“A Four-Way Tossup” was the headline in The Morning Call to preview the EPC season. Easton, Phillipsburg, Northampton and Allen all graduated quality and quantity in the talent area from their fine 1984-85 squads, but plenty of skilled wrestlers returned at each school. Many were looking to take a big step forward.
Northwestern was favored to take their 3rd straight Centennial title, but was expected to be challenged by Stroudsburg (returning eight starters) and Northern Lehigh (two returning state runner-ups in Larry Rehrig and Don Evans).
In 23 years of coaching (to date) at Nazareth, Ray Nunamaker had never had a losing season. This year was not expected to be an exception as the Blue Eagles were expected to easily win another Colonial League crown. Long-time rival coach, Charlie Bartolet, retired after 25 years at the helm of Saucon Valley. Bartolet, along with long-time assistant, Doug Koch, who also retired, coached nine state champions.
Allen and Dieruff did battle in the ASD Tournament with the Canaries nipping the Huskies 137-134; Allen had four champs (Sean Moffitt, Scott Hovan, Jeff Roth & Jay Weiss) to Dieruff’s two (Buddy Maxwell & Rick Frable). Easton had three champions (Trevor Purdy, Mike Disora & Tom Marchetti) in the Crestwood Tourney. Liberty won the Wilkes-Barre Coughlin Tourney with Freedom placing 2nd.
On December 19th, Northampton defeated Bethlehem Catholic 34-18 in an early test. Dave Foley decisioned Steve Reuben 13-12 and John Likins decisioned Stan Reuben 12-9, but bonus points were a big decider for the K-Kids. Two days later Nazareth wrestled Easton in a packed 25th Street gym. The Blue Eagles were 0-14-2 against the Rovers in the past 16 years and hadn’t beaten them since the 1964-65 season. A victory would have to wait one more year, but the Blue Eagles rallied for a 28-28 tie.
In the Christmas City Tourney, Northampton grabbed an early lead and easily took the team title with six 2nd place finishers and four other placers to outdistance Nazareth. The Kids had the depth of very good wrestlers, but it was Allen and Northern Lehigh who crowned the most champs with three each. Stroudsburg won the Warren Hills title; Dieruff won the Kutztown title with four champs; and Phillipsburg was 2nd in their own tourney behind Brick Memorial. Easton was an uncharacteristic 6th in the Manheim Tourney while Parkland & Emmaus were 2nd & 3rd, respectively at Governor Mifflin. Northwestern won the Jim Thorpe Tourney with five champs.
Before 1,500 fans in Northampton’s new junior high gym, the K-Kids defeated Easton 33-20 leaving only one team, Phillipsburg, on the “Kids Wall of Revenge” per Ted Meixell of The Morning Call. Coach Rohn pointed to Jeff Kaboly’s 12-4 win over Tom Marchetti as a pivotal bout. The same day, Northwestern matched up with Northern Lehigh in one of two key Centennial League tests. The Tigers were up for the challenge, before a packed house of 1,500 fans, scoring two pins and two technical falls on their way to a 34-27 win.
Less than a week later, Coach Frank Gutierrez’s Liberty squad went from darkhorse to contender as they knocked off Easton 33-22. Allen’s Coach Don Schleicher got his 100th win as the Canaries’ “Murderer’s Row” won four in a row including Jay Weiss bumping up to 185 to defeat tough Craig Katynski 8-2.
Northwestern won their 25th straight dual surviving an upperweight Pocono Mountain rally to hold on for a 33-28 win. Quakertown proved they were a very strong team by knocking off Northampton by a surprising 37-13 score. For good measure, Quakertown followed up by whipping Allen 36-18.
On January 15th, Pocono Mountain nipped Northern Lehigh 29-28 on the strength of three pins. One day later, an “unnecessary roughness” call in the 155 pound match between Liberty and Northampton led Coach Don Rohn to pull his team off the mat with three matches to go. Liberty led 21-7 when Brian Chamberlain was disqualified at 155 on the unnecessary roughness call. The Hurricanes picked up six plus eighteen points on the forfeits to triumph 45-7 in one of the more controversial matches in Valley history.
Unbeaten Nazareth hammered Palisades, who had been 3-0 in the league, 46-10. Easton only had a .500 record and was facing defending state champ, Shikellamy, but picked up a big 28-26 win. Having lost only to Canon-McMillan (PA’s #1 ranked team), Phillipsburg raced to a 24-0 lead and only allowed bonus points to one of Allen’s “Murderer’s Row” to top the Canaries 31-19.
With a growing rivalry and a “record-setting 1,900 people … shoehorned…in Nazareth’s High School gym”, Northampton’s Reuben brothers – Steve and Stan – posted wins to lead the K-Kids to a 34-25 win. Phillipsburg topped North Hunterdon 39-12 to give Coach Rick Thompson his 100th dual meet win.
Easton tilted their way to bonus points and a victory over rival Phillipsburg 35-21. Tom Marchetti won the Brad Weaver Memorial Award by beating tough Tim Miers 18-8. Liberty stood alone as the only unbeaten team in the EPC.
Easton vs. Phillipsburg Match (Easton HS Sports Videos)
After Jeff Roth’s fall, Allen was within range trailing by five to Northampton as Jay Weiss took the mat against Jeff Kaboly. As he had in the Easton dual, Kaboly came up big, nipping Weiss 5-4 to lead the Kids to a 34-19 win.
Stroudsburg gave Northwestern all they wanted and more, but the Tigers were able to make some line-up maneuvers as the visiting team and were able to earn a hard fought 32-30 victory. The win all but clinched the Centennial League crown. Nazareth downed Wilson 40-23 in their closest Colonial League match of the season.
