With three teams rated in the top 15 national pre-season rankings, including the #1 team, the expanded Mountain Valley Conference may have been the best league in the nation.  Easton, Parkland, Liberty, Freedom and Whitehall all moved from the East Penn Conference to the MVC joining the original seven schools to form a powerful 12-team league.  On top of that, Northampton was coming off a 21-0 season and started the year ranked #1 in the nation by Amateur Wrestling News and USA Today.  Parkland was ranked 4th; Easton was 15th; and Liberty was honorable mention.

While the Kids lost state champs, Christian Luciano and John Hard, they returned six top-3 District place winners (including 4 District champs) and many other wrestlers with varsity experience.  The Trojans graduated state champ, Derek Jenkins and District champ Jeremy Huddle, but returned ten starters.  They were further bolstered by the transfer of Brad Dillon, a regional champ, from Emmaus.  Easton returned seven starters and another talented incoming freshman group.  Liberty had nine starters return, including four state qualifiers.  Nazareth, Freedom, Stroudsburg and an improving Whitehall team were expected to make up the 2nd tier.

In the Colonial League, despite losing state champ Cory DeBias and state runner-up Keith Blose to graduation and Rider University, Coach Todd Herzog’s team was heavily favored to win another league title.  Josh Herzog, Steve Hluschak, Kyle DeBias, Duane Lucien, transfer Joel Trybulski and six other starters returned.  Saucon Valley with eight starters, including five 20-match winners, was the only team expected to challenge the Bulldogs.  Wilson returned six starters.

With five teams shifting to the MVC, only five teams remained in the venerable East Penn Conference.  Dieruff, with a large returning nucleus of starters, was favored to outdistance Bethlehem Catholic for the league title.   

December

On December 5th, Liberty was looking to repeat its Wilson Invitational team title from the previous year.  The Hurricanes had four finalists and two champions – Matt Dudeck (152) and Brandon Mihalko (160), but finished two points behind visiting Dallstown.  Pocono Mountain’s Dan Gonzalez won on a ride out over Mario Stuart in the 119-pound final.  Northern Lehigh topped host Brandywine for the 3rd year in a row in the Bullet Invitational.   Justin Herzog (112) and Steve Hluschak (140) both won titles, and the Bulldogs had 2 runner-ups.  PantherValley was 4th and Southern Lehigh was 5th with Joel Hunsicker (119) and Bryan Rizzo (103) winning titles for their respective teams; Emmaus’ Jason Hoffman was the 145-pound champ.

Bryan Rizzo Was a Bullet Invitational Champ (Photo Courtesy of Southern Lehigh HS Yearbook)

Nazareth roared out of the gates with a 55-4 victory over Bangor; Dieruff dropped Pleasant Valley 39-27; and Pen Argyl started quickly and defeated Freedom 37-29. 

Two days later, Northampton won 11 of 13 bouts to beat Pennridge 60-9, and Dieruff won the final three bouts to top Freedom 36-28.

A few days later, MVC action began with a match-up between Liberty and Easton at the 25th Street Gym.  Easton freshmen, Matt Ciasulli and Dan Brown both won decisions to get the Rovers off to a strong start.  After a Mario Stuart fall, Andy Ciasulli, Gino Fortebuono and Jake Giamoni reeled off three straight wins to give Easton a 15-6 lead.  As expected, the Hurricanes rallied in the middle weights as Darren Cerrato, Brad Washburn, Matt Dudeck and Brandon Mihalko all won for a 27-15 lead.  Andy Burgio edged Owen Wrabel 8-6 at 171 and then Chris Jones and John Piergallini both won to give Easton a tight 29-27 victory.  Northampton cruised past Freedom 56-9; Parkland won all but two bouts to defeat Whitehall 58-12; and Stroudsburg outpaced Lehighton 38-24.

On December 12th, Northampton defeated Shikellamy 54-6 and Shamokin 49-17 while Nazareth won 46-22 and 34-15, respectively, over the two visiting teams in non-league bouts.  The highlight of the dual saw Seth Lisa upsetting Anthony Rivera, a two-time state champ, 7-3 at 119.  In the first East Penn Challenge at Emmaus, Bethlehem Catholic had the most champs with three – Zach Makovsky (103), Tom Derhammer (125) and Tom Kress (171), but Dieruff won the team title.  The Huskies had one champ in Andy Storck (189) but had seven 3rd place finishers.  Allentown Central Catholic’s Eddie Strauss was on the field as the Vikings won a 3A football title on Friday and then won the heavyweight title on Saturday.

Pleasant Valley was 3rd behind Upper Perkiomen and Downingtown in the Quakertown Invitational as Chris Jacobs (152) and Jens Hansen (171) won titles.  Wilson won the Mule Classic as Justin Hartrum (119), Lucas Wolfe (135), Bryan Eckhart (160) and Dave Gonzalez (275) were crowned champions.

In the Colonial League, Bangor built a 23-6 lead over Southern Lehigh, but then had to rally to pull out a 31-30 win.  In the MVC, Northampton won 11 of 13 bouts to top Pleasant Valley 51-12; Easton defeated Freedom 42-12; and Parkland beat Stroudsburg 54-15.

Freedom’s middle weights were too much for Whitehall in a 36-27 victory. 

On the weekend before Christmas, Liberty and Parkland joined Nazareth in traveling south to the 6th annual Delaware Mid-Atlantic Tournament, a/k/a “The Beast of the East”.  With the Reno Tournament of Champions moving to December from early January, Northampton joined Easton to travel to Utah for the 4th RTOC. 

