No local team was able to come through the ’95-’96 season unbeaten.  Easton held the #1 national ranking for a period of time during the season, but saw Nazareth upend them in the District Duals.  The Rovers swept the balance of the post season honors and as the new season started, they were looking to again contend for the #1 national ranking. 

In the East Penn Conference, Easton was again favored to win the league title.  The Rovers returned five of their seven District champs and three other starters.  Liberty returned nine starters while Parkland returned eight and looked to battle for 2nd place while Dieruff, with nine returning starters, was looking to break into the top 3.

In the Mountain Valley Conference, Nazareth was the heavy favorite to win the league title as they returned four state placers and seven District place winners.  Northampton had a young team as they only expected to start one or two seniors, but were a solid choice for the #2 spot.  Pocono Mountain, under first year coach Rusty Amato, had eight starters back and were favored for the #3 slot. 

Bangor won the Colonial League title in 1996 and returned six starters.  Wilson and Pen Argyl both returned the majority of their starting lineups and were the favorites to unseat Bangor for the league title.  Northern Lehigh and Palisades were also expected to contend. 

November / December

The season began on November 29th with the Bullet Invitational which was easily won by Northern Lehigh with three champs – Steve Hluschak (112), Keith Blose (135) and Cory DeBias (140) – along with three runner-ups.

Cory DeBias (Photo Courtesy of NL HS Yearbook)
Keith “Guppy” Blose (Photo Courtesy of NL HS Yearbook)

Several more tournaments were held the next day.  Wilson hosted the 3rd annual invitational tournament and win the team title for the 3rd straight year but under some strange circumstances.  Liberty was positioned to pass Wilson for the team title when Chris D’Amico, who was dominating his match, lost by a controversial disqualification. That allowed Wilson, who had one champ in Dave Thatcher at 130 to win the team title.

It was a different tournament, but the same result for Emmaus.  The Hornets competed in the Great Valley Invitational since the ASD Tourney disbanded.  They crowned six champions – Brad Dillon, Austin Fernandez, Craig Hoosier, Mike Hoosier, Mark Steckel and Heath Kneller – to run away with the team title.  Parkland clobbered Bangor 63-3 and Whitehall 55-9 while Bangor edged Whitehall 32-28. 

Emmaus Won the Great Valley Tourney to Open the Season (Photo Courtesy of Emmaus HS Yearbook)

On December 4th, Nazareth, who was ranked 14th in the nation, survived a major scare from Liberty to win 26-26 on criteria.  The Hurricanes jumped out to a 20-0 lead after four bouts including falls by Mario Stuart (103) and Darren Cerrato (125).  Phil Reutlinger scored a 3-2 upset win over state place Chris Vitale at 135, but the Blue Eagles battled back and took a 26-23 lead.  Jason Bond won 7-2 at heavyweight to tie up the score but fell short of the major decision needed for the win.  Dieruff had falls in the final three bouts to defeat Pleasant Valley 32-25, and Pocono Mountain clobbered Allen 48-18.

The 5th annual Valley Youth House Elite Duals were held on December 7th, and Blair Academy again dominated the action.  In the early session, Liberty’s Jason Bond scored a decision as the Hurricanes beat Brookville 27-23; Nazareth defeated Greensburg-Salem 54-10; and Blair handled Northampton 41-16.  In the late session, Northampton’s John Hard’s decision clinched a 24-21 win over Brookville, and Easton won nine bouts to defeat Greensburg-Salem 48-13.  In the feature match, Blair won the first seven bouts against Nazareth to open up a 23-0 lead.  The Blue Eagles won all but one of the remaining bouts to narrow the final score to 26-15.

Parkland went 1-2 in the Orefield Duals, but Jon Trenge defeated state runner-up Todd Hockenbroch of Shamokin 5-3.  Bethlehem Catholic beat Catasauqua 43-21.  Allentown Central Catholic finished 2nd in the Palmyra Invitational as Mark Gaston (140) and Nate Warke (189) won titles.

Central Catholic Had a Strong Performance in the Palmyra Invitational (Photo Courtesy of ACC HS Yearbook)

In the Colonial League, Wilson had falls in the final two bouts as they defeated Pen Argyl 37-19, and Northern Lehigh clipped Catasauqua 37-27.  Notre Dame defeated Salisbury 46-22 to give Coach Dennis Fenton his 100th win.  In the EPC, new Coach Jeff Karam won his first dual as Freedom defeated Whitehall 31-25.

