December

For almost twenty years, the teams in the three local wrestling leagues were unchanged.  After years of discussions and many options, the Centennial League’s four Monroe County based schools (East Stroudsburg, Pleasant Valley, Pocono Mountain and Stroudsburg) along with Nazareth and Northampton announced their intention to form the Mountain Valley Conference in September 1993.  The teams hoped to be joined by 3-4 other schools.  The newspapers chronicled individual school districts voting on their future league with most opting to stay in the current league.  With the deadline to join the MVC extended a year, only Lehighton chose to join the six original schools in the MVC.  So for the 1994-95 wrestling season, the Centennial League was disbanded, and the Mountain Valley Conference was born.  Nazareth left the Colonial League after winning 13 titles in a row; Northampton had won or shared the last 8 EPC titles and were riding a 48-match winning streak.  The remaining four former Centennial League schools – Northern Lehigh, Northwestern, Notre Dame and Palmerton joined eight schools in the Colonial League to form a 12-team league.  The EPC retained 11 teams, but after 45 seasons of belonging to a Lehigh Valley based league, the ’94-’95 season would be Phillipsburg’s last as they were to depart for the Skyland Conference at the end of the season.

Easton and Phillipsburg were expected to compete for the EPC title with the departure of Northampton.  Despite heavy losses to graduation, Liberty and Parkland were also expected to battle with Bethlehem Catholic to battle 3rd place.  The new 12 team Colonial League, Bangor, Saucon Valley and Wilson were the favorites.  Former Centennial League power, Northern Lehigh lost 5 regional placers and returned just five starters.  The inaugural season of the Mountain Valley Conference would see the Nazareth and Northampton competing for a league title in addition to post season honors.   

Toby Kratzer led Emmaus to an ASD title (Photo Courtesy of Emmaus HS Yearbook)

On December 3rd, the new season kicked off with the inaugural Wilson Invitational, the ASD Tournament and a number of duals.  Wilson christened their new gym by edging Liberty 167.5-166 for the team title.  Bryan Klass (who was named Outstanding Wrestler), Sean Altenbach and Chris Poff won championships for Coach Dave Crowell’s Warriors.  Emmaus crowned three champions – Mark Steckel, Toby Kratzer (who was named OW) and Alex Derr – to outdistance Allentown Central Catholic for the ASD team title.  The same day, Bangor defeated Whitehall, East Stroudsburg and Parkland in impressive fashion. 

On December 7th, Liberty and Dieruff were locked in a tight battle with the Hurricanes leading 16-12 after 145.  The Huskies won three of the next four bouts but had to forfeit at heavyweight, and Liberty survived a 27-26 scare.  Freedom defeated Emmaus 36-22 in an EPC bout while Nazareth scored six falls to defeat Wilson 52-10 in what was now a non-league match.  

The 3rd annual Valley Youth House Elite Duals took things to a whole new level as Walsh Jesuit and Canon-McMillan traveled to the Lehigh Valley on December 10th to face the Valley’s top teams, Easton, Nazareth and Northampton.  Prep Wrestling’s Coast to Coast pre-season rankings had Walsh Jesuit (#1), Northampton (#2), Canon-McMillan (#8), Easton (#13) and Nazareth (#16).  Host Liberty, Spencerport NY and St. Benedict’s NJ were also participating in the duals. 

The 1st session saw Easton build a 24-9 lead over Walsh Jesuit, but the talented Warrior upper weights rallied to win five straight bouts to win 31-24.  Nazareth and Northampton easily won their first round matches against St. Benedict’s Prep and Spencerport, respectively.  During the 2nd session, Nazareth led Walsh Jesuit 27-18 after the 152-pound match, but again the Warriors rallied with four straight wins to triumph 36-27.  Meanwhile, Canon-McMillan scored three falls and a technical fall to lead Northampton 29-15 with four bouts remaining.  Jason Davis, Ryan Gumlock and Craig Fenstermaker scored decisions as the Kids narrowed the gap to 29-25. Rick Umstead scored a 2nd period fall, and the Kids won their 50th straight dual by a 31-29 score.  Spencerport defeated Liberty 37-20.

The final session would feature all four local teams in action including the marquee match-up of the day – #1 ranked Walsh Jesuit vs. #2 ranked Northampton. On the strength of technical falls by Sonny Marchette and Joe Heskett and three 14-point decision wins, the Warriors led the Kids 22-9.  Freshman Christian Luciano’s overtime win and Mike Keglovits’ win by forfeit (due to an earlier injury), closed the gap to 22-18, but Ohio state champ, Scott Overbrook scored a fall to extend the lead to 28-18.  The Kids would again attempt to rally and Ryan Gumlock, Craig Fenstermaker and Rick Umstead all defeated very talented wrestlers, but the Kids fell one point short 28-27.  Canon-McMillan won 7 of 13 bouts to defeat Nazareth 28-21; Easton cruised by Spencerport 55-10; and St. Benedict’s nipped Liberty on a final bout fall 36-34. 

