None of the local squads were able to survive the competitive ’87-’88 season unbeaten and the ’88-’89 season was expected to be similarly competitive. Easton, Nazareth, Northampton and Phillipsburg all suffered some key losses due to graduation but each also had many returning stars. The new season would also see the first change in the number of weight classes since 1959 with the addition of a 13th weight class. For full details of weight class changes through the years see: http://lehighvalleywrestlinghistory.com/features-stories-more/lehigh-valley-state-wrestling-championship-history-pa-nj-pciaa-lists-history/piaa-weight-class-history/
The ASD and BSD tourneys kicked off the season. Allen, with three champions, edged up and coming Allentown Central Catholic in the ASD Tourney. The BSD Invitational saw Northampton flexing its muscles as they ran away from some strong competition, including Wyoming Valley West, North Penn and host Liberty. The Kids’ Rian Youwakim nipped Liberty’s Pat Tocci 4-3 while Don Suranofsky dropped a 12-8 decision to North Penn’s Matt Finacchio at 125.
In early dual action, Bethlehem Catholic rallied to defeat Freedom 39-26. The Golden Hawks fresh off winning the Class 2A football championship saw Tony Spagnola, Blayne Diacont, Tony Iasiello Jr. and Rob Carpenter shift from the gridiron to wrestling mats to key the win.
On December 17th, the first match of the season between “The Big Four” took place as Easton and Nazareth locked up. The Rovers pulled ahead for the only time all night 20-18 after Tony Rizzolino and Brian Marchetti won back-to-back decisions. Jack Kapanka’s fall and Scott McEntire’s win by DQ capped a 30-20 Blue Eagle win.
Parkland battled District 1 powerhouses, Downingtown and Quakertown and finished 2nd to the Whippets while Bethlehem Catholic was runner-up in the Carlisle Tourney.
In pre-Christmas action, Nazareth traveled to The Pit to face Phillipsburg. The Blue Eagles led 29-12 with four bouts to go, but with Kevin Dutt, Jim Crouse, Kevin Kane and Greg Troxell waiting in the wings, the question remained – “was it enough?” The answer was “no” as all four won with Crouse and Troxell registering falls as the Stateliners won 30-29 in their season debut. Catasauqua whipped Saucon Valley 35-23 in Colonial League action.
The annual Christmas City Tourney featured a series of upsets in the finals as Nazareth outdistanced Northampton 225-209 to win the team title despite the Kids having six champs. At 112, Rian Youwakim defeated Upper Perk state runner-up, Jason Marks, 7-4 then Marks’ teammate Brad Rozanski escaped with one second left to upset Nazareth state champ, Brad Silimperi, 3-2. The Kids’ Don Suranofky made it three upsets in a row as he topped two-time state champ, Dave Foley, 8-7. Nazareth’s Preston Moritz clinched at least a tie for the team title by knocking off National Prep placer, Greg Welch, 14-5. Catasauqua finished a solid third in the team race.
In Manheim, Easton and Shikellamy battled for the team title with the Rovers triumphing as Moss Grays, Dave Disora, Tony Rizzolino and Brian Marchetti won titles. Two-time state champ Chris Kwortnik from North Penn was pushed to overtime by Erie Prep’s Jeff Liebel at 189, but Kwortnik won 8-8, 4-1.
In other holiday tourney action, Stroudsburg was 2nd at Warren Hills; East Stroudsburg was 2nd at Tunkhannock; Liberty was 3rd at Lock Haven; Parkland won at Governor Mifflin; Whitehall won at Lehighton; Palmerton won at Jim Thorpe with Pleasant Valley as the runner-up; and Wilson was 3rd at Lehighton and 2nd at Delaware Valley.
After the holidays, the competitive EPC saw Liberty upend Parkland 33-24. On January 7th, #1 nationally-ranked North Allegheny visited the Lehigh Valley to compete in the Reilly Tournament. Coach Gus DeAugustino’s Tigers were too much for Nazareth (39-21) and Easton (39-15). The same day, Northampton defeated Shikellamy 34-26 as Mike Reenock scored a fall in the final bout. Stroudsburg showed that they can beat one of the EPC competitive teams as they knocked off Allen 28-24.
On January 11th, Northampton started fast against Easton to take a 17-0 lead after four bouts. That’s when Coach Don Rohn made a switch at 130-135 that paid dividends as Steve Moyer kept it close with Thad Picone, and Mike Laury beat Jim Brown 19-13. Brian Chamberlain and Kevin Smith won key bouts over Tony Rizzolino (10-7 at 160) and Brian Marchetti (11-8 at 171), respectively, to help clinch the Kids’ 29-25 win before 1,900 fans in Easton’s gym.