On February 6th, Liberty’s middleweights were the key to a 26-18 win over Phillipsburg as the Hurricanes closed in on an EPC title. Palmerton almost spelled “D-I-S-A-S-T-E-R” for Northwestern. The Tigers led 27-16 with only four bouts to go, but Palmerton got two falls and a technical fall to earn a 33-33 tie. With the tie, Northwestern was still able to win the Centennial League title outright.
Northampton led Phillipsburg 23-18 after Jeff Kaboly came back to beat Tim Miers 10-5, but Robbie Packard stunned Eric Gieski, who had dropped from heavyweight, with a fall at 189. After a forfeit win at heavyweight, the Stateliners topped Northampton 30-23 in an exciting dual. The same evening, Quakertown broke North Penn’s 43 match unbeaten streak 34-23.
The next week, Allen’s Murderer’s Row of Hovan-Roth-Weiss tallied three straight wins as the Canaries defeated Easton 30-19. In a battle of league champions, Nazareth won eight bouts to roll to a 39-14 win over Northwestern. Nazareth followed up with a bout against unbeaten Liberty, but the Hurricanes raced out to a 30-0 lead and held off the Blue Eagles 30-21 to remain unbeaten. Easton bounced back from its loss to defeat an undermanned North Penn team 49-14 and tie Downingtown 30-30.
Liberty closed out an unbeaten 18-0 season, EPC championship season, by defeating Allen 33-20. Phillipsburg would win the NJ state dual tournament. Nazareth was 8-0 in the Colonial League and finished 15-2-1 overall while Northwestern won the Centennial League with a 7-0-1 league record and finished 14-2-1 overall. Other teams with very strong records included Northampton 15-3, Phillipsburg 19-3, Easton 12-4-2, Allen 12-5, Stroudsburg 14-2, Pocono Mountain 11-4, Palisades 14-4, Quakertown 16-1.
Final league standings were as follows:
|Compiled Standings 1985-86||Place||W-L-D|
|Allentown Central Catholic||12||0-11|
Nazareth crowned three champions to add a Colonial League tournament title to the trophy case, but Stroudsburg dethroned Northwestern and outpaced Pocono Mountain and Northern Lehigh to win the Centennial League tourney title.
In the District XI AAA Tourney, Easton had five finalists to capture the team title over Allen who had three champions (Scott Hovan, Jeff Roth & Jay Weiss) and took home much of the evening’s hardware. Don Schleicher was named Coach of the Year, and Hovan was the Oustanding Wrestler.
Northern Lehigh had three champions, a runner-up and three 3rd place finishers to dominate the action and win the AA team title. Further, Coach Bob Kern was Coach of the Year and Larry Rehrig was named the Outstanding Wrestler. Scott Derr of Northwestern, Ron Heller, Larry Rehrig & Don Evans on Northern Lehigh, John Fidelibus of Salisbury and Frank Zelinsky of Palmerton all defended their district titles.
Phillipsburg had five champions (Mike Kocsis, Dave Bonchar, Jason Hawk, Darren Anothony and Tim Miers) to win the District 16 team title and give Coach Rick Thompson his 36th district champ in six years!
In the AAA Northeast Regionals at Bloomsburg, both Allen and Northampton went 4 for 5 to lead 21 District XI wrestlers into the semi-finals. Both the Canaries and K-Kids would crown three champions each – Hovan, Roth & Weiss for Allen and Brad Billy, Stan Reuben & Jeff Kaboly for Northampton – to finish 2nd and 3rd in the team race behind Williamsport. District XI crowned nine champs in all and advanced 20 wrestlers (5 for Allen and 4 for Northampton) to the state tourney.
The Canaries and K-Kids both had their largest contingents in years headed to the state tournament (Photos Below Courtesy of The Allentown Morning Call):
Northern Lehigh advanced six wrestlers to the semi-finals in AA Southeast Regional action. Ron Heller (his 1st), Don Evans (his 2nd) and Larry Rehrig (his 3rd) all won regional titles as the Bulldogs edged North Schuylkill 86.5-83 in the team scoring. District XI was dominate winning all but one title and claiming 34 of 36 state berths.
Dave Boncher, Jon Koehler and Tim Miers all won NJ Region 4 titles for Phillipsburg.
In the PIAA AAA Championships, Allen’s Murderer’s Row of Scott Hovan, Jeff Roth & Jay Weiss all made the semi-finals along with Dieruff’s surprising Rick Frable (185) to lead eleven local wrestlers into the semi’s. When the dust settled, District XI had crowned four champions including Allen’s Hovan (138) and Roth (145) along with Bethlehem Catholic’s John Likins (112) and Pottsville’s John Flannery (Hwt). Allen, thanks to its two titelists and Jay Weiss’ 5th place – finished 2nd in the team race. Dave Foley of Becahi was 2nd at 98, Liberty’s Dan McIntyre was 2nd at 105, and District XI had six other place winners.
Northern Lehigh’s Larry Rehrig (126) made it to the top step in Hershey with an exciting, 8-7 nail biting win in the finals. Salisbury’s John Fidelibus defeated North Schuylkill’s Mark Cesari 7-1 to claim the 132 pound title. Palmerton’s Frank Zelinsky took a 2nd place at 155. North Schuylkill and Northern Lehigh were 2nd and 3rd in the team race, and District XI had nine other place winners.
Phillipsburg’s Dave Boncher was seeking his 3rd straight NJ state title but dropped an overtime decision to finish 2nd.
In the Challenge of Champions, Northern Lehigh’s Larry Rehrig and Salisbury’s John Fidelibus both won to help lead AA to a 23-18 victory over AAA. Allen’s Jeff Roth also participated for the AAA team. Fidelibus would go on to participate in the Pittsburgh Press Classic and earned a draw as PA defeated the US team 25-17.