It was an incredibly exciting day of wrestling (my Dad and I were in the stands for all three sessions).  Walsh Jesuit and Coach Bill Barger survived a gauntlet of three matches 31-24 over Easton, 36-27 over Nazareth and 28-27 over Northampton (breaking the Kids’ 50-match win streak).  Our local teams showed extremely well as did Canon-McMillan.  Quotes on the day from the coaches per The Morning Call:

  • Don Rohn – “You’ve got to give credit to Walsh.  They made a long trip, came in here and beat Easton, Nazareth and us in the same day.  Anyone who can do that deserves to be No 1.”  “My kids gave it all they had.  I’m not real pleased with a few people, but I’m sure they gave it all they had.”
  • Bill Barger – “I’m so glad we came in here for this.  We’re coming again next year, and the way we were treated, I can’t imagine not coming after that.  The people were great, the officiating was great, the wrestling was great.”  “Everybody wanted to beat everybody bad, but when it was over the respect was mutual.  This was nothing but great wrestling teams against great wrestling teams.  This was great for the sport:  nobody lost today.”
  • Ray Nunamaker – “It was awesome.  I can’t imagine there was ever an event of this caliber anywhere, to tell the truth.”

On December 14th, the EPC season opened up as Easton crushed Parkland 55-4.  In a non-league match, Coach Jeff Longacre’s Bangor squad improved to 5-1 as they cruised past Northern Lehigh 46-17.

Easton, Nazareth and Northampton traveled to Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio to battle St. Edward’s, host Walsh Jesuit among other top teams in the inaugural Ironman Classic.  Per The Morning Call “Northampton’s freshman Phenom Christian Luciano” and Nazareth’s Matt Kleinle and Dave Cote all pulled huge upsets to advance to the semi-finals.  The Kids had eight wrestlers in the semi’s, and when 7 of 8 won, they were within striking distance of top-seeded Walsh Jesuit.  In an all Lehigh Valley final to start the finals, Northampton’s Denny Liberto defeated Easton’s Bryan Snyder 15-7.  Northampton had two additional champs in Dave Emili (125) and Craig Fenstermaker (189).  Both of Nazareth’s champs defeated Northampton wrestlers as Dave Cote (145) won 5-2 over Christian Luciano, and Travis Doto (152) won by fall over Mike Keglovits.  In addition, Easton’s Jamar Billman (112) and Rich Snyder (160); Northampton’s Ryan Gumlock (171) and Rick Umstead (215) and Nazareth’s Matt Kleinle (Hwt) all finished as runner-ups.  In the team race, Walsh Jesuit outpointed Northampton 208-191.

From the Walsh Jersuit Ironman Book

On December 17th, Emmaus finished 2nd to Downingtown in the Quakertown Invitational while the hosts placed 3rd.  For Emmaus’ Coach Tom Schleicher, Jeremy Huddle (119), Ed Felegy (152) and Toby Kratzer (160) all won individual titles.  Liberty and Freedom both easily won double duals against Pittston Area and Tunkhannock.  The Phillipsburg Stateliners won six individual titles and had five runner-ups to win the 3rd annual Hunterdon/ Warren Wrestling Tournament.  Bob Piccione (100), Joe Doran (106), Joe Edwards (119), Mike Coyle (126), Koury Cook (160) and Marc DeFrancisco (185) all won titles. 

Pleasant Valley trailed Parkland 31-15 with four bouts to go.  Brandon Mueller (160), Jason Farassier (171) and Dave Iandola (189) narrowed the count to 31-27.  John Regina’s fall in overtime at heavyweight clinched the dual 33-31 for Pleasant Valley.  The same weekend, Bethlehem Catholic finished 2nd in the Carlisle Tournament and Pius X finished 2nd in the Delaware Valley Tourney.

John Flamish was a force for the Huskies during the 94-95 season (Photo Courtesy of Dieruff HS Yearbook)

On December 21, Phillipsburg was involved in a tight match with Liberty, leading 12-10 after the 125-pound bout.  The Stateliners then pulled away to win 46-18.  Meanwhile, Dieruff trailed Freedom 24-23, but Nestor Vargas scored a fall at 189 and John Flamish defeated Rich Koehler 9-5 at heavyweight to give the Huskies a 32-24 victory.  In the Colonial League, Northern Lehigh led Pen Argyl 12-6 early, but the Bulldogs rallied to cruise to a 39-21 victory in front of their home crowd.

With the NJSIAA adopting 13 weight classes, the new weight classes were on display for a dual between Nazareth and Phillipsburg even though the dual was held at Liberty High School in Pennsylvania.  This was because Phillipsburg was the home team.  Eric Kelly, Chris Vitale, Steve Rohn, Andy Cote and Rob Rohn all scored bonus points to lead Nazareth to a 32-21 win.  Dave Cote edged NJ state place winner Tim Flynn 3-1 at 142 while Phillipsburg’s John Garriques upset Travis Doto 4-3 at 151.