Parkland had a strong showing in the early rounds of the Beast of the East as they advanced eight wrestlers to the quarter-finals while Liberty had six.  The Hurricanes fared better in the final round of Day 1 as they advanced four wrestlers to the semi-finals compared to the Trojans four and Nazareth’s one.  Five local wrestlers advanced to the finals with Liberty’s Brandon Mihalko (160) and Parkland’s Jon Trenge (189) claiming individual titles.  Liberty’s Omar Rivera (112) and Mario Stuart (119) along with Nazareth’s Steve Itterly finished 2nd.  Bald Eagle Area won the team title while Parkland and Liberty each had 7 placers to finish 4th and 5th, respectively, while Nazareth was 14th

Mario Stuart Finished 2nd in the Beast (Photo Courtesy of Liberty HS Yearbook)

Saucon Valley won the McDowell Tournament as Jon Severn (112) and Dave Stauffer (130) won titles and 8 others placed.  Bethlehem Catholic was 5th in the Virginia Holiday Classic as Tom Derhammer (4) and Tim Kress (171) finished 2nd.  In dual action, Northern Lehigh defeated Stroudsburg 44-23, and Bangor nipped Pleasant Valley 33-31.  Dieruff’s Matt Reiss, Isaac Perez, Andy Storck and Mike Moya won the final four bouts to defeat Pocono Mountain 27-24.

Seth Lisa Was 1 of 2 Kids Who Won RTOC titles (Photo Courtesy of Northampton HS Yearbook)

In the Reno Tournament of Champions, Northampton took the early lead and held the lead heading into the final round.  With all 14 wrestlers scoring points and two champions, Seth Lisa (130) and Phil Hard (215), the Kids showed why they were the #1 team in the nation as they won the team title.  Tommy Rohn (140) was 2nd while Aaron Suranofsky (112) and Jeremy Bucko (119) were 4th and Joe Lukachick (275) was 6th.  Easton rallied to place 5th as Gino Fortebuono (125) was 2nd, Chris Jones (189) was 3rd, Jake Giamoni (135) & John Piergallini (215) were 4th and Mark Koch (130) was 6th.

Two days before Christmas, Northern Lehigh and Pen Argyl met in an early season Colonial League showdown.  Jared Herzog (103) and Kyle DeBias (119) won early toss-up bouts and the Bulldogs went on to win 49-6.  The two bouts that the Green Knights won were highly competitive as Robert Rebmann edged Justin Herzog 6-5 in overtime in 112, and Jared Drosnock upset Steve Hluschak 7-4 at 140.  Wilson topped Southern Lehigh 41-18; Saucon Valley outdistanced Salisbury 47-30; Bangor beat Notre Dame 42-24; and Northwestern nipped Palmerton 36-34.  In the MVC, Parkland was too much for Pocono Mountain 38-18.  Liberty downed Stroudsburg 49-10, but Joey Rivera topped Omar Rivera 4-0 in a marquee bout at 112.

Holiday Tournaments

Matt Dudeck Won a Holiday Title in his Home Gym (Photo Courtesy of Liberty HS Yearbook)

Northampton rode a strong semi-final performance going 5-for-7  and consolation round success to win the team title in the Hurricane Classic.  Seth Lisa scored a 5-3 win over Saucon Valley’s Dave Stauffer at 130, and Phil Hard beat Warwick’s Pat Cummins 3-1 at 275.  Liberty had a strong showing to come in 3rd as Mario Stuart (119) and Matt Dudeck (152) won titles, and Phillipsburg was 4th.  Pen Argyl also crowned two champs in Robert Rebmann, a 3-2 winner over Pocono Mountain’s Dan Gonzalez, in a very competitive 112-pound weight class and Jared Drosnock at 135. 

Northern Lehigh easily won their 3rd Christmas City team title in a row, but did so without crowning a single champion, although they did have 7 placers.  Dieruff took 3rd place as Andy Storck was the only repeat winner from a year ago at 189, and Mike Moya won the 275-pound title.  Southern Lehigh also had two champs in Bryan Rizzo (103) and Nathan Fell (152).  Catasauqua’s Kevin Yarko won the pinner award and the 119-pound title.

Christmas City Champs Andrew Storck & Mike Moya (Photos courtesy of Dieruff HS Yearbook)

Jon Trenge Triumphed in Marquee Bout (Photo Courtesy of Parkland HS Yearbook)

A loaded Manheim Lions Holiday Wrestling Tournament included 28 returning state qualifiers and 13 medal winners.  Bald Eagle Area again outdistanced Easton and Parkland, who tied for 2nd place.  Jon Trenge faced Cumberland Valley’s Jon Sauve in a rematch of the 1998 state final; Trenge won again – this time by a 7-2 count to win the 189-pound title.  For the Trojans, Brad Dillon won the 140-pound title; Sean Jenkins was 2nd at 152; and 7 other wrestlers placed.  For the Rovers, John Pierfallini was the champ at 275; Gino Fortebuono was 2nd at 125; and 5 other wrestlers placed.

January

Frank Vega in Action (Photo Courtesy of Parkland HS Yearbook)

After the holidays, Nazareth visited Parkland and Coach Rex Lutz was hoping to win the first five bouts and get some bonus points on the board. Parkland’s Tony Severo (112) and Frank Vega (125) had other ideas as they both won their bouts, and the Trojans gave up nary a bonus point to trail only 9-6 after five bouts.  Parkland then reeled off wins in six of the next seven bouts to win 34-16 in an MVC match.  Liberty defeated Pocono Mountain 47-17 and Freedom clipped Stroudsburg 36-25.

