 5-4 to win the 126-pound title. Becahi’s Pat Santoro cruised at 132 beating Easton’s tough Mike Disora 12-0. Sean Finkbeiner defeated NJ state runner-up, Mike Barna, 7-1 at 155 after Barna had defeated Allen’s Scott Schleicher 4-2 in the semi’s. Lastly there was Dieruff’s Andy Voit who was voted Most Aggressive Wrestler who beat Allen’s John Thompson 21-3 and Easton’s Kevin Benton 22-6 at 185.
As the holidays approached, Parkland had five falls and beat Saucon Valley 41-15 while Northern Lehigh had seven falls to upend Catasauqua 45-18. Easton beat crosstown rival Wilson 39-16.
With the holiday wrestling tourneys expanding, there were eleven tourneys on tap that had local squads competing. Northwestern again won the Jim Thorpe tourney, and Pocono Mountain finished 2nd. Ed Kelchner (98), Tim Erkinger (112), Tim Yost (126) and Tim Kelchner (155) won titles for the Tigers; Ken Hart (132) and Ben Stevens (185) won for the Cardinals. Parkland took 3rd in the Mt. Carmel tourney but the big news was Berwick as the team winner outdistancing the North Schuylkill, the Trojans and Shikellamy.
The big news out of Bethlehem was the Allen Canaries – winners of the Christmas City tourney! Coach Don Schleicher’s squad had four finalists and two champs – Scott Schleicher (145) and John Thompson (185) – plus six more placewinners. Northampton’s Joe Billy defeated Allen’s Felix Rosado 5-5, 3-0 OT at 119; Sean Finkbeiner pinned Northern Lehigh’s Greg Parsons at 155 to win the OW. Fighting an injured knee, Matt Gerhard still managed to defeat Bullis’ National Prep School runner-up, Mike Wittenburg, 10-5.
Allentown Central Catholic won the Governor Mifflin tourney as Spanky Jordan (126) and Rich Guth (132) were crowned champions. Emmaus won the Oley Valley tourney with five champions – Dave Andrews, Rusty Moyer, Mark Brazek, Tom Johns and Greg Christofaro; Dieruff was 2nd in the Kutztown Tourney as John Pavelko (155) and Andy Voit (185) won titles.
Ohio powerhouse, St. Edward’s won the Top Hat Tournament. Easton was 3rd with two champs (Jack Cuvo and Jerry Hulbert) and three runner-ups, including Paul Zarbatany who dropped an 8-7 decision to Shikellamy’s John Supsic. Liberty was 5th as Gino Capuano was 1st at 132 and Mickey Torres was 2nd at 126.
On January 6th, the headline read the “Cat is back”. Northwestern on the strength of three pins, including the final two bouts, knocked Northern Lehigh from the Centennial League’s top spot 33-19. Butch Padamonsky (138) and Phil Villard (155) had key decisions.
In the EPC, Liberty led 15-9 after Gino Capuano decisioned Kevin Kane at 132, but Phillipsburg won four bouts in a row from 138-167 to edge the Hurricanes 26-20. Parkland started quickly and downed Northampton 29-24. In the Colonial League, Salisbury defeated Saucon Valley for the first time in school history 42-16.
Liberty bounced back in a non-league bout to defeat Nazareth 32-25. The competitive EPC saw Emmaus down Parkland 38-19; Rusty Moyer and Jim Best battled to a 1-1 draw at 126. St. Edwards held Easton to 3 wins in a 43-13 rout. Phillipsburg dropped a 33-29 match to NJ rival, Delaware Valley.
Allen continued their firsts under Coach Don Schleicher – this time turning the tables on Freedom and romping to a 34-15 victory on January 12th. Rod Davis had a key win over Dean Lyden 6-3 at 132, and the Canaries won four in a row from 145-185. Northampton signaled that they likely would be the next “up and coming” team by hanging with Phillipsburg, but losing 31-24 in a match that went down to the final bout.