Easton was the only local squad to make the trip to Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio for the 3rd Ironman Invitational at Walsh Jesuit.  The Rovers finished 3rd behind St. Edward’s and Blair Academy.  Easton’s Bryan Snyder edged Blair’s Sean Gray 8-7 at 135, and Jamarr Billman nipped Walsh Jesuit’s Sonny Marchette at 140.  Chris Kelly was 2nd at 119 and Nick Morris was 3rd at 145.  As a result, Easton moved up to 3rd in the national rankings.

Mike Sommer Helped the Kids to an Early Win Over Liberty (Photo Courtesy of Northampton HS Yearbook)

Northampton and Liberty engaged in a great dual on December 14th.  The teams split the first four bouts and were tied at 7-7 after frosh Tommy Rohn defeated Derek Cox 16-10.  Josh Schmalzer’s fall moved the K-Kids ahead 13-7, but the Hurricanes won three close bouts to retake a 16-13 lead.  The Kids’ Mike Sommer, Joe Piro and Christian Luciano answered with three close decisions to lead 22-16.  Chris D’Amico beat John Bauer 14-11 at 189 before John Hard scored a takedown with 13 seconds left to edge Jason Bond 3-1.  Northampton won a hard fought 25-19 victory. 

Emmaus finished 4th in the Quakertown Invitational as Brad Dillon (112), Craig Hoosier (130) and Mark Steckel (145) finished as champs.  TI Jr topped TI Sr as Palisades defeated Bethlehem Catholic 36-27.  Dieruff defeated Pocono Mountain 39-17 to improve to 4-1 on the season.

On December 18th Northern Lehigh defeated Saucon Valley 35-30 in a Colonial League showdown per The Morning Call.  Freshmen Kyle DeBias and Steve Hluschak scored a fall and technical fall, respectively.  After a decision by Saucon’s Dave Stauffer at 119, the Bulldogs reeled off four straight falls to lead 35-3.  The Panthers rallied but Northern Lehigh held on for the victory.  On a non-league bout, North Schuylkill defeated Pocono Mountain 35-26.

Chris Kelly Celebrates Win Against Nazareth (Photo Courtesy of Easton HS Yearbook)
Chris Vitale Scored Many Key Wins for the Blue Eagles (Photo Courtesy of Nazareth HS Yearbook)

On the Saturday before the holidays, Nazareth hosted Easton before a packed house in a battle between the area’s top two teams.  After Darren Danner’s 4-2 decision over Andy Ciasulli at 103, Willie Saylor, Chris Kelly and Tom Ferraro won three straight to give the Rovers a 13-3 lead.  Chris Vitale nipped Gary Rute 4-2 at 130 before bonus point wins by Bryan Snyder and Jamarr Billman as the lead was extended to 24-6.  Andy Cote and Jason Bucchi narrowed the lead to 24-16, but Mike Rosado upended previously unbeaten Mark Aber, and the Rovers still led 28-16 with only three bouts to go.  After a Jarrett Hoff decision and a Jaime Rice fall (Rice was wrestling his first bout of the year), Rob Rohn took the mat and pinned John Piergallini to give Nazareth their only lead of the night and the win – 31-28.

Rob Rohn’s Fall Gave Nazareth the “W” Over the Rovers (Photo Courtesy of Nazareth HS Yearbook)

Northampton competed in the Mid Atlantic Classic in Delaware and finished 3rd in the team race.  Christian Luciano (171) and John Hard (Hwt) won titles and six other Kids placed.  Pen Argyl was 2nd and Bethlehem Catholic was 4th in the Halifax Va. Tourney.

Stroudsburg continued to show their strength by defeating Wilson 36-19 while Northern Lehigh tripped Pen Argyl 34-33 on Chad Henritzy’s fall at heavyweight in a Colonial League match up.  In the Parkland Duals, the host Trojans went 4-0 on the day as did freshman Jon Trenge at 160 (and stood at 8-0 on the season) to win the dual title.  In the East Penn Duals, host Emmaus got falls from Tad Woodbury and Nate Hamilton in the final two bouts to win the championship 38-24 over Brandywine.  Bethlehem Catholic participated in some early holiday tourney action by traveling to Virginia to finish 3rd in the Halifax Co. Holiday Wrestling Classic.  Gary Olivi and Vince Giordano both won titles.