Holiday Tournaments

Thirty-seven local teams were in action in 10 different holiday tournaments.  Notre Dame crowned three champs – Chris Naylor (119), Tony Calantoni (135) and Bill Fretz (145) – to win the Jim Thorpe Olympian Holiday Tournament.  Kutztown and Lehighton tied for the team title in the Kutztown Holiday Tournament.  

Denny Liberto Helped Lead the iIds to the team title in the first Bethlehem Holiday Classic (Photo Courtesy of Northampton HS Yearbook)

After years of the Christmas City Tourney dominating the local holiday wrestling scene, Liberty hosted its inaugural tournament in 1994.  With Northampton moving across town, there would be one less opportunity for the Kids to go head-to-head with rival Nazareth.    As a result, Nazareth dominated the Day One action at Becahi while Northampton did the same over at Liberty.  The Blue Eagles had 11 semi-finalists and a large lead over Bangor, Stroudsburg and Bethlehem Catholic.  The Bethlehem Holiday Classic saw Northampton’s Denny Liberto win his 100th match and freshman Christian Luciano, a #10 seed, upend a #2 seed as the Kids advanced eight wrestlers to the semi-finals.

Nazareth ultimately crowned 9 champions (Chris Vitale, Andy Cote, Brian Tashner, Justin Hoff, Dave Cote, Travis Doto, Rob Rohn, Shawn McEntire and Jared Hoff) and scored almost 300 points to easily outdistance Bangor and the rest of the field.  Rohn was named the outstanding wrestler.  At Liberty, Northampton had eight finalists and seven champions (Denny Liberto, Dave Emili, Tim Mazzocchi, Christian Luciano, Ryan Gumlock, Craig Fenstermaker and Rick Umstead) to cruise to the team title. Brick Memorial, Saucon Valley and Freedom rounded out the top four.  Fenstermaker (189) won both the OW and Pinner awards.

Easton held a slim lead over Canon-McMillan after Day One of the Manheim Holiday Tourney.  The Rovers had 10 semi-finalists.  The Rovers were able to outdistance Canon-McMillan by 10-points to win the team title as Bryan Snyder, Jamar Billman and Brad Weaver all won individual titles.

January

League action was kicked back into action on January 4th.  In the EPC, despite forfeiting two bouts, Bethlehem Catholic defeated Freedom 30-24.  Liberty jumped out to a big lead and held off an Emmaus rally to win 36-27.   In Mountain Valley Conference action, Northampton topped Stroudsburg 45-14.  In the Colonial League, Bangor stayed unbeaten as they easily beat Palisades 60-16, and Saucon Valley topped Notre Dame 41-21.  The next day, Jason Kruk upset Willie Saylor 6-4 in the first bout, but it was Easton the rest of the way as the talented Rovers downed Liberty 51-12.

On January 7th #3 state-ranked Nazareth won 9 of 13 bouts as they clobbered #10 ranked Shikellamy 41-19.  The Easton-P-Burg duals saw the local teams cruise past both Cumberland Valley and Hunterdon Central.  Northampton won three lopsided matches to win the Cedar Cliff Duals.  Dieruff had a strong performance in a non-league bout against Saucon Valley with an impressive 40-16 win.

Wednesday, January 11th was a date circled on many calendars as Nazareth visited Easton and Phillipsburg traveled to Northampton.  Chris Vitale scored a reversal with eight seconds left to edge Willie Saylor 4-2 at 103.  After Bryan Snyder and Jamarr Billman both won by decision, Brian Tashner downed Gary Rute 7-4 to tie the match.  Tony Rosado’s major decision gave Easton its last lead of the match at 10-6.  Nazareth won the next four bouts to lead 20-10 on their way to a 26-16 victory.  Against P-Burg, Northampton won the first two bouts and then bumped up undefeated Denny Liberto to face Joey Edwards at 119, but Edwards scored a fall to foil Coach Don Rohn’s move.  With Dave Emili injuring his knee early on, things didn’t look good for the Kids, but Emili hit a flying cement job to score a 2nd period fall.  P-Burg’s Mike Coyle answered back at 130 with a fall over Stan Kish and the score was 13-12 Kids.  Northampton got key wins from Christian Luciano over John Garriques 3-2 at 145 and by Ryan Gumlock over Jason Garcia 9-5 at 171.  Mark DeFrancisco then nipped Craig Fenstermaker 3-2 at 189.  Rick Umstead punctuated the match with a fall, and Northampton won 35-18 in a dual that featured some great individual bouts. 