Northwestern tightened their grip on the Centennial League by beating Pocono Mountain 39-23. The Cardinals only trailed 18-17, but the Tigers won four of the final five bouts.
Two days later, the next big EPC match was Easton visiting Liberty. Coach Frank Gutierrez bumped up four wrestlers 1-2 weight classes and his moves worked either by generating victories or avoiding falls. Easton led 27-20, but Mike Murray and Fran Adelizzi scored falls in the final two bouts, and the Hurricanes had knocked off the EPC favorites 32-27. Wayne Reiss’ fall at 185 clinched Northampton’s 32-29 win over Emmaus, and Freedom trimmed Bethlehem Catholic 30-19. Pocono Mountain defeated Nazareth 31-23 in a non-league match.
The Rovers bounced back in a huge way just three nights later as Coach Dave Crowell got his 100th win 27-26 over Phillipsburg to keep Easton in the mix for the league title. The Rovers led 21-8 after seven bouts. P-Burg closed the gap to 21-17, but Henry Hess came off his back to gain a fall at 167. The Stateliners won the final two bouts, but it was not enough.
Salisbury led Nazareth 10-0 and 16-11, but Nazareth swept the rest of the bouts to dash the Falcons’ upset hopes 38-16. The tight matches continued in the EPC as Easton’s strong lightweights led them to a 30-22 win over Northampton. Emmaus edged Allentown Central Catholic 31-25 with Rusty Moyer and Spanky Jordan ending with a 1-1 draw; and Freedom rallied for a 32-32 tie with Parkland. Notre Dame stayed unbeaten in the Centennial League by nipping Palmerton 26-23. Northwestern beat East Stroudsburg 42-18 to keep pace with the Crusaders.
On January 21st, #2 ranked Shikellamy had too much fire power for Easton as they won 39-14; Paul Zarbatany edged John Supsic 9-8 in a bright spot for the Rovers. In a key Centennial League match, Pocono Mountain led Northern Lehigh 21-13 after eight bouts, but Greg Parsons and Don Evans scored falls to give the Bulldogs a 25-21 lead with two bouts remaining. Ben Stevens and Mark Hartenstine triumphed in the final two bouts to give Pocono Mountain a 30-25 victory. Liberty held off a late Northampton rally for a 29-24 win. Phillipsburg beat North Hunterdon by an identical 29-24 score.
January 25th saw a match-up of the two remaining unbeaten teams in the Centennial League. Northwestern had falls in the first three bouts and never looked back as they beat Notre Dame 46-16.
Allen was the only remaining undefeated team in the EPL but had only wrestled two league matches. Beginning January 26th, they faced a 5-match gauntlet – Bethlehem Catholic, Parkland, Phillipsburg, Easton and Liberty.
The Canaries easily topped a Bethlehem Catholic team depleted by illness 38-16. Allentown Central Catholic got close wins from Rich Irving (112), Rich Guth (126) and Spanky Jordan (132) to lead Easton 15-12. The Rovers won the next two bouts to retake the lead, but Mike Eggy, John O’Mara and Mike Feifel won to give Vikings’ wrestling the first win in its 20-year history over Easton 28-24. Whitehall and Emmaus tied 29-29. Parkland defeated Northern Lehigh 32-22.
Two days later, Allen rallied to beat Parkland 37-29. Dieruff surprised Central Catholic 32-27 by winning the final five bouts spurred by Elias Younes’ 12-7 win over Spanky Jordan, wrestling up several weights, at 145. Emmaus nipped Freedom 29-27. Nazareth got pins from Tom Eschenbach (138), Rusty Amato (155) and Judd Smith (185); Randy Schoenberger got the decisive win at heavyweight as the Blue Eagles beat Northampton 27-24.