Holiday Tournaments

As the holiday tourneys started, Southern Lehigh finished 2nd in the Jim Thorpe Tournament

Andy Cote Was 1 of 4 Nazareth Champs in the Holiday Classic (Photo Courtesy Nazareth HS Yearbook)

Blair Academy dominated the action in the Bethlehem Holiday Classic followed by Nazareth (in their first Classic), Parkland and Walsh Jesuit.  Blair placed wrestlers at every weight and crowned three champions.  The Blue Eagles crowned four champs in Chris Vitale (130), Steve Rohn (140), Andy Cote (145) and Rob Rohn (189).  Steve Rohn was named OW after beating Blair’s Marat Tomaev 13-11 while Rob Rohn defeated Parkland’s Jon Trenge 13-6.  The Trojans’ Troy Minarovic defeated Liberty’s Mario Stuart 11-5 at 103.

Northern Lehigh Won the Christmas City Team Title (Photo Courtesy of Northern Lehigh HS Yearbook)

In the Christmas City tournament, Northern Lehigh had three champs to outpoint Schuylkill Valley and Tr-Valley.  Josh Herzog (125), Keith Blose (135) and Cory DeBias all took 1st place for the Bulldogs. Emmaus had two champs in Brad Dillon (112) and Mark Steckel (145) to take 4th in the team race while Art Mattes (160) won a crown for host Bethlehem Catholic.   

Easton set a record for points scored as they cruised to the team title in the 29th annual Manheim Wrestling Tourney.  Chris Kelly (119), Tom Ferraro (130), Bryan Snyder (140) and Jamarr Billman (145) won individual titles.

Jamarr Billman – Manheim Champ (Photo Courtesy of Easton HS Yearbook)
Bryan Snyder – Manheim Champ (Photo Courtesy of Easton HS Yearbook)

January

On January 2nd, Parkland routed a depleted Dieruff squad 53-15.  A few days later, Wilson, the area’s top-ranked 2A team, lost five toss-up bouts and trailed Palisades 33-28, but Dave Gonzalez’s fall helped the Warriors survive 34-33.  In the first week after the holidays, there were several interesting dual meets featured.  Northampton won the Cedar Cliff Duals for the 8th time in nine years by beating 5th-ranked Manheim Central 33-27.  Nazareth defeated Shikellamy 43-15, and Northern Lehigh topped Southern Lehigh 35-27.

Easton traveled to Reno but was unable to defend its title as the Rovers finished 4th.  Bryan Snyder and Jamarr Billman won titles while Willie Saylor finished 2nd.  At 171, Wasatch Utah’s Cael Sanderson won by fall to claim the 171-pound title.

On January 8th there was a featured EPC bout and two featured Colonial League match-ups.  In the EPC, Parkland won 4 of the first 5 bouts to lead Liberty 15-4.  The Hurricanes won the next two bouts, but Derek Jenkins, Mike Severo and Kurt Pryor all won by decision as the Trojans won 26-23.  In the Colonial League, Northern Lehigh bumped down its last six wrestlers, but the move backfired as Wilson easily won 40-21.  Pen Argyl was too match for Palisades as they triumphed 42-24 to improve to 5-1 overall.

Christian Luciano’s Key Win Helped the Kids Down P-Burg (Photo Courtesy of Northampton HS Yearbook)

On January 11th, Parkland hosted a quadrangular with Blair Academy, Walsh Jesuit and Manheim Central.  While the host Trojans lost three duals, they gained great experience.  Blair extended their dual streak to 70 wins in a row including a 32-30 win over Walsh Jesuit in the first dual ever between the two teams.  The same day, Northampton and Phillipsburg tangled in a tightly contested match (8 bouts decided by three points or less).  Coach Don Rohn bumped Christian Luciano up to 189 and was rewarded with a decision to tie the match at 19-19.  John Hard’s decision in the final bout gave the Kids a 22-19 victory. 

