After an incredibly competitive season in the Valley the prior year, Northampton started 1991 ranked as the #1 team in the state. Easton was expected to be the Kids top competition in the EPC with Phillipsburg and Allen viewed as top competition.
Stroudsburg was a strong favorite to repeat in the Centennial League as they returned nine starters. Jim Trusky took over at Pocono Mountain for long-time had coach Ed Watto; the Cardinals were expected to be in the mix along with Palmerton. Nazareth had dominated in the Colonial League by winning the last 11 league championships and entered the year with 90 consecutive league victories. Catasauqua, Pen Argyl and Wilson all returned strong teams.
Catausaqua had five champions (one more than the year before), but could not achieve a three-peat as team champion of the ASD Wrestling Tournament. Instead, it was 4-time champ Dan Wagner (130) who led the Allen Canaries who had six finalists and points from 11 of their 13 wrestlers; Jim Reimert (140) was Allen’s 2nd champion. For the runner-ups, Jon Reed (112), Kyle Rusnock (119), Jason Mutarelli (125), Joe Stofko (152) and Brad Lower (160) all won titles. Parkland competed in the Souderton Tourney and had Matt Roth (112), Nick Rupelli (125), Scott Radio (130) and Jeff Benchini (Hwt) win their final bouts as the Trojans won the team title.
Nazareth had two champs in Sean Topping (103) and Ryan Nunamaker (130) in winning the Millionaire Top Hat Tourney title. Milton’s Bob Crawford was in the tourney but one weight lower than Nunamaker, who he had beaten in two incredibly exciting matches the prior year. This time, he faced off against Dan Tashner in the 125 pound final and won 14-11. Easton again competed in the Crestwood Tournament and got championships from Tim Riehl (125) and Butch Schaffer (130) to win the team title.
The EPC dual season kicked off on December 12th with Northampton winning 10 of 13 bouts to down Parkland 46-16 in the feature match up of the night.
Two days later, there were two big non-league match-ups. Nazareth visited a packed 25th Street Gym to face Easton and got off to a flying start as Sean Topping pinned Matt Kelly with a spladle as Nazareth won the first three bouts to take a 12-0 lead. Easton’s Tim Riehl had a fall at 125, and Craig Jones scored a 4-3 upset over Ryan Nunamaker at 135 to narrow the team score to 15-9. Adam Columbo (152) and Mark Madson (189) both had falls as the Blue Eagles triumphed 35-19. Northampton and Catasauqua were tied at 9-9 after four bouts but the Kids had falls from Joe Reuben, Bob Gresko and Steve Gaugler to pull away and win 38-17. Stroudsburg and Parkland finished in the top two spots in the Quakertown Invitational.
A flu epidemic hit the Allentown School District causing Allen and Dieruff to postpone their sporting events during the 3rd week of December. On December 18th, Pocono Mountain had built a 21-19 lead over Palmerton on the strength of three pins heading into the final four bouts of a key early season Centennial League match up. Rich Hertzog, Mike Serfass and Tom Solowes delivered falls as the Blue Bombers won 37-26. Wilson came into the season expected to be a very strong squad based upon their returning wrestlers. The Warriors were upset by Brandywine 34-24 as the Bullets as Nathan Wellington (171) and Todd Wagaman (189) had falls; the Warriors were without state champ Kyle Werkheiser who was out with an injury from football season.
Phillipsburg made its debut for the season as Coach Rick Thompson returned after three years and faced off against Nazareth. The Blue Eagles led 8-3 after three bouts when Dan Tashner battled returning NJ state place winner Scott Frinzi to a 9-9 draw. Nazareth then opened up the match as they won the next three bouts including a fall by Steve Herceg at 140 to lead 22-5. P-Burg book ended two falls around four more Nazareth wins as Coach Ray Nunamaker’s squad won 36-17. Both Easton and Northampton defeated Solanco and Manheim Central. Freedom outdistanced host Pen Argyl in tournament action.
Pleasant Valley won the Jim Thorpe tourney, and Lehighton nipped Emmaus 139-136 to win their own holiday tournament. The Indians had champions in the final two weights (Mike Lusch and Steve Hawk) to clinch the title.
Nazareth and Northampton battled in the 23rd Christmas City Tourney. The Blue Eagles had six finalists five champions to outdistance the Kids by almost 40 points in winning the team title; Tri-Valley had a strong showing to finish 3rd and Dieruff had a surprising 4th place finish. Nazareth wrestlers were involved in several of the evening’s most exciting bouts back-to-back at 119 and 125. Chad Feichtel dropped an 11-9 decision to Indian River’s 3-time Virginia freestyle champ, Janson Denton. Dan Tashner trailed Wilson’s Brian Klass 9-3 before roaring back with a five-point play and takedown with five seconds left to win an 11-10 thriller.
