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 Morning Call declared “East Penn: Easton in a Walk?” Beyond the Rovers, there was much depth competing for the #2 spot. Northern Lehigh had won the last two Centennial League crowns and was expected to be challenged by Northwestern. 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.
An early non-league bout saw Northern Lehigh outpace 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. Easton took a 2nd in the Phillipsburg-Osceola Tourney while Parkland was 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 upsetting 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 Dave Disora 12-0. Sean Finkbeiner, who had moved to Northampton prior to his senior season, defeating 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.
With the holiday wrestling tourneys expanding, there were eleven tourneys on tap that had local squads competing. Northwestern again won the Jim Thorpe tourney. 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. 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; Emmaus won the Oley Valley tourney; and Dieruff was 2nd in the Kutztown Tourney. Ohio powerhouse, St. Edward’s won the Top Hat Tournament. Easton was 3rd with two champs and three runner-ups while Liberty was 5th.
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. Liberty led early, but Phillipsburg won four bouts in a row from 138-167 to edge the Hurricanes 26-20. Liberty bounced back in a non-league bout to defeat Nazareth 32-25.
Allen continued their firsts under Coach Don Schleicher – this time turning the tables on Freedom and romping to a 34-15 victory. Northampton signaled that they likely would be the next “up and coming” team by hanging the 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.
Next up was Easton visiting Liberty. Coach Frank Gutierrez bumped up several wrestlers and his moves worked either by generating victories or avoiding falls. When Mike Murray and Fran Adelizzi scored falls in the final two bouts, the Hurricanes had knocked off the EPC favorites 32-27. 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.
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 an illness-depleted Becahi team 38-16 then rallied to beat Parkland 37-29. On February 2nd, Allen traveled to ‘The Pit’. The Stateliners light and middleweights opened up too large of a lead. The Canaries rallied but lost 26-23.
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.
Phillipsburg continued winning by topping Bethlehem Catholic 31-19. The Stateliners were looking for some help from cross-river rival Easton against Allen on February 9th. 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. Coaching maneuvers and the aforementioned “Beeftrust” delivered one week later as Allen toppled Liberty 26-21 for the first time in 15 years. Allen then beat Allentown Central Catholic and Emmaus to finish 10-1 in the EPC and tied with Phillipsburg for the league title and first since 1966!
An exciting dual season 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 his 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 tourneys. Phillipsburg had six champions but saw their streak of NJ District 16 team titles broken by Delaware Valley 125-122.
Easton took the early lead in AAA 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, Mark Benton, Brian Mcintyre and Jerry Hulbert. 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.
In the AA tournament, Northern Lehigh was again chasing North Schuylkill and this year was much closer than the year before, but the end result was the same with the Spartans claiming the team title 126 to 112. Joe and Steve Cesari both won their 3rd district titles to help pace North Schuylkill to their 4th straight team championship
Phillipsburg had three wrestlers win NJ Region 4 titles. Dave Boncher (98) and Mike Barna (145) both went on to win state titles.
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, Northampton’s Sean Finkbeiner, Lehighton’s Roger Neff and Dieruff’s Andy Voit). Shikellamy ran away with the team title.
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.
After battling knee surgery and tremendous pressure, Catasauqua’s Matt Gerhard won his 4th straight AA state title at his 4th different weight class. Wilson’s Troy Handlovic won the 112 pound title to John brother John won a title the prior year. North Schuylkill’s Joe Cesari Jr. won his 3rd title at 138.
District XI crowned three champs in the AAA state championships. Easton’s Jack Cuvo repeated at 98, but Liberty’s Mickey Torres was unable to win his 2nd title at 112. The third time was the charm for Northampton’s Sean Finkbeiner, and Dieruff’s Andy Voit won the 185 title. Torres dropped a decision in the finals to Meadville’s Doug Stanford, losing 6-4 on takedown with 19 seconds left.