On February 2nd, Allen traveled to ‘The Pit’. The Stateliners light and middleweights opened up a 26-7 lead with four bouts to go. The Canaries rallied to 26-20. Dave Hower won by decision but was unable to gain the needed fall for a tie and Allen lost for the first time 26-23. The Canaries still held a share of first place in the EPC along with the Phillipsburg and Liberty who beat Allentown CC 38-17.
The same evening, Nazareth wrapped up the Colonial League with a 39-13 win over Wilson before a packed crowd in their home gym and then hammered rival Saucon Valley 58-7 for good measure two days later. Pocono Mountain rallied to down Notre Dame 33-23 in the Centennial League.
On February 4th, Phillipsburg continued winning by topping Bethlehem Catholic 31-19. Jeff Turner had a key one-point win at 138 and Mike Barna had a fall at 145 for the victors. Salisbury and Wilson both won Colonial League bouts – 31-24 over Palisades and 51-11 over Bangor, respectively, as they looked forward to a match to decide 2nd place in the league.
On February 8th, Phillipsburg ended Highland Regional’s 34-match winning streak 29-19. Freedom nipped Dieruff 32-29.
The Stateliners were looking for some help from cross-river rival Easton against Allen the following evening. Easton was doing their part by leading 22-11 after 145, but the Canary “Beeftrust” of Scott Schleicher, John Thompson and Dave Hower rallied Allen past Easton 27-25 for the Canaries first win over the Rovers in 13 years. Phillipsburg handily beat Parkland 41-20, and Emmaus edged Bethlehem Catholic 28-26. In the Colonial League, Catasauqua ended Salisbury’s hopes for 2nd place in the league by doubling them up 42-21.
Two days later, Allen kept it going by winning all but two bouts to hammer Dieruff 44-12. Northampton’s upper weights rallied to defeat Freedom 33-23. Ron Szabo’s fall over Paul Zarbatany at 126 sparked Bethlehem Catholic to a 35-27 upset of Easton. Northwestern clinched the Centennial League title with a 47-9 drubbing of Palmerton. Phillipsburg battled to a 25-25 deadlock with Hunterdon central.
Coaching maneuvers and the aforementioned “Beeftrust” delivered again for Allen on February 16th at they toppled Liberty 26-21 for the first time in 15 years. Marty Diamond (112), Felix Rosado (126) who beat Gino Capuano who had dropped a weight, Rod Davis (132) and Mark Gabler (145) all won key bouts for Coach Don Schleicher’s Canaries. Easton rebounded to beat Parkland 44-18, and Bethlehem Catholic topped Dieruff 31-23. Colonial League champ Nazareth had a surprisingly easy time in downing Centennial League champ Northwestern 51-13. Wilson beat Salisbury 38-11 to clinch 2nd place in the Colonial League.
Two days later, Allen was back on the mat in another EPC match. Sean Moffit’s win at 98 coupled with Felix Rosado’s 3-2 win over Joe Billy at 126 sparked the Canaries to a 28-22 win over Northampton. Liberty’s upper weights got the job done against Bethlehem Catholic as the Hurricanes won 34-18. Two falls, a decision and a disqualification in the final bout gave Nazareth a come-from-behind 26-26 tie with Easton. Northwestern defeated two EPC teams on successive nights – Emmaus 27-25 and Parkland 29-21 while Northern Lehigh tripped Freedom 29-28 and Catasauqua defeated Whitehall 38-29. North Hunterdon avenged a regular season loss and defeated Phillipsburg 26-21 for the NJ Group 3 dual title.
The following week, Allen then beat Allentown Central Catholic 39-25 and Emmaus 30-16 to finish 10-1 in the EPC and tied with Phillipsburg for the league title and first since 1966! Long-time Allen scorekeeper Fran Moran described the Emmaus win as follows “It was a typical Allen wrestling victory. We tried to hold our own in the early matches; we gave up some ground in the middle bouts and then we brought on the beef for the last four to win.” Liberty had eight pins in beating Parkland 52-14 while Bethlehem Catholic held off Northampton 31-25. The EPC closed out competition as Liberty defeated Freedom 34-12, and Bethlehem Catholic beat Allentown Central Catholic 42-18.