Allen entered the Mahoney Area Holiday Dual Tourney and downed Pen Argyl 52-10 in the championship match. Easton had a strong showing in the Manheim Holiday Tournament by finishing 3rd with nine place winners. Tory Burgio (119) and Tim Riehl (125) were champions. Phillipsburg had 8 champions in their own Holiday Invitational while Stroudsburg had four champs and 2 runner-ups in claiming the Warren Hills Tourney title. Pocono Mountain had two champs and finished 4th in the Tunkhannock Holiday Tourney.
The year ended in tragedy for Stroudsburg as Eric McGurk, starting 152 pounder, was killed in an auto accident. It marked the third such tragedy in less than a decade for the Stroudsburg wrestling community. Mike Muth (1982) and Mike Transue (1987) were also killed in auto accidents.
On January 4th, unbeaten Allen (7-0) rode a balanced attack to top Liberty 39-26. The Canaries strong middleweights began a comeback and then Ben Traud, Andy Jenkins and Jon Quaye all scored falls. Northampton topped AA powerhouse Pine Grove 35-16.
In the Centennial League the following Wednesday, Pocono Mountain had seven falls in cruising by Northern Lehigh 48-22 while Palmerton, rebounding from a tough prior year, topped Notre Dame 38-21. Pleasant Valley’s Jim Christy won a 23-18 decision at 160 to lead the Bears to a 33-27 win over Lehighton. In the EPC, Phillipsburg easily defeated Dieruff 36-17; in the premiere bout, Pete Poretta and Eric Smith battled to a 9-9 draw at 103.
A few days later, Easton and Nazareth both defeated St. Marks (DE) and Warren Hills (NJ) during the 26th Pat Reilly Memorial Invitational. Easton won 29-23 and 38-11 while Nazareth won 41-20 and 34-27, respectively. With Kyle Werkheiser back in the line up, Wilson defeated Liberty 30-24.
As the week of January 12th began, The Morning Call’s Ted Meixell tabbed it a “Make or break week for Kids” as Northampton was set to face Easton at home and then travel to Nazareth within a 48 hour span.
Before those match ups took place, there was a huge match on tab in the Centennial League as Pleasant Valley faced defending champion Stroudsburg. After eight bouts, Pleasant Valley held a 20-16. The Mounties looked to pull within 1 point as Craig Loebsack led Chris Iandoli, but Iandoli scored a fall with time running out. Stroudsburg’s Brian Tramontina scored a fall to again narrow the gap to 4, but Kevin Nagle won a decision and Kevin Serfass scored the decisive fall at 189 as Pleasant Valley beat Stroudsburg for the first time EVER. Coach Tim Cunningham’s squad stood at 7-0 overall and 4-0 in the league.
On January 16th, Northampton roared out of the gates to win the first four bouts, despite being underdogs in at least two of the bouts, to build a 15-0 lead. Dennis Liberto had a fall at 103 and Frank Mazzocchi, A.J. Bucko and Joe Reuben scored key decisions over Gino Cerulli, Tory Burgio and Tim Riehl. Easton won the next two bouts to cut the deficit to 15-8, but the Kids more than held their own the rest of the way with a 3-2-2 record in the final seven bouts including Andy Doster’s fall at 171 as Coach Don Rohn’s squad won 31-21.
The same night, Jon Quaye’s fall kept Allen unbeaten as they beat Parkland 31-24; Liberty beat Bethlehem Catholic 33-27 on Kyle Tarboro’s fall and Dieruff edged CCHS 34-29.
Two nights later, it was Round 2 for the K-Kids and they again were strong out of the gates despite facing tough competition at the first four weights. Denny Liberto trailed Sean Topping 4-3 before hitting a cement job to gain the fall in the opening bout. Frank Mazzocchi and A.J. Bucko each won by decision and Joe Reuben battled Dan Tashner to a draw as the Kids opened a 14-2 lead. Ryan Nunamaker scored a fall at 130, but Bob Gresko upset Mark Getz scoring a major decision. Coach Rohn inserted a JV into the lineup to face Steve Herceg at 140 and bumped the lineup up from 145-189. Adam Columbo’s fall at 152 and Eric Rice’s 5-4 win at 171 actually had the Blue Eagles ahead 25-23. Andy Doster scored a major decision at 189, and Jason Grim scored a fall at heavyweight, and the Kids triumphed 33-25.