Nazareth Upended Easton in an exciting dual 26-16 (Photo Courtesy or raynunamker.org)

Easton bounced back to knock Bethlehem Catholic from the unbeaten ranks in the EPC by a 48-12 count. Pen Argyl and Dieruff had an exciting match in the Huskies’ East Side Gym.  Husky star John Flamish dropped to 189 for the first time, but Pen Argyl coach Pete Stoelzl forfeited and then bumped Cory Berger up to heavyweight.  Berger won 5-1, and Pen Argyl won 28-28 on criteria (most bouts won 7-6).  Pius X outdistanced Notre Dame to win the Wayne Yeisley Memorial Tourney.  Easton easily beat Shikellamy 51-7, and Northampton downed Parkland 43-15.  Phillipsburg dealt NJ-rival High Point its first loss 32-24.

Pen Argyl moved into sole possession of first place in the Colonial League with a 33-29 win over Saucon Valley coupled with Wilson’s 24-22 win over Bangor.  Saucon Valley won the first three bouts to lead 13-0, but the Green Knights scored two falls in a row and then got a forfeit to lead 18-13 after the 135-pound match.  Cory Burger’s fall at 189 clinched the win as Pen Argyl improved to 9-1 overall and 5-0 in league.  Wilson’s Ryan Garis made his season debut after returning from an injury and upset Ryan Novatnack 7-4.  Bangor won the next two bouts to tie the dual at 6-6.  Bryan Klass’ fall kick started a three bout win streak, and the Warriors led 18-6.  Wilson then won 2 of the next 3 bouts to open up a huge 24-9 lead with only three bouts to go, but Bangor was favored and capable of bonus points.  Bangor would win the three bouts but it wasn’t enough to close the gap.

Phillipsburg won all but 3 bouts against Dieruff in a key EPC bout as they whipped the Huskies 50-12.  John Flamish nipped Marc DeFrancisco 3-2 in a marque match-up.

On January 20th, Nazareth and Northampton faced off before 3,000+ fans at Liberty’s Memorial Gym.  Chris Vitale’s major decision started the match and then the teams traded falls with Denny Liberto at 112 for the Kids and Andy Cote (over Tim Mazzocchi who had dropped two weights) at 119 for the Eagles.  Injured star Dave Emili, wrestling with a torn ACL, dropped an 8-3 decision to Brian Tashner.  Nazareth would win the next three bouts to open up a 24-6 lead.  Christian Luciano edged Dave Cote 4-3, and then Travis Doto scored a major decision as the score stood at 28-9.  Northampton needed big bonus points with four bouts to go.  The Kids would win all four to narrow the final score to 28-23, but Coach Ray Nunamaker had the win and the #1 ranking and likely the inaugural MVC title.

The same day, Stroudsburg downed Freedom 32-23 and Dieruff 31-18; Liberty defeated Pocono Mountain 40-28; and Wilson toppled Parkland 32-18 in competitive non-league match-ups. 

Coach Tony Iasiello was excited as his Bethlehem Catholic Hawks won the Bethlehem City Championship for the first time in 5-6 years.  Chris Kanuck bumped up to heavyweight, scored a fall and gave Becahi the win 30-25.  Bangor led Notre Dame 16-15, but then won the final six bouts to triumph 41-15 and keep the Slaters in the hunt for the Colonial League title.   One night later, Becahi gave Nazareth a scare, leading 15-13 before dropping a 35-18 dual. 

Russ Snyder capped several close wins by the Rovers to clinch their win over Northampton (Photo Courtesy of Easton HS Yearbook)

Western powerhouse Canon-McMillan came to town for the annual Pat J. Reilly duals and defeated both Liberty 39-15 and Easton 23-20.  The Rovers held numerous leads but saw Canon-McMillan win 5 of the last 7 bouts to rally for the win.  Northampton defeated Liberty 56-14 and then took the mats in the finale to the day with its annual match against Easton.  Jamarr Billman and Rich Morris both had falls; Eric Greshko nipped Christian Luciano 8-7 and Brad Weaver won by ride out over Mike Keglovits to give the Rovers a 25-10 lead.  Russ Snyder upended the Kids’ comeback hopes with an 11-5 win over Jason Davis at 160.  Northampton won the final three bouts, but Easton had the win 28-23.

February

On February 1st, the EPC title would be decided as Phillipsburg (14-2, 6-0 EPC) visited Easton (12-3, 7-0 EPC).  With a crowd of more than 3,000 at Lafayette’s Kirby Field House, a trio of Easton sophomores – Willie Saylor, Bryan Snyder & Jamarr Billman (by fall) – got the Rovers off to a great start.  While the Rovers would run away with a 40-15 win, there were some great individual bouts along the way with Mike Coyle breaking a late tie to beat Tony Rosado 5-2 at 125; Tim Moore defeated Gary Rute 7-6; Rich Morris nipped Tim Flynn 6-3; John Garriques came back to upend Eric Greshko 10-8; and Brad Weaver tied 9-9 hit a cement job to pin Koury Cook.

In the Colonial League, Saucon Valley started strong and won three in a row from 152-171, including falls by Joey Killar and Bill Stork, to top Bangor 32-27.  A few days later, Nazareth downed Liberty 40-15.  #4-ranked Omar Porrata defeated #2-ranked Chris Vitale 10-7 at 103.