The same day, in a key Colonial League match, Wilson won an easier-than-expected 47-16 victory over Saucon Valley.  Freshmen Cory Garis upset Jon Severn 2-1 at 119, and the Warriors top guns delivered bonus points to position them as the top challenger to Northern Lehigh, who defeated Bangor 53-9.

One night later, Dieruff dealt Wilson their 1st loss 40-20.  The Warriors won 3 of the first 4 bouts, but then the Huskies won all but one of the remaining bouts.

Parkland traveled to the Virginia Duals and was seeded #1.  The Trojans defeated Archbishop Moeller Ohio 39-22 and Great Bridge, VA 39-24 to win the National Division.  The same weekend, Dieruff advanced to the finals of the Zephyr Duals but lost to Bound Brook, NJ 36-30.

On January 9th, the first Easton-Phillipsburg Classic was held at Lafayette’s Kirby Field House.  In session 1, Easton built a 19-4 lead over Blair Academy then fell behind 23-19 with two bouts remaining.  Chris Jones and John Piergallini both scored falls, and the Rovers triumphed 31-23.  Bald Eagle Area defeated Phillipsburg 32-19.  Highlights of Session #2 saw Easton defeat Pleasant Valley 47-10, and Blair Academy bounce back to beat Bald Eagle Area 31-25.  In the final session, Easton fell behind Bald Eagle Area, rallied, but lost by a close 27-25 score. 

Easton Defeated Blair Academy During the Easton-P-Burg Duals (Photo Courtesy of Easton HS Yearbook)

The same day, Nazareth defeated Pen Argyl 45-10, and Emmaus edged Palisades 28-27.  Northampton again triumphed in the Cedar Cliff Duals defeating Dallastown 37-12 in the finals.

The following week, on number of big matches were on tap.  In the MVC, Liberty started fast and more than doubled up Nazareth 33-16.  In the EPC, Matt Millen won the feature bout 11-10 over Jason Giandomenico at 135, but the Huskies won the war winning the last five bouts to defeat Bethlehem Catholic 43-13.  In the Colonial League, Bangor surprised Saucon Valley 31-27; Southern Lehigh defeated Catasauqua 42-27; and Northern Lehigh beat Salisbury 51-12. 

Huskies Defeated Becahi in Key EPC Dual (Photo Courtesy of Dieruff HS Yearbook)

On January 16th, Easton visited the Kid Dome with its sights set on upsetting Northampton, the nation’s top-ranked team.  Matt Ciasulli and Gino Fortebuono scored falls around close decisions by Aaron Suranofsky and Jeremy Bucko to give the Rovers a 12-6 lead.  The teams traded major decisions in the next two bouts before the Kids’ Justin Haupt won by a major decision and Tommy Rohn scored a fall to lead 20-16.  The teams again traded decisions before John Bauer scored a major decision and Chris Jones answered back by pinning Marty Limpar at 189.  The Kids led 27-25 entering the final bout, and Phil Hard decisioned John Piergallini 10-4 to clinch a challenging and well-earned 30-25 victory.

Parkland defeated both Dallastown 36-27 and Upper Perkiomen 37-21 to remain unbeaten.  In the Colonial League, Wilson defeated Catasauqua 56-14; Northern Lehigh beat Northwestern 48-18; and Notre Dame topped Saucon Valley 36-32.

On January 18th, Northampton won 5 of the first 7 bouts to lead Phillipsburg 17-8.  Stew Sickles and John McRoberts scored back-to-back falls and Jared Frey edged Eric Swankoski 3-2 to give the Stateliners a 23-17 lead.  Ryan Barsony decisioned Marty Limpar 3-1 in overtime at 189 and Steve Kempinski bumped up to 275 and held Phil Hard to a regular decision.  Phillipsburg pulled off a big 26-24 upset.

P-Burg Pulled Off a Huge Upset Over the Kids (Photo Courtesy of Phillipsburg HS Yearbook)

One day later, Liberty led Dieruff 39-0 before the Huskies on the final three bouts to narrow the gap to 39-18.  The following day, Dieruff defeated Emmaus 40-30 in the EPC as Coach Glenn Whiteman won his 100th dual.  In the MVC, Nazareth beat Freedom 46-15, and Stroudsburg clipped Whitehall 36-29.

On January 21st, Parkland pounded Pleasant Valley 54-9, and Easton downed Pine Grove 49-6.

John Bauer Battles Nazareth Opponent (Photo Courtesy of Northampton HS Yearbook)

A few days later, Nazareth was looking to upset Northampton as the Kids were without two starters due to illness.  The teams split the first four bouts before Seth Lisa, Justin Haupt and Tommy Rohn opened up a 22-6 lead.  Northampton won the rest of the bouts with the exception of pins by Travis Frick and Steve Itterly as they won 35-18 to stay unbeaten in the MVC.  The Nunamaker Trophy, named after retired Nazareth Coach Ray Nunamaker, was introduced and was awarded to the Kids as the winner of the annual rivalry dual.