Southern Lehigh Triumphed in the Zephyr Duals (Photo Courtesy of Southern Lehigh HS Yearbook)

Southern Lehigh defeated Palisades 33-29 in the finals of the Zephyr Duals.  Meanwhile, Nazareth and Liberty traveled to the Virginia Duals.  The Blue Eagles defeated the Hurricanes 34-18 in the semi-finals and went on to win the title by whipped St. Mark’s Delaware 42-14 while Liberty finished 4th.

Saturday, January 18th was a big day in the Lehigh Valley as the annual Nazareth-Northampton dual took place at Liberty and the Easton-Phillipsburg duals were on tap with #2 Blair Academy and #1 St. Edwards visiting.    

Adam Lutri’s Fall Got the Kids Off to the Start They Needed (Photo Courtesy of Northampton HS Yearbook)

The Kids roared out of the gates as Adam Lutri hit a flying cement job and pinned Darren Danner.  Tom Pasquariello, Tommy Rohn and Josh Schmalzer followed with wins, and Northampton led 15-0.  Nazareth fought back by winning five of the next six bouts to cut the lead to 18-16.  After Christian Luciano’s technical fall, Nazareth needed to win the final two bouts and score at least one bonus point.  Jarret Hoff and Rob Rohn both won their bouts, but neither could get close to scoring a bonus point.  As a result, Northampton won 23-22 in what was Nazareth’s first league loss in 18 years!    

Northampton Coaches Watch Intently (Photo Courtesy of Northampton HS Yearbook)

The big news from Kirby Field House was Easton upsetting #1 ranked St. Edward’s 33-25.  The Rovers got big wins from Chris Kelly, who dropped to 112 for the first time; Tom Ferraro, who scored a major decision over an Ohio state runner-up; and Mike Rosado who scored a fall.  The Rovers did lose to Blair by a respectable 29-18 score.  Blair crushed St. Edward’s 50-15 to claim the #1 national ranking.  In another non-league bout, Bethlehem Catholic clipped Pen Argyl 38-27.

Easton Defeated #1 St. Edward’s (Photo Courtesy of Easton HS Yearbook)

Nazareth rebounded to easily defeat Wilson 47-10.

On Saturday January 25th, the Pat Reilly Duals were held and included the Easton-Northampton dual.  The Rovers stunned the Kids by winning the first ten bouts on their way to a surprising 49-9 victory.  Nazareth and Phillipsburg faced off at Liberty’s Memorial Gym, and the Blue Eagles won 10 of 14 bouts to win by an impressive 39-13 score.  Wilson stayed unbeaten in the Colonial League by defeating Saucon Valley 36-21 while Pen Argyl downed Northern Lehigh 38-23.

On January 29th, Parkland led the entire match and upset Northampton 26-17.  Jeremy Huddle had a 3-1 win over Josh Schmalzer at 125; Mike Severo defeated Jason Swankoski 8-4 at 145; and Jon Trenge upset previously unbeaten Christian Luciano 5-1 at 189.  In the EPC, Emmaus defeated Dieruff 34-27.  Pen Argyl edged Saucon Valley 30-28, and Wilson whipped Bangor 38-20 in the Colonial League.

The Trojans Surprised Northampton (Photo Courtesy of Parkland HS Yearbook)

Easton won 8 of the first 9 bouts in their annual match with Phillipsburg before 3,000 fans at Kirby Field House to build a 37-3 lead.  The Stateliners won the final five bouts, but the Rovers triumphed 37-30.

February

Jarrett Hoff Had a Big Win Over Jon Trenge (Photo Courtesy of Nazareth HS Yearbook)

February started with Parkland hoping to score another upset as they hosted Nazareth.  The Blue Eagles had other ideas as Darren Danner upset Troy Minarovic 3-1 at 103 and their middleweights showed well winning all but one bout from 130-160.  Then Jarrett Hoff upset Jon Trenge, who dropped to 171 for the first time 6-5.  Nazareth easily won 40-9.  In the Colonial League, Northern Lehigh edged Palisades 35-28, and Saucon Valley beat Southern Lehigh 33-27.  Northampton cruised past Shikellamy 50-12.

Pen Argyl nipped Southern Lehigh 28-27 in the competitive Colonial League.  Easton stayed unbeaten in the EPC and tuned up for the District Duals by topping Liberty 40-15. 