After Scott Kupec’s fall at 125, Pen Argyl led Wilson 9-6.  Bryan Klass (by fall), Matt Miller and Tom Mertz strung together three straight wins to give Wilson an 18-9 lead.  Ryan Miller’s fall at 171 had pulled Pen Argyl even at 21-21, and they then took the lead on Cory Berger’s fall.  The Warriors’ Curt Parker had other ideas and with a lightning fast 17 second fall tied the score at 27-27 which Wilson won on criteria to pull it into a 3-way tie for the Colonial league lead with the Green Knights and Saucon Valley.

Northern Lehigh clipped Saucon Valley 30-27 (Photo Courtesy of Northern Lehigh Yearbook)

Bethlehem Catholic downed Dieruff 33-22 in an EPC dual while Stroudsburg edged Pocono Mountain 33-29 in a close MVC tilt.  One day later, Becahi kept is going winning another close match 33-22 over Parkland.  In the Colonial League, Saucon Valley was upended 30-27 by Northern Lehigh all but ruining the Panthers’ chance for a tie for the league title.

District Duals

The AAA District Duals saw Northampton down Pleasant Valley 59-12 and Stroudsburg edge Dieruff 31-27 on Sean Cramer’s major decision to advance to the semi-finals which featured an Easton-Northampton rematch.  Easton’s entire lineup dropped a weight class.  Bryan Snyder scored a fall at 103, but Northampton won the next 3 bouts as Denny Liberto (6-5 in OT over Jamarr Billman), Dave Emili (6-4 over Gary Rute) and Tim Mazzocchi (8-4 over Tony Rosado) gave the Kids a 9-6 lead.  This is where Coach Steve Powell’s strategy paid off as Rich Morris, Brad Weaver and Eric Greshko all scored bonus point wins, and Easton pulled ahead 19-9.  Russ Snyder (152) and Blaze Clymer (171) won decisions while Chris Shannon and Ryan Bass kept it close against Northampton stars Craig Fenstermaker and Rick Umstead.  The result, a repeat win for the Rovers 25-24.  Nazareth cruised in the other semi-final defeating Stroudsburg 47-8

In the finals, Easton roared out to a 21-0 lead as Bryan Snyder and Tony Rosado scored falls and Jamarr Billman won by default.  The Rovers never looked back in a 34-15 win over Nazareth to win the AAA title.

Easton’s strong dual team won the District Duals’ and EPC titles (Photo Courtesy of Easton HS Yearbook)

In AA, Bethlehem Catholic beat Saucon Valley 41-22, and Wilson won a surprisingly easy rematch against Pen Argyl 52-10 to advance to the semi-finals.  Wilson was able to advance to the finals by winning 7 of 8 bouts from 130-189 to top Tri-Valley 36-21.  The other semi-final saw Bethlehem Catholic clinging to a 24-18 lead, but Northern Schuylkill ran the table the rest of the way including falls in 4 of the final 5 weight classes to win 46-24. 

In the AA finals, Wilson started quickly winning the first five bouts including falls by Dana Kessler and Bryan Klass to lead 22-0.  The Spartans won 5 in row to lead 24-22 before Carlos Garcia’s decision at 171 gave Wilson its final lead at 25-24.  Brian Bolich’s major decision and Rick Bolinksy’s fall gave Coach Rick Edwards the win and title 34-25.

Phillipsburg won the New Jersey Section 2 Group 3 crown for the 15th year in a row with two easy wins.  The Stateliners defeated Brick Memorial 36-24 and topped High Point 49-13 to win the NJ Group 3 dual title.

Nick D’Amico’s fall gave the Hurricanes a big win over Freedom (Photo Courtesy of Liberty HS Yearbook)

In some final dual action, Emmaus clipped Bethlehem Catholic 34-24.  Liberty’s Nick D’Amico scored a fall at 189 to clinch a 28-27 win over cross-town rival Freedom, and Dieruff crushed Allen 66-4 in their annual rivalry bout.

Pen Argyl was hoping to clinch its share of the Colonial League crown in a bout at Bangor.  With the Wilson Warriors in the crowd cheering on Bangor to win and give Wilson the title outright, the teams split the first four bouts and stood 7-7 in the team score.  A disqualification and two decisions put Pen Argyl ahead 20-7 after the 140-pound bout.  However, another disqualification, fall and forfeit sandwiched around a Pen Argyl decision, made the score Pen Argyl 23-22 with two bouts to go.  Matt Terpstra nipped Cory Berger 3-2 and Aaron Nelson pinned Shaun Marsh as Bangor played spoiler and won the dual 31-23.