Below – Justin Haupt and Tommy Rohn Both Had Key Wins in Nazareth Dual (Photo Courtesy of Northampton HS Yearbook):

Matt Newhard’s Win Clinched the Win Over Brookville (Photo Courtesy of Northern Lehigh HS Yearbook)

Northern Lehigh traveled to Brookville to compete in the Ultimate Duals in a battle of some of the state’s top AA schools.  With Josh Herzog returning to the line-up after being out with an injured ankle, the Bulldogs upset #1 Brookville 30-24.  Jared and Justin Herzog, Kyle DeBias and Joel Trybulski had opened up a 21-0 lead.  Brookville ultimately rallied to tie the score before Duane Lucien and Matt Newhard won the final two bouts to seal the win.  With Josh Herzog held out with a tender ankle in the finals against #2 Ridgeway, the Bulldogs 30-match win streak was broken 29-24.

Wilson trailed Pen Argyl 25-11 but rallied to score three falls and a win by default to triumph 35-25.  Dieruff finished 2nd to Wilson West Lawn in the Indian Valley Tournament.

On January 27th, Wilson led Bangor 13-9 after the first five bouts.  The Slaters’ Bob Frey, sophomore Adam Kulak (with an upset win over Lucas Wolfe), Jeremy Albert and Randy Olson all won their bouts, and Bangor led 27-13.   Anthony Comunale’s fall at 171 clinched the match as Bangor had pulled off a 33-27 upset win in the Colonial League. 

The Warriors had to visit Nazareth the very next night.  The Warriors were competitive, but Travis Frick’s and Luke Morris’ falls helped the Blue Eagles pull away for a 33-21 win.

In the EPC, Dieruff again rallied in the upper weights and beat Allentown Central Catholic 39-18 as Andy Storck defeated Eddie Strauss 5-2 at 189.  Bethlehem Catholic beat Emmaus 36-24.

Freedom defeated Pocono Mountain 28-28 on criteria, and two days later Stroudsburg also clipped the Cardinals 33-25.  In the Colonial League, Northern Lehigh defeated Saucon Valley 49-16; Wilson beat Salisbury 48-24; and Pen Argyl topped Catasauqua 48-8 with Robert Rebmann beating Kevin Yarko 5-4 at 112.

As January came to a close, the schedule was interrupted as several teams were struggling with skin conditions.  As a result, a number of matches were postponed including the Parkland-Northampton and Easton-Nazareth MVC showdowns.

February

As February began, the MVC cancelled all matches for a week.  Action was set to resume with a triangular between Liberty, Northampton and Parkland On February 6th

#1 Parkland and #2 Northampton took the mats first.  After the teams traded decisions in the first two bouts, Frank Vega used a funk to defeat Jeremy Bucko 9-5 at 119, but Seth Lisa answered back for the Kids with a 6-5 win over Tom Abraham.  Justin Haupt and Tommy Rohn both won decisions, and the Kids led 15-6.  The Trojans tied the match at 15-15 after Brad Dillllon’s fall and Nick Wynne’s decision; they then pulled ahead 22-15 on wins by Sean Jenkins and Kurt Pryor. John Bauer nipped Paul Velekei in OT, but Parkland still had ace Jon Trenge waiting in the wins.  Trenge scored a tech fall over Mary Limpar, and the Trojans triumphed 27-21.

Northampton had to immediately come back onto the mats to face Liberty.  Some very competitive match-ups in the lower weights would help decide the meet.  Liberty’s Josh Rivera (3-1 over Jake Cole at 103), Mario Stuart (ride out over Jeremy Bucko at 119) and Darren Cerrato (8-6 over Tommy Rohn at 135) had key wins to help the Hurricanes split the first six bouts.  Derek Cox, Brad Washburn and Brandon Mihalko then strung together three more decisions to build a 22-10 lead.  Owen Wrabel and Kevin Emerich avoided bonus points and a DQ in the final bout left the score tied at 22-22, but the win on criteria went to Coach Jody Karam on the Liberty Hurricanes.

Hurricanes Won on Criteria in Big Dual Over Northampton (Photo Courtesy of Liberty HS Yearbook)
Sean Jenkins Had a Key Win Against the Canes (Photo Courtesy of Parkland HS Yearbook)

The final match in a great day of wrestling would be equally exciting.  Liberty got early bonus points from Omar Rivera and Mario Stuart to lead 11-3 after 119.  Frank Vega scored a major decision at 125, and Tom Abraham won a key 9-7 decision in OT over Mark Werner.  Darren Cerrato and Brad Washburn answered with decisions, and the score was 17-10 in favor of Liberty.  Brad Dillon and Sean Jenkins (9-7 over Matt Dudeck) tie the score to 17-17, but Brandon Mihalko’s major decision put the score at 21-17 Liberty.  Paul Velekei scored a fall; Jon Trenge received a forfeit win; and Ian Kleinsek scored a decision as Parkland won 31-21.

In other matches, Dieruff defeated Pottsville 42-30 in the EPC, and Nazareth beat Pocono Mountain 33-18 in the MVC.

A few days later, Easton started quickly by winning the first five bouts to take a 20-0 lead over Phillipsburg.  Phillipsburg won 3 of the next 4 bouts, including Jared Frey’s fall, to cut the lead to 23-16.  The one Easton win was Ryan Kilpatrick’s 3-1 decision over John McRoberts.  Andy Burgey and Chris Jones both scored major decisions to clinch the win.  Steve Kempinski decisioned John Piergallnii 6-5 in the final bout, but the Rovers had a 31-25 victory.

On February 8th, Northern Lehigh traveled to Wilson looking to wrap up the Colonial League title.  The Bulldogs opened a 13-8 lead after six bouts and then got bonus point wins from Steve Huluschak, Shawn Mantz and Darrin Long on their way to a 40-18 triumph. 