On February 8th, the 8th District Dual Championships were held at Liberty.

In the AAA quarterfinals, Northampton led Liberty 21-12, but Brandon Mihalko and Tim Kassis won decisions and Chris D’Amico won by DQ at 189 and the Hurricanes had pulled within one point.  John Hard edged Jason Bond 6-4 to give the Kids a 28-24 win.  Parkland won all but one bout to crush Emmaus 63-3.  In the semi-finals, Easton won the first seven straight bouts from 112 to 145 as the Rovers handled Parkland 39-17.  Nazareth won 10 of 13 bouts as the easily advanced past Northampton 50-13. 

In the finals, Easton was favored in almost all of the first eight bouts, but two Blue Eagles broke through as Chris Vitale blanked Tom Ferraro 4-0 at 125 and Andy Cote upset Bryan Snyder 4-2 at 135.  Nazareth was able to limit the bonus points and trailed only 20-6.  Steve Rohn and Jason Bucchi won close decisions in the next two bouts.  Marc Aber, Rob Rohn and Steve Itterly had falls while Jarrett Hoff decisioned Chris Jones at 171.  The Blue Eagles won the final six bouts to repeat their win over the Rovers – this time by a 33-20 score.

In AA, in the quarterfinals, Saucon Valley scored falls in the final three bouts to defeat Pen Argyl 39-24 while Northern Lehigh had four pins to down Palisades 44-16.  In the semi-finals, Wilson scored two falls and a decision to score a comeback win over Northern Lehigh 32-21.  #2-seeded Tri-Valley dominated the middle weights to defeat Saucon Valley 39-30.  In the finals, Wilson won the first three bouts and three in a row from 152-171 as the Warriors topped Tri-Valley for the 2nd year in a row 32-19. 

A few nights later, Wilson completed an unbeaten season in the Colonial League title by beating Notre Dame 45-17.  On February 12th, Easton won their 3rd straight East Penn Conference title by beating Parkland 31-18 in a match which was much tighter than the Rovers’ 39-17 win in the District Duals.  The difference was Andy Kuncio’s fall over Justin Kast at 112 and Derek Jenkins 5-2 win over Mike Rosado at 152.

Colonial League Champs – Wilson Warriors (Photo Courtesy of Wilson HS Yearbook)

In the inter-city rivalry matches, Liberty shut out Freedom 64-0; Dieruff clobbered Allen 49-19; and Bethlehem Catholic held off Allentown Central Catholic 34-30.

Phillipsburg won the NJSIAA Section 2, Group 4, North 2 championship.  The Stateliners then easily beat Southern Regional 53-9 to win the NJ Group 4 championship.

Final League standings were as follows:

 PlaceW-L-D
East Penn
Easton19-0
Parkland28-1
Liberty37-2
Emmaus46-3
Dieruff55-4
Bethlehem Catholic64-5
Freedom73-6
William Allen82-7
Allentown Central Catholic91-8
Whitehall100-9
Colonial
Wilson111-0
Pen Argyl210-1
Northern Lehigh39-2
Saucon Valley48-3
Palisades57-4
Bangor6T5-6
Notre Dame6T5-6
Southern Lehigh6T5-6
Catasauqua93-8
Palmerton102-9
Salisbury111-10
Northwestern120-11
Mountain Valley
Northampton16-0
Nazareth25-1
Pleasant Valley33-3
Lehighton4T2-4
Pocono Mountain4T2-4
Stroudsburg4T2-4
East Stroudsburg71-5

League champions overall records were:  Easton (14-3), Wilson (17-2) and Northampton (16-4).  Other teams with very good records were Nazareth (21-2), Northern Lehigh (16-3), Southern Lehigh (15-6), Parkland (15-8), Pen Argyl (14-4), Dieruff (14-7), Pleasant Valley (14-7), Liberty (13-7), Saucon Valley (13-7), Palisades (12-6) and Emmaus (11-5).