The final league standings were as follows:

East PennPlaceW-L
Easton110-0
Phillipsburg29-1
Bethlehem Catholic37-3
Dieruff4T6-4
Liberty4T6-4
Freedom6T5-5
Parkland6T5-5
Emmaus84-6
Allentown Central Catholic92-8
Whitehall101-9
William Allen110-10
Colonial
Wilson110-1
Bangor2T9-2
Pen Argyl2T9-2
Saucon Valley2T9-2
Northern Lehigh58-3
Notre Dame6T5-6
Palmerton6T5-6
Salisbury6T5-6
Northwestern93-8
Catasauqua10T1-10
Palisades10T1-10
Southern Lehigh10T1-10
Mountain Valley
Nazareth16-0
Northampton25-1
Stroudsburg34-2
Pocono Mountain43-3
Pleasant Valley52-4
Lehighton61-5
East Stroudsburg70-6

League champions overall records were:  Easton (17-3), Wilson (17-4) and Nazareth (17-3).  Other teams with very good records were Phillipsburg (21-3), Stroudsburg (18-6), Pen Argyl (17-5), Northampton (16-4), Bangor (15-6), Bethlehem Catholic (14-6), Saucon Valley (13-6), Northern Lehigh (12-6), Dieruff (12-7) and Pleasant Valley (10-5).

Districts

Five defending District champs and 36 place winners returned to the AAA field.  The Big 3 of Easton, Nazareth and Northampton were expected to dominate the field.  In addition, Bethlehem Catholic and North Schuylkill shifted back to AA field which included six defending District Champs.

Easton and Nazareth dominated the action on Day 1 of the AAA tourney as they each advanced 11 wrestlers to the semi-finals.  Northampton, which had two second seeds upset, had seven semi-finalists and trailed by about 20 points.  The next day when the dust settled, The Morning Call proclaimed “Northampton wound up with the most individual champions – six; Easton sent the biggest swarm of wrestlers into the finals – eight; … However, it was Nazareth…which had captured the coveted team title.”  How did the Blue Eagles pull this off? By placing 11 wrestlers and having four champions while Easton was 1 for 8 in the finals and the Kids had a 3rd and 2-5th’s to add to their champs.

The Kids’ Denny Liberto repeated at 103 this time beating another Rover, Bryan Snyder 9-5.  Jamarr Billman, who had lost to Liberto in ’94, moved up one weight and extended the Rovers’ streak to 48 straight years with at least one District champ.  At 119, Dave Emili, wrestling with a large brace on his injured knee, repeated by downing Gary Rute 7-5 in OT, and Tim Mazzocchi defeated another Easton wrestler, Tony Rosado, 8-4.  Justin Hoff and Dave Cote (down two weights from last year’s title effort) defeated Rich Morris and Brad Weaver.  Stroudsburg’s Josh Lesoine won a close 7-6 decision over Eric Greshko at 140.  The Rovers’ frustration of going 1 for 7 in the first 7 bouts of the finals would be reversed in a big way during the 1996 tourney!

Fran Volpe, 171 Pound District Champ (Photo Courtesy of Allentown CC HS Yearbook)

Travis Doto and Rob Rohn gave Nazareth its 3rd and 4th champs.  Rohn won the OW, and Coach Ray Nunamaker won the Coach of the Year award.   Northampton would dominate the upper weights and pass Easton for 2nd place in the team race.  Ryan Gumlock repeated by winning by fall at 160; Craig Fenstermaker downed Dieruff strong man, John Flamish, 7-3; and Rick Umstead pinned Matt Kleinle in the final bout.  At 171, ACC’s Fran Volpe pinned future college and NFL football star, James Mungro.

North Schuylkill celebrated its return to the AA tourney by jumping out to an early lead over Saucon Valley, Wilson and Bethlehem Catholic in a competitive team race.  Two defending champions were upset in the quarterfinals including Catty’s Frank Piff (who had moved up three weights from last year to 125) and Pine Grove’s Matt Lehman at 189. 

The Spartans on the strength of three champs and nine regional qualifiers were able to win the team title outdistancing Bethlehem Catholic and Saucon Valley, who each advanced seven wrestlers to regionals.  Host Becahi won titles in 3 of the first 4 weights with Gary Olivi (103), Sean Shea (112) and Ray Stofko (125) winning titles.  Shea hit a cement job, fought off a comeback and then escaped with 3 seconds to go to edge Northern Lehigh’s Jeremy Dogmanits.  Stofko used two headlocks to defeat Wilson’s #1 seeded Bryan Klass 16-10 and take home the OW Award. 

For North Schuylkill, Chris Edwards (135), Mike Peleschak (160) and Rick Bolinsky, who upset defending champ Steve Smith, (Hwt) all won championships.  Saucon Valley and Mahoney Area both had back-to-back champions in Chris Stout (140) & Joey Killar (145) and Joe & Jim Weidle (171 & 189), respectively. Tri-Valley’s Josh Miller (119), Pine Grove’s Ted Kemmerling (130) and Wilson’s Vince Lipari (152) rounded out the champions. 