In rivalry bouts, Dieruff easily defeated Allen 52-12, Bethlehem Catholic beat Allentown Central Catholic 40-24; and Liberty topped Freedom 47-7.

Paul Velekei’s Fall Set the Stage for Jon Trenge’s Clincher (Photo Courtesy of Parkland HS Yearbook)

On February 10th, Parkland hosted Easton seeking their first league title since 1964 when they shared the title in the first year of the old Lehigh-Northampton League.  Despite being undefeated at 16-0, the Trojans still were not getting the respect they deserved on the state and national level.  Matt Ciasulli’s cement job at 103 led to a decision and Dan Brown’s fall opened a 9-0 lead for the Rovers.  Frank Vega interrupted the Rovers’ fast start with an 11-4 win over Andy Ciasulli.  Gino Fortebuono and Dan Brown won by decision and technical fall to open up a 17-3 lead.  Andy Kuncio scored a technical fall, but then 1-3 Greg Brown (Dan’s twin) shocked Nick Wynne with a 6-3 decision.  Brad Dillon was then held to a major decision.  Ryan Kilpatrick’s late takedown denied Sean Jenkins a major decision at 152.  While Parkland had narrowed the gap, Easton still led 20-16 and Coach John Toggas was worried.  Kurt Pryor scored a fall at 160, but Parkland was able to control the match-ups in the next two weights due to the coin toss.  Easton’s Chris Jones answered back with a technical fall, but with the match-up they wanted, Paul Velekei scored a fall at 189.  Parkland led 27-25 with Jon Trenge again bumping up to 275 to face tough John Piergellani.  Last year, Trenge needed a fall to clinch a win (a tall task), but scored a decision, and the Rovers won 24-23.  This year, Trenge won again 6-3, but this time the Trojans had the win and the league title 30-25!

District Duals

Parkland and Northern Lehigh were the top seeds for the AAA and AA District Duals, respectively.  In AAA, Parkland defeated Bethlehem Catholic 56-6; Northampton beat Bangor 45-15 and Easton handled Dieruff 49-9 with Chris Jones dealing Andy Storck his first loss of the year 7-6 and Mike Moya nipping John Piergallini 2-1. Lastly, Liberty got falls from Mario Stuart (112) and Darren Cerrato and close wins by Omar Rivera, Derek Cox and Owen Wrabel to nip Nazareth 29-27.

In AA, Northern Lehigh dominated Pius X 60-9; North Schuylkill beat Palisades in a closer than expected 42-28 win; Wilson hammered Williams Valley 60-6; and Pen Argyl was too much for Pine Grove 40-20.

In the AAA semi-finals, Parkland defeated Liberty by a much larger margin than their recent dual as they reeled off eight straight wins from 119-160 and won 40-15.  In the first bout of their legendary rivalry, Northampton’s Aaron Suranofsky decisioned Matt Ciasulli 4-0 at 103.  Jeremy Bucko topped Andy Ciasulli 5-2; Seth Lisa registered a key 4-2 win in OT over Gino Fortebuono; and Brad Youwakim nipped Kyle Dailey 4-3 at 145 as Northampton edged Easton 26-21.  The finals would be a rematch between Parkland and Northampton.  The Kids started quickly as Aaron Suranofsky defeated Tony Severo 7-3 and Adam Lutri, who had just returned to the lineup, scored a fall.  After a Frank Vega win in OT, Northampton won three more bouts in a row to lead 21-3.  Parkland had come back many times before in the middle weights and hoped to do it again.  Brad Youwakim (a 7-2 winner over Nick Wynne at 145) and John Bauer (an 11-4 winner over Bill Heintzleman at 171) had other ideas, and Northampton won 27-23 (an almost identical score to last year’s 26-23 win over the Trojans).  It was Parkland’s first loss in 20 matches.

Aaron Suranofsky Had 2 Huge Wins in the District Duals (Photo Courtesy of Northampton HS Yearbook)

In AA, no one could compete with powerful Northern Lehigh.  The Bulldogs had 7 falls/tech falls in the semi-finals and 8 in the finals as they hammered Pen Argyl 50-15 and North Schuylkill 55-16 for their 2nd straight title.  The Spartans had defeated Wilson in the finals as they rallied from a 23-6 deficit to win 36-29.

Bulldogs Won 2nd Straight AA District Duals Title (Photo Courtesy of Northern Lehigh HS Yearbook)

PIAA Team Dual Championships

The PIAA held a state dual tournament for the first time in 1999.  The new concept was controversial as the duals would be wrestled on three successive Wednesday’s in the same weeks as the Sectional, District and Regional Tournaments.  A number of coaches were not pleased with the new concept which risked injury during the post-season and created issues with weight management.

Coach Rohn’s Statelment Created Change in State Duals Future Format (Photo Courtesy of Northampton HS Yearbook)

Northampton Coach Don Rohn was quoted as saying “They’re a great idea but not now, not this way.  They should’ve been done and over with last weekend.  To give the kids every opportunity to deal well in tournaments, you have to train them to peak at the end of the week.  My first priority is to do what’s best for my kids.”  As a result, Rohn entered his JV team in the tourney.

In the AAA quarterfinals, Northampton was able to win five bouts against District 3 champ, Gettysburg, as the dropped the dual 44-18.  Coach Rohn clearly made a statement that would ultimately lead to the PIAA making a change in the timing of the tournament the following year.