The same day, District 4 powerhouse Shikellamy was in the house at the 25th Street Gym to face Easton in the 12th matchup between the teams. Easton evened the overall series at 6-6 with a 29-18 victory. The Rovers had a fall from Tory Burgio at 119 and Eric Thompson, Jeff Uhler and Joey Jones won 3 of the final 4 bouts. In other competitive non-league action, Dieruff edged Stroudsburg 29-23 as Jesse Lovell won 14-11 in the final bout; Catasauqua scored three falls and won 5 of the final 6 bouts to defeated Parkland 35-22; Lehighton clipped Emmaus 39-27; Pen Argyl topped Pocono Mountain 36-21; Notre Dame nipped Palisades 36-33 and Freedom downed both Palmerton 50-20 and Wilson 36-30.
As the season moved into the latter part of January, the following teams were still undefeated in their respective league competition:
EPC – Allen, Freedom, Northampton, Phillipsburg
Colonial – Catasauqua, Nazareth, Wilson
Centennial – Palmerton, Pleasant Valley
On January 22nd, two of those EPC unbeatens faced off in Allen’s “Phys Ed Center.” The Canaries were without star, Dan Wagner, who had his knee scoped and fell behind Freedom 12-0 after three bouts. Jose Rivera had a big win over Matt Zebertavage 11-1. From there the Canaries had bonus-point wins from Pete Schemm, James Reimert and Bobby Watts. Ben Traud and Andy Jenkins scored close decisions, and Jon Quaye scored a fall for a 34-20 win. In the Centennial League, Stroudsburg knocked Palmerton from the league unbeaten ranks 39-23 and followed with a win over Lehighton 38-28.
Three days later, Wilson roared out of the gate winning 5 of the first 6 bouts in a Colonial League “elimination” match with Catasauqua. Jeff Tufano stunned Kyle Rusnock with a headlock to a fall at 119, and Steve Klass topped Jason Mutarelli 13-10 at 125 as the Warriors led 27-2. Catty battled back but Kyle Werkheiser had a fall at 171 at the Warriors won 35-30. Brett Werkheiser and Joe Stofko had a 3-3 draw at 140 in another key bout.
Pleasant Valley had beaten Stroudsburg who upended Palmerton and now it was Palmerton’s turn. The Blue Bombers dealt Pleasant Valley their first loss of the year. Palmerton had key wins from Dave Christman (4-1 over Tim Everitt) and Alberto Amorin (8-3 upset win over Chris Iandoli) as they won 36-26 and set up a likely three-way tie in the Centennial League.
Phillipsburg had seven falls as they defeated New Jersey rival Warren Hills 50-20 a day in advance of a January 30th EPC match up with Allen. The Stateliners were too much for the Canaries, who were missing three starters. P-Burg jumped out to a big lead and Pat Coyle, Frank Clymer and Shannon Dech knocked off Allen stalwarts, Jose Rivera, Pete Schemm and James Reimert in succession. When the dust settled, Phillipsburg had knocked off Allen 34-14.
Easton won 9 of 13 bouts to down Freedom 38-16 to register the 500th win in the storied history of the Rovers wrestling program. A breakdown of Easton wins and coaching records follows:
Charles Bartolet Sr
1984-92 (to date)
Things did not get an easier for Allen as they had to wrestle Northampton less than 48 hours later, and the Kids cruised to a 47-13 victory. Northampton then visited Methacton and dealt them only their 2nd loss in two years (both to the Kids) 41-19 to extend their record to 19-0 on the season.
On February 5th, Pen Argyl had upset on its mind as it challenged Catasauqua and led 21-10 before Catty ran off five straight wins, including four pins, to wrap up the match 40-27. Pocono Mountain was also upset-minded as they looked to spoil Stroudsburg’s chances for a share of the Centennial League title. The Cardinals led 30-23 after Chris Fox’s fall at 160, but Brian Tramontina, Jim Ludlow and Joe Hull won the final three bouts and the Mounties won 35-30.
On February 8th, the last two EPC unbeatens wrestled as Northampton visited “The Pit” to face Phillipsburg. The teams traded decisions in the first two waits as Pete Poretta topped Dennis Liberto 17-10 before Frank Mazzocchi defeated Tim Flynn 11-4. Charly Carty had a late takedown to nip A.J. Bucko and give the Liners the momentum. Scott Frinzi had a fall at 125, and Joe Reuben and Pat Coyle had a draw. P-Burg led 14-5. The Kids won 3 of the next 4 bouts to narrow the lead to 17-15. Tom Kachala, Matt Osmun and Jarrod Spencer won the next three matches to clinch the match for Coach Rick Thompson as the Liners won 26-21.