Regionals

With the PIAA requiring that regional tournaments be completed in one day, there were changes in the format for both the AAA and AA Regional Tourney’s in 1995.  As a result, the AAA Northeast Regional bracket was reduced from 11 to 8 wrestlers.  District 11 received 4 qualifiers while Districts 2 and 4 had a sub-regional which qualified 4 wrestlers at each weight.  In AA, District 11 gained one qualifier and District 1 lost one to put the qualifiers at five and three, respectively. 

In AAA, the team title was again a three-way battle between The Big Three.  Northampton again advanced six to the finals, but trailed Easton who had five finalists and four in the consy finals.  Nazareth was 3rd with four finalists.  Northampton again had a great final round, going 5-for-6, and crowning Denny Liberto (3rd title at 103); Dave Emili (119), Ryan Gumlock (160) and Craig Fenstermaker (189) each winning their 2nd regional titles; and Tim Mazzocchi (125) winning his first.  Frosh Christian Luciano dropped a 4-2 decision to Easton’s Eric Greshko at 140.  Greshko was Easton’s only winner in the finals as they went 1-for-5 and 1-for-4 in the consy finals as the Kids came back to win the team title.  Nazareth brothers Andy and Dave Cote both won titles along with Justin Hoff (130).  Freedom’s Rich Koehler (Hwt) rounded out the District XI winners.  District XI won 10 titles and advanced a total of 26 state qualifiers.

In the Southeast AA Regionals, North Schuylkill dominated the action and easily won the regional team title with six finalists and five champions.  District XI teams rounded out the top 5 with Bethlehem Catholic (6 qualifiers), Saucon Valley (4), Tri-Valley and Northern Lehigh in 2nd through 5th places and claimed 35 of the 39 state qualifier slots.  For the champion Spartans, Chris Edwards (135), Matt Peleschak (152), Mike Peleschak (160), Brian Bolich (189) and Rick Bolinksy (Hwt) all won titles.  Gary Olivi (BC 103), Ted Kemmerling (Pine Grove 130), Chris Stout (SV 140), Joey Killar (SV 145) and Joe Weidle (Mahoney Area 171) won titles for the 2nd week in a row.  Northern Lehigh’s Jeremey Dogmanits (112) and Catasauqua’s Frank Piff (125) were able to bounce back and win regional titles.  The only weight where District 11 did not crown a champion was at 119 where Tri-Valley’s defending state champ, Josh Miller, was pinned by Pottstown’s Charles Olster.

States

The Big 3 went 16 for 18 in the preliminary round at states with Nazareth advancing all six of its entrants.  Overall 20 of 26 District XI wrestlers advanced.  The locals continued to do well in the quarterfinal round as 13 District XI wrestlers advanced to the semi-finals.  Northampton and Nazareth led the way with four semi-finalists each.  For the Kids Denny Liberto (103), Dave Emili (119), Tim Mazzocchi (125) and Ryan Gumlock (160) advanced while Nazareth had Brian Tashner (125), Justin Hoff (130), Travis Doto (145) and Rob Rohn (160).  Allentown Central Catholic’s Fran Volpe handed unbeaten Tom Ingram a 6-1 defeat to advance at 171.  Easton’s Jamarr Billman & Eric Greshko, Stroudsburg’s Josh Lesoine and Dieruff’s John Flamish rounded out the semi-finalists.

For the 2nd year in a row, both Northampton and Nazareth were able to advance two wrestlers to the finals in Denny Liberto & Dave Emili and Brian Tashner & Travis Doto, respectively.  Also advancing were Easton’s Eric Greshko and Central Catholic’s Fran Volpe who came back from a 10-5 deficit to win 12-10 in overtime.  Stroudsburg’s Josh Lesoine and Dieruff’s John Flamish lost tough 1-point bouts.

In the finals, Liberto got the night off to a great start with a 13-8 decision over Mike Kahn.  Emili and Tashner dropped decisions to very tough District 7 wrestlers in Teague Moore and Mark Angle.  Nazareth’s Travis Doto scored a 2nd period fall to win the 145-pound title while Greshko and Volpe both lost close decisions.  Northampton added four more place winners to win the team title for the 3rd year in a row.  Ryan Gumlock & Craig Fenstermaker both took 3rd; Tim Mazzocchi was 5th; and Christian Luciano 6th.  Coach Ray Nunamaker was voted Coach of the Year for the 2nd place Blue Eagles.  Rob Rohn was 4th; Dave Cote 5th and Andy Cote & Justin Hoff 6th.  Nazareth was 5th in the team standings. Other placers were Easton’s Bryan Snyder (4th-103), Jamar Billman (3rd-112) and Tony Rosado (4th-125) for the 4th place Rovers and Stroudsburg’s Josh Lesoine (3rd-140) and Dieruff’s John Flamish (5th-189).

The Kids’ senior class was on teams that had collectively won 84 of 90 duals, 3 state team titles, 2 national titles (1 USA Today and 1 Amateur Wrestling News), had a 50-match undefeated dual meet streak!