Districts

In AAA, Easton and Nazareth were again expected to battle for the team title, and nine champs returned to defend their titles.  The Rovers’ chances were dealt a blow in the preliminary round when #2-seed Tom Ferraro lost to Emmaus’ Jason Hoffman 8-6.  As a result, Nazareth led by one point after the first day.  Easton still had the most semi-finalists with nine while the Blue Eagles and Liberty each had 8 and Liberty had 7.  Nazareth advanced seven wrestlers to the finals and ultimately would qualify 11 of their 13 wrestlers for regionals as they set a new record for team scoring to win the team title.  The Blue Eagles had four champs while Easton, Parkland and Northampton split the other nine titles evenly.  Liberty did not crown a champ but rounded out the top five. 

1997 District Team Champs – Nazareth Blue Eagles
(Photo Courtesy of Ross Nunamaker)

For Nazareth, Chris Vitale defeated Dieruff’s Kholby O’Donnell from Dieruff 9-5 at 125 while Andy Cote defeated defending champ Gary Rute 6-4 at 130.  Jarrett Hoff (160) and Rob Rohn (189) were able to successfully defend their titles with Rohn also having the most falls in the least time.  For Easton, Chris Kelly (112), Bryan Snyder (135) and Jamarr Billman (140) all defended their titles.  Parkland’s Troy Minarovic (103), Mike Severo (145) and Derek Jenkins (152) all won their first district titles.  Northampton freshman Tommy Rohn decisioned Liberty’s Brad Washburn 6-4 OT while teammate John Hard also had to go OT to defeat Nazareth’s Steve Itterly 3-1.  The 3rd Kids’ winner was Christian Luciano who scored a takedown with less than a minute to go to edge Parkland’s Jon Trenge 3-2. 

Troy Minarovic Was 1 of 3 Trojan Champs (Photo Courtesy of Parkland HS Yearbook)
Tommy Rohn – District Champ as a Frosh (Photo Courtesy of Northampton HS Yearbook)

After Day 1 in AA, Wilson held the early lead with five wrestlers to the semi-finals, but the surprise #2 team was Southern Lehigh who also had five advancers.  Balance was the name of the game as 14 teams advanced at least one wrestler to the finals.  Wilson won their first ever District XI AA title while Northern Lehigh, who had the most champs with three, and Tri-Valley finished tied for 2nd place. 

Salisbury’s Steve Stigers – 189-Pound Champ (Photo Courtesy of Salisbury HS Yearbook)

For the champion Warriors, Bryan Klass won his 2nd district title and the OW award by defeating Northern Lehigh’s Keith Blose 11-4.  The Bulldogs crowned three champions in Steve Hluschak who nipped Panther Valley’s Joel Hunsicker 6-5 at 103 along with Josh Herzog (119) and Cory DeBias (135).  Pen Argyl’s Brian Burzynski won his 2nd title by beating Saucon Valley’s Dave Stauffer 4-2 at 112.  Tri-Valley’s Josh Miller downed Wilson’s Dave Thatcher 8-2 at 125 while Catty’s Frank Piff, finally at a different weight than Klass, won at 140.  Pine Grove’s Ryan Fasnacht repeated by winning at 145. Other winners included Southern Lehigh’s Jason Stever (152), Becahi’s Art Mattes (160), Palisades’ Andrew Povinski (171), Salisbury’s Steve Stigers (189) and Tri-Valley’s Ryan Kehler (Hwt).  Wilson’s Dave Crowell was named Coach of the Year.

Regionals

As in the prior week, Easton and Nazareth were again fighting for the early lead as Easton had nine semi-finalists to Nazareth’s 8.  Easton edged Nazareth for the team title 136-132 as they crowned five champs and advanced six wrestlers to states; Nazareth had the most state qualifiers with seven.

Easton 1997 Regional Champs – LtoR: Willie Saylor, JaMarr Billman, Bryan Snyder, Chris Kelly, Gary Rute (Photo Courtesy of Steve Powell)

For the Rovers, Willie Saylor repeated his regional title again by defeating Emmaus’ Brad Dillon 7-5.  Chris Kelly scored a fall at 112 while Gary Rute had a big win over previously unbeaten Andy Cote from Nazareth 9-5.  Bryan Snyder and Jamarr Billman followed by winning their 2nd regional titles.  The Roves’ other finalist was Mike Rosado who dropped an 8-3 decision to Parkland’s Derek Jenkins at 152.  Meanwhile, Jenkins’ teammate, Jon Trenge, defeated Christian Luciano 2-1 on a penalty point at 171.  John Hard won his 2nd regional title by pinning Allentown Central Catholic’s Eddie Strauss at heavyweight. 