In the AA pigtail round, Northern Lehigh built a 21-4 lead against Octorara, but Octorara then rallied to close within 28-25 entering the heavyweight bout.  Matt Newshard scored a fall at 275 to preserve the victory 34-25.  The following week, the Bulldogs handled Schuylkill Valley 46-12.  In the semi-finals, they won the first two bouts, but then lost the next eight and lost to Wyalusing 41-19 in the semi-finals. 

Other February Duals

Blake Shaw scored a fall at 189 to win the Doug Communale Memorial Award, named after the Slaters’ star who lost his life in an auto accident.  Bangor defeated Pen Argyl 33-29.  Palisades’ Barry Helverson scored a fall at 275 as Palisades edged Saucon Valley 35-33.  North Schuylkill won the final four bouts to top Pocono Mountain 33-29.  Easton won all but two bouts to cruise past Nazareth 40-6.  John Piergallini upset #1 Steve Itterly 1-0.

Two days later, Parkland rebounded from their loss to Northampton as they defeated Blair Academy 27-26.  Blair won the first three bouts to lead 10-0.  Tom Abraham, Andy Kuncio and Brad Dillon won the next three matches to tie the score at 10-10.  Sean Jenkins had a big 10-7 lead over Zach Espisito and Kurt Pryor scored a technical fall, but Blair again answered back.  The score was 23-18 in Blair’s favor after 171.  Paul Velekei scored a fall and Jon Trenge scored a decision to clinch the match for the Trojans. 

Below – Sean Jenkins & Kurt Pryor Had Key Wins Against Blair Academy (Photos Courtesy of Parkland HS Yearbook):

Phillipsburg defeated Randolph in the North 2 Group 4 finals.  The Stateliners then went on to defeat Absegami 39-28 and Hunterdon Central 48-19 to win the NJ Group 4 state dual championship.

Final league standings were as follows:

 PlaceW-L-D
East Penn
Dieruff14-0
Bethlehem Catholic23-1
Emmaus32-2
Allentown Central Catholic41-3
William Allen50-4
Colonial
Northern Lehigh111-0
Bangor210-1
Wilson39-2
Pen Argyl4T7-4
Southern Lehigh4T7-4
Notre Dame66-5
Saucon Valley75-6
Palisades84-7
Northwestern9T3-8
Salisbury9T3-8
Palmerton111-10
Catasauqua120-11
Mountain Valley
Parkland111-0
Easton2T9-2
Liberty2T9-2
Northampton2T9-2
Nazareth57-4
Freedom6T5-6
Pleasant Valley6T5-6
Pocono Mountain8T4-7
Stroudsburg8T4-7
Whitehall102-9
Lehighton111-10
East Stroudsburg120-11

League champions overall records were:  Dieruff (15-4), Northern Lehigh (20-2) and Parkland (20-1).  Other teams with very good records were Northampton (18-4), Easton (17-4), Bangor (15-4), Pen Argyl (15-8), Liberty (13-3), Nazareth (13-6), Southern Lehigh (12-6) and Bethlehem Catholic (11-4).

District Tournaments

In AAA, Northampton held a 15+ point lead over Parkland and Easton after Day 1 of the District Tourney.  The K-Kids advanced nine wrestlers to the semi-finals while Parkland and Easton each had six advancers.  Southern Lehigh’s 7th seeded Marc Rizzo upset #2 Chris Jacobs of Pleasant Valley via fall at 145.

Northampton had five wrestlers in the finals and three more wrestling for 3rd place.  As a result, they clinched the team title before the championship round began.  Northampton crowned three repeate champions.  Seth Lisa defeated Gino Fortebuono 2-1 at 125 in their ongoing rivalry.  While Justin Haupt nipped another Easton wrestler, Jake Giamoni 6-5 at 130.  John Bauer was the Kids’ 3rd repeat champ at 171.  Parkland was 2nd and matched the Kids with three champs.  OW Brad Dillon nipped the Tommy Rohn 3-2 at 135; Sean Jenkins beat Emmaus’ Jason Hoffman 16-5 at 145; and Jon Trenge won his 2nd title 6-2 over ACC’s Eddie Strauss.

Brad Washburn – 1 of 4 Canes’ Champs (Photo Courtesy of LIberty HS Yearbook)

Liberty crowned the most champs with four and finished in 4th place.  Mario Stuart (112) and Brad Washburn (140) both beat Pottsville opponents as Stuart topped Brian Burns 4-2, and Washburn defeated Brad Kleckner 5-1.  Matt Dudeck and Brandon Mihalko won back-to-back titles at 152 and 160 defeating Blue Mountain’s John Carr 3-2 and Pleasant Valley’s Jens Hansen 2-1 in OT, respectively.  3rd place Easton got a champ right out of the gate to extend ‘The Steak’ as Matt Ciasulli reversed his District Duals loss to the Kids’ Aaron Suranosky 2-0 in OT.  Whitehall’s Christian Franco (5-0 over Pakland’s Frank Vega at 119) and Nazareth’s Steve Itterly (6-2 over Dieruff’s Mike Moya at Hwt) rounded out the champions.

In AA, Northern Lehigh and Wilson each advanced seven wrestlers to the semi-finals as the Bulldogs held a slim 3-point lead over the Warriors.  Two returning district champs were upset in the quarterfinal round as Palisades’ Aaron Kling upset Catasauqua’s Jason Haines 9-8 at 119 and Wilson’s Heath Lorhman upended Northern Lehigh’s Josh Herzog 9-6 at 135.  In a competitive semi-final round, no team advanced more than three wrestlers to the finals.  In fact, team race leaders, Northern Lehigh and Wilson, advanced two and three wrestlers, respectively.  Entering the finals, the Bulldogs led, but the Warriors were within range. 