An incredibly exciting dual season with many close matches wrestled in the East Penn Conference ended with Phillipsburg and Allen tieing for the EPC title.
Nazareth and Northwestern were undefeated in their respective leagues to win the Colonial and Centennial league titles. Allen finished 16-1 (losing only to Phillipsburg) while Nazareth was 13-2-1 and Northwestern was 15-1 (losing only to Nazareth). Phillipsburg was 16-2-1, Liberty 16-4, Northern Lehigh 14-3 and Pocono Mountain 12-3.
Final league standings were as follows:
|Compiled Standings 1983-84||Place||W-L-D|
|Allentown Central Catholic||10T||2-9|
In the Colonial League meet, Matt Gerhard returned from arthroscopic knee surgery to go for his 4th league title. Matt earned that 4th title at 119, and the Nazareth Blue Eagles ran away with the team title. All but one Blue Eagle made the finals with seven winning individual titles. When Jason Grantham won 10-6 at 185, Northwestern edged ahead of Northern Lehigh 153-150 to win the Centennial League tourney despite the Bulldogs have four champs to the Tigers’ three.
District XI Wrestling Tournaments
In AAA, Easton took the early lead by going 7-for-7 in the quarterfinal round; they were followed closely by Nazareth and Bethlehem Catholic. The Hawks lost top-seeded and undefeated Pat Santoro who lost 15-13 to Allentown Central Catholic’s Rich Guth at 126. The Rovers pulled away from the field on Day 2 and won by over 35 points over 2nd place Nazareth. Allen, Bethlehem Catholic and Parkland rounded out the top five. The Rovers had four District Champs – Jack Cuvo (98), Mark Benton (105), Brian McIntyre (126) and Jerry Hulbert (132). In several higher profile match-ups, Liberty’s Mickey Torres nipped Paul Zarbatany 9-8 at 112 while Parkland’s Jim Best pinned Allen’s Felix Rosado at 119. Northampton’s Sean Finkbeiner edged Allen’s Scott Schleicher 3-2 at 145. Nazareth’s Tom Eschenbach (138), Parkland’s Kevin Kloiber (155), Lehighton’s Roger Neff (167), Dieruff’s Andy Voit (185) and Allen’s Dave Hower (Hwt) rounded out the champions.
In the AA tournament, Northern Lehigh was again chasing North Schuylkill after Day 1. The Spartans had an edge with six semi-finalists while the Bulldogs, Pius X and Northwestern all advanced five. The final team score was much closer than the year before, but the end result was the same with the Spartans claiming the team title by outdistancing Northern Lehigh 126 to 112. Joe and Steve Cesari both won their 3rd district titles to help pace North Schuylkill to their 4th straight team championship. Wilson and Pius X both had two champs each in Troy Handlovic (112) & Larry Smith (167) and Brian Yuhas (126) & Frank Castano (132), respectively. Six other teams claimed the remaining titles – Pine Grove’s Allen Daubert (98), Northwestern’s Tim Erkinger (105), Catasauqua’s Matt Gerhard (119), Northern Lehigh’s Greg Parsons (155), Blue Mountain’s Marvin Teter (185) and Williams Valley’s Steve Rodichak (Hwt).
The Northeast Regionals were held in Bloomsburg and while District XI was able to match the prior year with 21 state qualifiers, its champions count was down to six (Easton’s Jack Cuvo, Parkland’s Jim Best, Becahi’s Pat Santoro (who gained revenge on Rich Guth in the semi’s at 126), Northampton’s Sean Finkbeiner, Lehighton’s Roger Neff and Dieruff’s Andy Voit). Shikellamy had three champs and six overall state qualifiers to run away with the team title. In a battle of defending state champs at 112, Wyoming Valley West’s Eric DeRemer pinned Mickey Torres.