A few days later in non-league action, Catasauqua nipped a tough Palmerton squad 31-27
On January 18th, Nazareth defeated Bangor 60-6 as Coach Ray Nunamaker won his 300th career dual meet.
On January 21st, Nazareth had two huge wins early on its way to a 28-22 win against Northampton. At 112, Brad Silimperi caught Rian Youwakim in a lateral drop to score a late 2nd period fall while at 125, Mike Herceg downed Don Suranofsky 18-11 in key match-ups. Preston Moritz, Dan Madson, Ross Nunamaker and Mike Miller won consecutive matches from 135-152 to open up a 24-11 lead.
Watch the match between “Respected Rivals” Nazareth and Northampton courtesy of Todd Killino’s You Tube Channel & TV4:
The same night, Easton defeated Shikellamy 26-19, and Phillipsburg rallied for a 31-27 win over Parkland after trailing 27-10.
On January 25th, two key Centennial League bouts were on tap. Undefeated Stroudsburg trailed Palmerton 22-9 before their “Murderer’s Row” of Erik Overcash, Steve Nordmark, Bill Canfield, Paul LaBar and Troy Marsh strung together five wins as the Mountaineers took sole possession of first place 32-22. Pocono Mountain stayed in the mix by beating East Stroudsburg 35-31.
In an intra-city bout, Allentown Central Catholic dropped six wrestlers one weight class for their dual meet against Allen. The Vikings led 22-12, but Jason Jenkins spurred a four bout win streak, and the Canaries won 30-25. This match was one of many extremely competitive bouts between all six Allentown and Bethlehem schools along with Parkland, Whitehall and Emmaus during the exciting EPC dual season.
As January came to a close, the league races shaped up as follows:
- EPC – Northampton and Phillipsburg – both 6-0 and wrestling a dual on 2/4; Easton 6-1.
- Centennial – Stroudsburg – unbeaten and Palmerton & Pocono Mountain with one loss each.
- Colonial – Catasauqua and Nazareth – both 4-0 and Bangor 3-1.
Northampton led early and then counterpunched a Phillipsburg rally with wins by Brian Chamberlain and Kevin Smith to lead 24-16 with two bouts to go. Kevin Kane had a fall at 189, and Greg Troxell scored a major decision at heavyweight as the Stateliners won 26-24 to move into sole possession of first place in the EPC.
Stroudsburg had not won a Centennial League title since 1978 and led Pocono Mountain by a slim 14-12 score after eight bouts, but had their “Murderer’s Row” waiting in the wings. The Mountaineers upper weights pulled out a 34-18 victory to keep Coach Ron Spinner’s team unbeaten.
On February 8th, Catasauqua was hoping to keep it close against Nazareth, but the Blue Eagles won all but three bouts to rout the Rough Riders 48-8 and all but clinch their 8th straight Colonial League title.
The Easton-Phillipsburg dual was moved to Lafayette’s Kirby Field House and was wrestled before a packed house of 4,000 fans. Easton needed a big lead heading into Phillipsburg’s tough upper weights. The Rovers held a 27-10 lead after winning six straight bouts from 130-160. Brian Marchetti nipped Jim Crouse 7-6 at 171 as the Rovers went on to win 30-17 setting up a likely three-way tie for the EPC title with Phillipsburg and Northampton.
Phillipsburg would go on to win its 4th straight New Jersey team dual mat title. Easton closed out its season by whipping state-ranked Manheim Central 30-19 and North Penn 49-10. Northampton crushed Quakertown 47-11. The three co-EPC champions would each finish 10-1 in the league and with overall records of Easton (15-3), Northampton (17-2) and Phillipsburg (19-2).
Stroudsburg’s bid for an unbeaten season came down to the final two bouts against twice-beaten Catausaqua. The Rough Riders won both bouts to put one blemish on Stroudsburg’s otherwise fabulous season 24-23. Stroudsburg won the Centennial League title and finished 15-1.
Nazareth won their 8th straight Colonial League title and finished 16-2.
Other teams finishing with solid records included Catasauqua (16-2), Palmerton (16-3), Liberty (14-6), Pocono Mountain (12-4), Allen (12-6) and Parkland (12-7).
Final league standings were as follows:
|Compiled Standings 1988-89||Place||W-L-D|
|Allentown Central Catholic||10||2-9|
Stroudsburg had 3 champs and 3 runner-ups to win the Centennial League Tourney.
Phillipsburg had seven champions and won the New Jersey District 16 team title.