(Photo Courtesy of Northampton HS Yearbook)

For 2nd place Nazareth, Chris Vitale won at 125 while Jason Bucchi (145), Jarrett Hoff (160) and Rob Rohn (189) also won titles.  District XI won all but one title (Shik’s Anthony Rivera over Tommy Rohn at 119) and qualified 28 wrestlers for the state tournament. 

Jason Bucchi – NE Regional Champ (Photo Courtesy of Nazareth HS Yearbook)

In AA, in a controversial decision the PIAA took away a qualifier from the Southeast Regional.  As a result only the top two wrestlers at each weight advanced to the state tournament.  This effectively resulted in three final rounds as there was a winners’ bracket final, losers’ bracket final and then a final.  District XI again had a strong showing and had 25 of 26 qualifiers including all 13 titles.  Wilson outdistanced Northern Lehigh, Saucon Valley and Pine Grove; the 2nd through 4th place teams finished within 6.5 points of each other.  Pine Grove had the most champions with three – Mike Romberger (119), Josh Hewes (140) and Ryan Fasnacht (145).  Brian Burzynski (Pen Argyl – 112), Josh Miller (Tri-Valley – 125), Bryan Klass (Wilson – 130), Cory DeBias (No. Lehigh – 135) and Art Mattes (Becahi – 160) all repeated as regional titlists.  The remaining champions were North Schuylkill’s John Magdelburg (152), Palisades Andrew Povenski (171) – who pinned all four of his opponents, Salisbury’s Steve Stigers (189) and Tri-Valley’s Ryan Kehler (Hwt).

(Photo Courtesy of Northern Lehigh HS Yearbook)

PIAA States

In AAA first round action, Easton took the early lead as they advanced five of six wrestlers while Nazareth and Parkland each advanced four.  All in all, 15 District XI wrestlers won their first round bouts.  A dozen wrestlers were able to advance to the semi-finals with Easton, Nazareth and Parkland 1-2-3 in the team race.  Nazareth had four winners while Easton and Parkland each had three.  Emmaus’ Brad Dillon upset previously unbeaten Scott Moore of Franklin 6-4.

District XI’s strong performance continued in the semi-finals as eight wrestlers won their bouts to reach the finals!  Easton crowned three champions for the first time in the school’s storied history as they edged Nazareth 88.5-87 in the team race while Parkland finished 4th.  Chris Kelly (112) and Bryan Snyder (135) both won by decisions while Jamarr Billman won by fall to win his 2nd state title and win the OW award.  Nazareth’s Andy Cote, who finished 2nd to Billman the year before, made it to the top step with a 7-2 win while teammate Rob Rohn defeated previously unbeaten Coy Wire 9-4 at 189. 

Rob Rohn in on a Single Leg Against Coy Wire
(Photo Courtesy of Ross Nunamaker)
Rob Rohn in Control Against Coy Wire
(Photo Courtesy of Ross Nunamaker)

Parkland’s Troy Minarovic (103), Nazareth’s Chris Vitale (125) and Northampton’s Christian Luciano (171) all lost close decisions in the finals.    Parkland’s Derek Jenkins (152) and Jon Trenge (171) along with Nazareth’s Jarrett Hoff (160) all placed 3rd.  Northampton’s Mike Sommer (140) and John Hard (Hwt) were both 4th while Emmaus’ Brad Dillon was 5th at 103.

The Rovers capped an amazing year by winning back-to-back state team titles and crowning three state champions – a rare feat indeed.  In fact, the only District XI teams to crown three state champions in one year previously were Saucon Valley (1976) and North Schuylkill (1989)!