In the AA Southeast Regional tourney, Matt Gerhard won his 4th regional title while Joe Cesari registered his 100th career pin, the first PA wrestler to ever do so. Northern Lehigh’s Larry Rehrig bounced back from a shoulder injury to gain revenge on Wilson’s Troy Handlovic 11-3 at 112. North Schuylkill again claimed the team title by almost 80 points, and District XI crowned 11 titlists almost all of whom had won district titles the week before including Allen Daubert, Brian Yuhas, Frank Castano, Steve Cesari, Greg Parson, Marvin Teter and Steve Rodichok. Panther Valley’s Tom Watts won the 105-pound title.
After battling knee surgery and tremendous pressure, Catasauqua’s Matt Gerhard won his 4th straight AA state title at his 4th different weight class at 119. Matty from Catty did in dominant fashion with a 13-6 win over previously unbeaten Marc Bartolomucci of Beth-Center. Wilson’s Troy Handlovic won the 112-pound title to join brother John won a title the prior year. North Schuylkill’s Joe Cesari Jr. won his 3rd title at 138. While the locals had great success crowning three champions, but the early going was rough as only four wrestlers advanced to the semi-finals after Day 1. As a result, only five other District XI wrestlers placed – Pine Grove’s Allen Daubert (3rd – 103), Northern Lehight’s Larry Rehrig (4th – 112), North Schuylkill’s Steve Cesari (4th – 145), Northwestern’s Tim Kelchner (6th – 167) and Williams Valley’s Steve Rodichok (6th – Hwt).
District XI advanced 15 wrestlers to the quarterfinals and seven to the semi’s in a solid performance. Ultimately, District XI was able to crown three champs in the AAA state championships. Easton’s Jack Cuvo repeated at 98 with a 9-2 decision, but Liberty’s Mickey Torres was unable to win his 2nd title at 112. Torres dropped a decision in the finals to Meadville’s Doug Stanford, who set a new state record for wins at 173, losing 6-4 on takedown with 19 seconds left. The third time was the charm for Northampton’s Sean Finkbeiner, and Dieruff’s Andy Voit won the 185 title. The other three semi-finalists all lost close matches, but came back in the consolations as Jim Best (119) and Pat Santoro (126) finished 3rd and Scott Schleicher (145) finished 4th. In addition, Parkland’s Thruston Nichols (5th – 105), Nazareth’s Jim Karch (5th – 167) and Hazleton’s Bob Fisher (6th – 185) placed.
Phillipsburg Post Season
Phillipsburg had six champions – Dave Boncher (98), Mark Faglioni (105), Anthony Mercado (112), Rick Snyder (126), Jeff Turner (138) and Mike Barna (145) – but saw their streak of NJ District 16 team titles broken by Delaware Valley 125-122.
Phillipsburg had three wrestlers win NJ Region 4 titles – Dave Boncher, Mike Smith (119) and Mike Barna. Dave Boncher (98) and Mike Barna (145) both went on to win state titles.
Sean Finkbeiner won a battle on state champs 9-3 over Mike Barna to lead the PA team to a 27-18 win over New Jersey in the Easton Lions Classic. Paul Zarbatany and Jim Best both won decisions over NJ state runner-ups.
Five local wrestlers competed in the AAA-AA Challenge of Champions with Troy Handlovic, Matt Gerhard, Sean Finkbeiner and Andy Voit all triumphing. Handlovic defeated all-time PA wins’ leader Doug Sanford 10-8. Only Joe Cesari lost a close 7-6 decision.
Finally, in the Pittsburgh Press Classic, Gerhard and Finkbeiner helped lead the PA team to a 31-15 victory over the US Team with Finkbeiner being named the Outstanding Wrestler as he defeated future Iowa St. star Tim Keieger 14-5. Gerhard defeated future Penn State teammate Ken Chertow 4-3. Joe Cesari dropped a 2-0 decision at 138.