Nazareth moved five men into the finals and qualified nine wrestlers for regionals as they won the team title over Northampton and Easton. Brad Silimperi pinned Liberty’s Pat Tocci at 112, and Mike Miller pinned Parkland’s Rod Oppenheimer at 145 for the Blue Eagles’ two titlists. Northampton and Easton each had three champs. Don Suranofsky (125), Brian Chamberlain (160) and Kevin Smith (171) won crowns for the Kids while Moss Grays (135), Dave DiSora (140) and Tony Rizzolino (152) were the Rovers’ champs. Rizzolino came behind from a five point deficit to edge Nazareth’s Ross Nunamaker 14-12.
Watch the 1989 District XI Finals courtesy of Todd Killino’s Youtube channel & TV4:
Kevin Smith Remained Unbeaten & Won the 171 Pound Title (Photo Courtesy of Northampton HS Yearbook)
After 27 seasons at the helm and a 357-31-2 record, North Schuylkill Coach Joe Cesari Sr. was in his final District XI AA tournament. Facing increased competition as Bethlehem Catholic and Saucon Valley had bumped down from AAA, the Spartans, ranked first in Class 2A had seven finalists and three champions to win the team title. Coach Cesari was named Coach of the Year. Chris Rickard (103), Bill Klotz (130) and Mark Cesari (145) were the Spartans champs. Bethlehem Catholic finished 2nd and Catasauqua was 3rd.
AA District XI Champs (Photo from Bethlehem Globe Times courtesy of Cathy Leibensperger)
Phillipsburg had champions in the first three weights (Ed Moore, Scott Dellatore and E.J. Watson) and the last three weights (Jim Crouse, Kevin Kane and Greg Troxell) in the N.J. Section 4 Regional Tourney.
After finishing 3rd in the District tourney, Easton had five finalists and won the Northeast Regional team title. District XI was able to crown 8 of 13 champs and claim 19 of the 39 qualifiers for the state tourney. Easton, Nazareth and Northampton had two champs each in Thad Picone & Moss Grays, Brad Silimperi & Mike Miller, and Dave Laury & Kevin Smith, respectively. Allen’s Jason Wagner (103) and Bangor’s Doug Comunale were also winners from District XI. The tourney had several major upsets. Freedom’s two-time state champ Dave Foley lost 11-7 to Shikellamy’s Greg Underkoffler and was then pinned by Jersey Shore’s Crock Herman. Liberty’s two-time state placewinner, Pat Tocci, lost 6-3 in the semi-finals and then 2-1 to Northampton’s Rian Youwakim.
The Southeast Regional Tournament saw District XI’s AA wrestlers once again flex their muscles and claim 37 of 39 slots for the state tourney. It was another big day for North Schuylkill! Mark Cesari (145) became the first four-time Southeast regional champ, and Chris Rickard (103), Bill Klotz (130) and Paul Hummel (189) all won titles. Saucon Valley’s Tom Koch (125) and Jim Severn (170) remained unbeaten in becoming champs. The Spartans had seven state qualifiers while Bethlehem Catholic and Catasauqua each had four.
In New Jersey, Phillipsburg crowned back-to-back champions in Kevin Kane (189) and Greg Troxell (Hwt) and Jim Crouse (171) took 3rd as Bob Jiorle’s squad finished the season in the #1 slot in New Jersey.
In Hershey, District XI wrestlers dominated the AA action. 7 District XI wrestlers advance to the finals with 5 winning titles – Becahi’s Blayne Diacont & Tony Iasiello Jr and North Schuylkill’s Chris Rickard, Randy Reitler & Mark Cesari. The Spartans rolled to the team title in Coach Joe Cesari’s final year while Becahi finished 4th. Saucon Valley’s Tom Koch & North Schuylkill’s Paul Hummel finish as runner-ups. District XI had 9 more place winners.
In AAA action, #1 nationally ranked North Allegheny won the team title while Easton, Nazareth & Northampton all finished in the top 5 in the team race. Nazareth’s Mike Miller scired a takedown with 5 seconds left to win the 145 title while teammate, Brad Silimperi, was edged by Ty Moore 4-3 to finish 2nd. Northampton’s Kevin Smith finished 2nd to 3-time Champ Chris Kwortnik from North Penn. Kwortnik finished his career with a 141-1 record! Easton had 4 wrestlers in consecutive weights (Moss Grays, Dave DiSora, Dan Goffredo & Tony Rizzolino) while Allen’s Jason Wagner & Nazareth’s Mike Herceg finished 3rd; Northampton’s Chad Billy & Mike Recker were 4th & Liberty’s Brian Cuddy was 6th.
On April 2nd, the 15th annual Pittsburgh Press Classic took place as the US All-Stars outpointed the PA All-Stars 30-16. District XI wrestlers competing included Bethlehem Catholic’s Blayne Diacont, Northampton’s Mike Recker and North Schuylkill’s Chris Rickard, Randy Reidler & Mark Cesari. Cesari was able to register a win. North Penn’s Chris Kwortnik was named PA’s Outstanding Wrestler.