Duane Lucien – Northern Lehigh District Champ (Photo Courtesy of NL HS Yearbook)

Wilson had three wrestlers in the first five weights, but two fell victim to wrestlers from Pen Argyl.  Jason Santo defeated Jeremy Hartrum 3-1 at 103, and Jared Drosnock scored a fall over Lucas Wolfe at 130.  Jim Moll won 5-1 over Pen Argyl’s Ryan Williams 5-2 at 119.  The two losses were enough for Northern Lehigh to wrap up the team tile.  Their two finalist had mixed results as Scott Horack dropped a 14-9 decision to Notre Dame’s Kevin Patton at 152 while Duane Lucien edged Jim Thorpe’s Mike Wernett 3-1.

Saucon Valley and Tamaqua also crowned two champions each.  Saucon Valley wrestler both beat North Schuylkill wrestlers as Dave Stauffer edged Matt Edwards 4-3 at 125, and Matt Buckno downed Mike Pahira 6-4 at 189.  For Tamaqua, Jeremy Benza nipped Salisbury’s Matt Roncolato 1-0 at 135, and Andy Breiner pinned Palisades’ Devin DeRenzis at 145.  Catasaqua’s Kevin Yarko won by fall at 112 and was named the OW.  Tri-Valley’s Justin Olano (140), North Schuylkill’s Matt Hennessey (171) and Schuylkill Haven’s Vince Crochunis (Hwt) won the remaining titles.

Regional Tournaments

In AAA, District 11 dominated the first day of regional action.  Northampton advanced seven wrestlers to the semi-finals while Easton advanced six.  Thirteen District XI wrestlers upset district champions from either District 2 or 4.  At the very tough 125-pound weight class, Easton’s Gino Fortebuono upset 2-time defending state champ, Anthony Rivera from Shikellamy, 5-4 with a takedown with one second remaining.  In the other semi-final, Nazareth’s Jeremy Messinger nipped Seth Lisa 2-1 in OT.  Rivera battled back to take 3rd and clinch the last slot for Hershey.  Northampton advanced four wrestlers to the finals and while Easton only advanced two, they had five wrestlers in the consolation finals, four of whom won.

In the finals, Fortebuono beat Messinger 15-6 to win the 125-pound title while Northampton crowned two champs in Justin Haupt, who topped Easton’s Jake Giamoni 2-1 at 130.  The Kids’ other winner was John Bauer at 171.  Northampton’s other finalists lost to wrestlers from Parkland.  Tommy Rohn and Brad Dillion were locked in a 4-4 battle after regulation at 135. In overtime Rohn countered a Dillon double leg shot with a cement job, but Dillon got the takedown and the fall.  At 189, Marty LImpar lost to Jon Trenge on a technical fall.  Parkland’s other finalist, Sean Jenkins defeated Pittston’s Jason Wooddall 6-3 at 145.

Below: Northampton’s Justin Haupt and Parkland’s Brad Dillon – NE Regional Champs (Photos Courtesy of Northampton & Parkland Yearbooks, Respectively):

Northampton and Easton finished tied for first with the Rovers advancing the most wrestlers to Hershey with six.  District XI won all but one final and claimed 30 of 39 state qualifiers. Stroudsburg’s Joey Rivera (103), Liberty’s Mario Stuart (112), Whitehall’s Christian Franco (119), Pottsville’s Keith Kleckner (140), Blue Mountain’s Kyle Sheetz (171) and Nazareth’s Steve Itterly (Hwt) were also crowned as regional champions.

In AA, it was the first year that District 11 traveled north to Williamsport to compete in the Northeast Regional against Districts 2 and 4.  While District 11 dominated the action with District 1 in the Southeast Regional, this year would be different as powerful District 4 dominated the action in Williamsport.  The 135-pound weight class was loaded with six returning state qualifiers, the defending state champion and Northern Lehigh’s Steve Hluschak who placed 4th at 119 in the prior year. 

Wyalussing and Benton finished 1-2 in the team standings and crowned 6 of the 13 champions.  District 11 advanced seven wrestlers to the finals.  Only Wilson’s Lucas Wolfe who defeated Pen Argyl’s Jared Drosnock 6-1 in OT at 130 and Northern Lehigh’s Duane Lucien at 160 were able to win regional titles.  District 11 was able to advance 23 wrestlers to Hershey including Tamaqua’s Jeremy Benza and Northern Lehigh’s Steve Hluschak in the 135-pound weight class.  Wilson finished the highest of the local schools at 3rd place with three state qualifiers while Northern Lehigh was 6th with four.