3 State Champs (LtoR) Bryan Snyder,Jamarr Billman, Chris Kelly – Coaches S. Powell, Barry Snyder, Ed Ferraro, Carlos Montes (Photo Courtesy of Steve Powell)
1997 AAA State Champions
Front Row (L-R) Mike Kahn, Chris Kelly, Anthony Rivera, Kevin Maier, Andy Cote, Bryan Snyder
Back Row (L-R) Jamarr Billman, Brian Burrows, Rick Springman, Vince DeAugustine, Joe Dougherty, Rob Rohn, Pete Mielnek (Photo Courtesy of Steve Powell)
(Photo Courtesy of Nazareth HS Yearbook)

Fourteen District XI wrestlers were able to advance to the quarterfinals in AA action including three from Northern Lehigh.  Half of the District XI wrestlers were able to win both of their Friday matches to advance to the finals.   Northern Lehigh was in 3rd place in the team race as Keith Blose (130) and Cory DeBias (135) advanced to the finals.  In addition, Tri-Valley’s Josh Miller (125), Wilson’s Bryan Klass (130), Catty’s Frank Piff (140), Palisades’ Andrew Povinski (171) and Tri-Valley’s Ryan Kehler (Hwt) moved into the championship finals.

130-Pound AA State Champ Bryan Klass (Photo Courtesy of Wilson HS Yearbook)

Klass defeated Blose 5-0; Povenski finished his season undefeated with a fall and Kehler won on a ride out.  Miller lost in the finals for the 2nd straight year 10-6 and both DeBias and Piff lost close decisions.  Five other District XI wrestlers placed – Panther Valley’s Joel Hunsicker (103-5th) & John Vrabilic (125-6th), Northern Lehigh’s Josh Herzog (119-6th), and Pine Grove’s Josh Hewes (140-4th) & Ryan Fasnacht (145-3rd).  In the team race, North Lehigh was 4th and Tri-Valley was 6th.

In the final national rankings, Easton was ranked 5th, and Nazareth was 8th.

Phillipsburg Post Season

Phillipsburg won the New Jersey District 1 South team title by outdistancing Belvidere 206-190.  Five Stateliners won regional titles – Bob Piccione (103), Terrell Johnson (112), Aaron Freer (160), John Garriques (171) and Steve Kempinski (189).

In the regional round, Phillipsburg advanced five wrestlers to the state championships, including crowning two champions in Bob Piccone and Terrell Johnson.

Phillipsburg had two state runner-ups in the NJ state championships.  Bob Piccone and John Garriques both finished 2nd

John Garriques – 1 of 2 Stateliner Runner-Ups (Photo Courtesy of Phillipsburg HS Yearbook)

In the Dapper Dan Classic on March 16th, the US Team was too much for the PA Team as they won 36-15.  Only Jamarr Billman was able to win for the locals.  Chris Kelly (wrestling up at 119), Bryan Klass and Bryan Snyder all competed but lost their bouts.  The US team featured future college stars Cael Sanderson, Mike Zadick and Joe Heskett.

In the Challenge of Champions the AAA team edged the AA team 27-24.  Northampton’s Mike Sommer, Palisades’ Andrew Povinski and Tri-Valley’s Ryan Kehler all won their bouts.

The Easton Lions Classic was held on March 18th, and the New Jersey Team triumphed 38-17.  Easton’s three state champs – Chris Kelly, Bryan Snyder and Jamarr Billman (by fall) – all won their bouts.  AA state champs, Bryan Klass and Andrew Povinski, both lost their bouts.  The New Jersey team was bolstered by three Blair Academy wrestlers competing. 

(Photo Courtesy of Nazareth HS Yearbook)

About two months after the season ended, Nazareth Coach Ray Nunamaker announced his retirement after an amazing 34 years at the helm of the Blue Eagles’ program.  Under Coach Nunamaker, Nazareth compiled an incredible 468-95-7 dual meet record, won 20 league championships, 5 district team championships and crowned 9 individual state champions.  Beyond the winning and the numbers, long-time Morning Call wrestling writer, Ted Meixell, summed it up best: “Above all else, he’s a gentleman.  In the Lehigh Valley, classy head wrestling coaches abound.  They’re the rule, not the exception.  But Nunamaker defines class.  He exudes it.  Most importantly, he teaches it.  In 19 years, I’ve never met a Blue Eagle wrestler who was sullen or unapproachable, or who failed to carry himself with class and dignity.  Oh yes…Ray was demanding.  He demanded 100 percent effort from every kid, but not a percentage point more.  He demanded excellence.  He demanded champions.  He demanded class.  And then, every day, he showed his kids exactly how to do – and how to achieve – all of that.  That’s why I wished he’d coached my kids – even if they never won a bout.”  Ray Nunamaker was a Teacher at Heart!