Easton scored three falls in winning the first five bouts against Allen to open up a 25-0 lead. The Canaries more than held their own the rest of the way, but the damage was done, and the Rovers won 38-20.
On February 12th, Nazareth was looking to continue marching toward its 12th straight Colonial League crown as they traveled to Catasauqua’s Lincoln Gym. Ryan Nunamaker scored his 100th career win as Nazareth cruised to a 48-12 win. Wilson stayed unbeaten by edging Pen Argyl 32-26 to preserve a showdown for the league title with the Blue Eagles the following week.
Three way ties for the league title? There was one that was expected and one that was not.
In the Centennial League, Pleasant Valley won 7 of 13 bouts against Pocono Mountain, but still fell 32-30. So there was no longer a three-way tie in the Centennial League, and Palmerton and Stroudsburg would share the league title.
Phillipsburg was favored to defeat perennial rival, Easton, and go on to win the EPC title outright. Instead, in front of 3,500 fans at Lafayette’s Kirby Field House, the Rovers did the unexpected. Several Rovers dropped in the lower weights. The moves did not really pay off as Pete Poretta was able to tie Gino Cerulli at 8-8 in the final seconds and Tim Flynn reversed Tory Burgio with 10 seconds left to gain a 7-6 upset win. Tim Riehl, the other dropper, won 14-7, but Scott Frinzi had a fall and Pat Coyle won by decision. Another draw and close decision, and Phillipsburg led 19-7 at the midpoint of the match. The Easton comeback began in the next match as Steve Dew won by decision. Eric Thompson, who had dropped to 152, won by fall and then Rich Hosmer, who was inserted into the lineup, upset Tom Kachala. All of sudden the match was tied 19-19. Larry Castner scored a first period fall at 171 and Jeff Uhler won by decision. The Rovers had an improbable 30-21 comeback win and a share of the EPC title with Northampton and Phillipsburg.
The field for the District Duals was expanded to six teams each in AAA and AA. In the semi-finals, Easton was the top seed and defeated Allen 42-17. For the second year in a row, Nazareth once again turned the tables on Northampton in the Duals 34-20. The teams were deadlocked at 6-6 after four bouts when Mark Getz, Ryan Nunamaker, Steve Herceg and Adam Colombo strung together four wins in a row to open up a 25-6 lead. In the finals, the Rovers, who had lost 35-19 to Nazareth back in December, upended the Blue Eagles on criteria when the score ended 29-29. Nazareth jumped out to an 18-6 lead on falls by Brian Tashner (112), Dan Tashner (125) and Ryan Nunamaker (130). Easton fought back as Larry Gibson pinned Mark Getz and Craig Jones fought Steve Herceg to a draw. Adam Columbo scored another fall for the Blue Eagles, but the Rovers countered with a decision and Eric Thompson’s fall and the score stood at 26-23 Nazareth. Larry Castner’s 3-2 decision at 171 tied the match; the teams traded decisions in the final two bouts, but the Rovers won on the strength of most bouts won to win the title.
In AA, a wild morning match up would see nine six-point bouts as the Wilson had falls from Steve Klass, Brian Knott, Tony Verenna, Brett Werkheiser and Kyle Werkheiser to nip Catasauqua 34-33. The semi-finals saw top-seeded Pine Grove hammered North Schuylkill 41-18 in one semi-final, while Wilson whipped Pius X 53-11. Pine Grove was too much for the Warriors in the finals as they won three of the first four bouts to lead 15-3. Wilson closed the gap to 18-14, but Pine Grove pulled away to win the AA title 37-17.
On February 19th, Nazareth completed a Colonial League sweep as they clipped Wilson 36-24. The Warriors had the better of the marquee match-ups as Steve Klass pinned Dan Tashner, Tony Verenna nipped Steve Herceg 3-2 and Brett Werkheiser decisioned Mark Getz 7-0. The Blue Eagles had too much firepower as they had bonus points in six of their seven wins. Catasauqua beat Bangor 37-28 to finish 2nd in the Colonial League.
Phillipsburg won the New Jersey Region 2 title and went on the win the Group 2 dual championship.
Lehighton took the lead in the team race after Day 1 of the Centennial League tourney. However, just as they had during the regular season, it was Stroudsburg and Palmerton who would fight for the league tourney title. Stroudsburg held a lead and had seven finalists vs. Palmerton’s five, but the Blue Bombers had three champs to the Mounties two and won the title by four points.
Allen finished a fine season with a 40-22 win over Dieruff.
The final league standings were as follows:
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