In AA, the preliminary round was not kind to area wrestlers as only 9 of 25 won their bouts.  Seven District XI wrestlers, including four locales, were able to win their quarterfinal and semi-final matches to advance to the finals – Bethlehem Catholic’s Gary Olivi (103), Northern Lehigh’s Jeremy Dogmanits (112), Tri-Valley’s Josh Miller (119), Pine Grove’s Ted Kemmerling (130), Mahoney Area’s Joe Weidle (171) and Saucon Valley’s Dan Ziegler (112) & Joey Killar (140).   Pine Grove followed their strong regional performance with five first round winners while Northern Lehigh and Pen Argyl each advanced three wrestlers to the quarterfinals. 

Jeremy Dogmanits, 1995 112 AA State Champ (Photo Courtesy of Northern Lehigh HS Yearbook)

In the finals, Becahi’s Olivi dropped a 12-5 decision to Trap McCormack.  In the ‘All District XI Final’ at 112, Coach Bob Kern celebrated his last match as Northern Lehigh’s coach by crowing his 3rd state champion.  Jeremy Dogmanits defeated Saucon Valley’s Dan Ziegler 5-2.  Ziegler’s teammate, Joey Killar dropped a heartbreaking 1-0 decision at 140.  Pine Grove’s Kemmerling won by a 6-3 decision, but Miller and Weidle both dropped decisions to finish 2nd.  North Schuylkill had five place winners to win the team title!  Chris Edwards (3rd – 135), Kevin Rentschler (4th-140), Matt Peleschak (5th-152), Mike Peleschak (4th-160) and Rick Bolinsky (5th-Hwt) proved that balance was the key as they edged Line Mountain 77-74, and Coach Rick Edwards was named Coach of the Year.  Other local place winners included Pius X’s Phil Stambaugh (5th-189), Wilson’s Bryan Klass (5th-125), Mahoney Area’s Jim Weidle (5th-189) and Catasaqua’s Frank Piff (6th-125).

North Schuylkill – 1995 AA Team Champs

Phillipsburg Post Season

Phillipsburg advanced a dozen wrestlers to the semi-finals in NJ District 1 action on their way to easily outpacing Warren Hills to win another team title with nine finalists.  The Stateliners had six champions – Joe Edwards (121), Mike Coyle (128), Jeremy Reed (161), Jason Garcia (171), Marc DeFrancisco (187) and Larry Marino (Hwt). 

In the Region 1 championships, Tim Flynn (136), Mark Ahart (144), John Garriques (153) and Jarrett Hosbach (217) all wrestled their way into the quarterfinals.  With no wrestlebacks for quarterfinal losers, the round loomed large.  Edwards, Coyle, Flynn, Garriques, Garcia and DeFrancisco advanced to the semi’s.  Mike Coyle and Marc DeFrancisco (189) repeated as champions and Joe Edwards gave the Stateliners three champs for the fourth straight year.  Flynn and Garcia were 2nd while Garriques was 3rd.

In the pre-quarterfinals, Mike Coyle, Tim Flynn, Jason Garcia and Marc DeFrancisco all won their bouts.  In the state finals, Pete Poretta had a dominating performance to win 10-2 and repeat as the 112-pound state champion.  Mike Coyle was again facing Damian Logan in the finals – this time at 126.  Unfortunately, Logan reversed last year’s result with a 5-5, ride out victory.  Marc DeFrancisco took 3rd and John Garriques was 4th for the Stateliners as they won the NJ team title. 

Phillipsburg Won the NJ States & Came in 2nd in the East Penn Conference in their final year in the league (Photo courtesy of Phillipsburg HS Yearbook)

On March 19th, the AAA-AA Challenge of Champions took place with five local wrestlers competing.  Northampton’s Tim Mazzocchi and Ryan Gumlock and Central Catholic’s Fran Volpe all won their bouts to help the AAA team defeat AA 27-25.  For AA, Northern Lehigh’s state champ, Jeremy Dogmanits won his match 8-5; Stroudsburg’s Josh Lesoine lost a close decision at 140.  In addition, Pine Grove’s Ted Kemmerling lost 10-8 at 130 while North Schuylkill’s two participants had mixed results.  Chris Edwards had a fall at 135, but Matt Peleschak dropped a 10-8 decision at 152.

The PA team dominated the 15th annual Easton Lions Classic by topping the New Jersey team 45-9.  Becahi’s Sean Shea and Emmaus’ Toby Kratzer both scored falls for winning coach Steve Powell. Pennsylvania extended their lead to 9-6 in the all-time Classic series.   

On March 25th, the Pittsburgh Classic took place with two local wrestlers competing.  Northampton’s Dennis Liberto and Northern Lehigh’s Jeremy Dogmanits both won their bouts to stake the PA team to a 6-0 lead on the way to a 24-19 win over the USA team.  The victory gave the PA team a 13-7-1 lead in the series.