PIAA State Championships

Eddie Strauss, in earlier action, Won his 100th Bout at States (Photo Courtesy of ACC HS Yearbook)

Nineteen AAA District XI wrestlers were able to win their first round bouts and advance to the quarterfinals.  Liberty’s Mario Stuart and Allentown Central Catholic’s Eddie Strauss each won their 100th career bouts.  Liberty, Northampton and Parkland each advanced three wrestlers while Easton had two.  The Rovers were victimized by two questionable calls as Gino Fortebuono and Jake Giamoni lost their bouts.  Ten wrestlers including two each from Liberty, Parkland and Pottsville moved into the semi-finals. In the semi-finals, Liberty’s Mario Stuart (112) won his second overtime bout in a row; the locals would need to wait until Jon Trenge took the mat at 189 to gain another finalist.  Nazareth’s Steve Itterly (Hwt) also advanced.  In the finals, the locals went two for three. Stuart lost a close bout with Justin Spates 4-2.  Parkland’s Jon Trenge scored a fall to win his 2nd state title while Nazareth’s Steve Itterly also scored a fall to improve on last year’s 3rd place finish.    Northampton’s Aaron Suranofsky (103), Easton’s Jake Giamoni (battling back after a 1st round loss at 130), Parkland’s Brad Dillon (135) & Sean Jenkins (145), ACC’s Eddie Strauss (189) and Easton’s John Piergallini (Hwt) all took 3rd place.  Liberty’s Brad Washburn 140) was 4th; Stroudsburg’s Joey Rivera (103) and Easton’s Andy Ciasulli (119) were 5th; Easton’s Dan Brown (112) and Dieruff’s Mike Moya (Hwt) was 6th; and Liberty’s Brandon Mihalko (160) was 7th.  In the team race, Parkland was 3rd, Easton 4th and Liberty 6th.

A dozen local wrestlers won to advance to the AA quarterfinals including three from Northern Lehigh.  On Day 2, eight District XI wrestlers won their quarterfinal bouts, and three were able to advance to the finals – Catasauqua’s Kevin Yarko scored a major decision at 112 as did Wilson’s Lucas Wolfe at 130 while Tamaqua’s Andy Breiner trailed Max Shingara before hitting a cement job for a 2nd period fall.  Yarko won the 112-pound title by forfeit as his opponent had suffered a concussion.  Wolfe triumphed 5-3 to win the 130-pound title.  Breiner was Tamaqua’s first ever state finalist but settled for the silver medal.  Northern Lehigh was the top local team in the team standings at 7th.  Steve Hluschak was 3rd at 135 while Jared Herzog was 4th at 103 and Duane Lucien was 5th at 160.   Other place winners included Panther Valley’s Joel Hunsicker (112 – 5th), Wilson’s Jim Moll (119 – 7th), Tamaqua’s Matt Benza (119 – 8th), Saucon Valley’s Dave Stauffer (125 – 3rd) & Josh Weaver (140 – 5th), Pen Argyl’s Jared Drosnock (130 – 4th), Tri-Valley’s Justin Olano (140 – 6th) and Palisades’ Devin Derenzis (145 – 6th).

Phillipsburg Post-Season

Phillipsburg won its 7th straight NJ District 1 team titles with six champs – Chris Mecca (103), James Allen (119), Bill Moore (130), Joe Breiner (135), Jared Frey (171) and Steve Kempinski (215).

In the Region 1 Championships, Moore, John McRoberts (152), Frey and Kempinski were crowned champions.

In the NJ state championship, Steve Kempiniski finished 2nd, and Bill Moore was 4th.

In the Challenge of Champions Class AA again defeated Class AAA 27-21.  Parkland’s Brad Dillon was the only local participant and won 3-1 at 140.  In the Easton Lions Classic, the PA Team routed the New Jersey Team 41-6.  State champs Kevin Yarko and Lucas Wolfe both won their bouts for the PA squad.  The Pennsylvania wrestlers defeated the US Team 27-19 in the Dapper Dan Classic.  Two local wrestlers, Liberty’s Mario Stuart and Nazareth’s Steve Itterly, lost competitive matches in the Classic.  The same weekend, Parkland’s Jon Trenge wrestled in the National HS Wrestling Championships and won the 189-pound title while Easton’s John Piergallini placed 7th.

The Trojans

Parkland had come close to winning a league title in each of the preceding two years, but lost to Easton.  During the 1998-99 season, they finally broke through to win the MVC title in their first year in the league and finish an amazing 20-1 dual season.  The Morning Call’s Ted Meixell published an excellent article explaining how “Eight days turned the Trojans into champions.”  Here’s the rundown from the article:

  • February 6th – Defeated Northampton (who was rated #1 in the nation at the time) 27-21 and Liberty 31-21
  • February 8th – Win a make-up match at Freedom 48-15
  • February 10th – Defeated Easton 30-25 to win the MVC outright – perhaps the toughest league in the entire US.
  • February 12th – Defeated Bethlehem Catholic 54-6
  • February 13th – Beat Liberty 40-15, but lose to Northampton 27-23 in District Dual Finals

Parkland wrestled seven matches in eight days going 6-1 and making weight five times.  For good measure on February 19th, they visited Blair Academy and beat their hosts 27-26.  The Trojans would go on to finish 2nd in the Districts with three champions and saw Brad Dillon named Outstanding Wrestler and John Toggas named Co-Coach of the Year with Northampton’s Don Rohn.  They finished 3rsd in the regionals with three champions.  In the PIAA championships, they finished 3rd as a team, highest of the local squads, as Jon Trenge won his 2nd state title while Brad Dillon and Sean Jenkins both finished 3rd

Coach John Toggas (Photo Courtesy of West York Alumni Wrestling Website)

The Trojans swept The Morning Call’s honors as they were named 3A Team of the Year; John Toggas was named Coach of the Year; and Jon Trenge was 3A Wrestler of the Year.  Coach Toggas would coach one more year at Parkland and finished with 248 career dual wins.  His father, John T. Toggas, had 307 dual wins in 30-year career, including 23 years at West York High School.  To read more about the Toggas’s, please see the excellent  West York Alumni Wrestling website run by Don Lehman:

John S. Toggas

John T. Toggas