The 1998-99 Mountain Valley Conference dual meet season may have been among the best and most competitive ever.  With the move of Easton, Liberty and Parkland into the MVC, they had battled each other and Northampton in a series of close, exciting dual meets.  Parkland broke through and won the MVC.  So after such a successful dual season, why would the MVC change the dual format for the 1999-2000 season?  With the growth of national tournaments and a strict PIAA competition limit, the MVC decided to move away from a pure ‘round-robin’ dual meet format.  The result – wrestling only seven league opponents versus the full complement of eleven.  So many of the classic duals would either be wrestled as non-league duals or not wrestled at all.

Parkland was hit hard by graduation losing a talented senior class including 2-time state champ Jon Trenge.  Northampton graduated two regional champs and three more starters, but returned eight starters, six of whom won 30+ bouts.  In addition, state runner-up Ryan McCallum moved from Berks County.  Easton was hurt by graduation in the upper weights, but had three returning state place winners, a state qualifier and five other starters.  Liberty lost seven starters including three district champs.  Nazareth graduated state champ Steve Itterly, but had six full-time and several part-time starters back.

Dan McIntyre Took Over at Pleasant Valley (Photo Courtesy of Pleasant Valley HS Yearbook)

Northern Lehigh had won the last two Colonial League titles going 41-2 during that time.  The Bulldogs returned nine starters but lost four district placers.  The Bulldogs were favored to win their 3rd straight title.  Wilson was again expected to challenge for the league title despite losing state champ Lucas Wolfe and two more regional placers.  With nine returning starters but not a lot of depth, Coach Dave Crowell needed to get the right wrestlers at the right weights to compete with the Bulldogs.  Bangor returned nine starters from a team that beat all Colonial league rivals except for Northern Lehigh while Pen Argyl also returned nine starters under 3rd year Coach Darrin Evans.  Dan McIntyre moved from Saucon Valley to Pleasant Valley with Andy Koch taking over for the Panthers, and Rick Anderson returned for his 2nd stint at Palmerton. 

In the streamlined EPC, Dieruff and Bethlehem Catholic were again expected to battle for the league title.  Dieruff returned eight starters, but would need to replace their talented upper weights, who all graduated.  Bethlehem Catholic returned 10 starters, but only two district placers, and were expected to battle the Huskies for the league title.   

In what would be Coach Don Rohn’s final season as head coach, would the Konkrete Kids go out on top?  The answer would be a resounding “YES”!

December

Salisbury’s Matt Roncolato was the OW in the Bullet Invitational (Photo Courtesy of Salisbury HS Yearbook)

Host Brandywine was able to unseat 3-time defending champ, Northern Lehigh, in the opening Bullet Invitational with four finalists and 10 placers.  Northern Lehigh was missing six starters as its football team was in the Class AA Eastern Final.  The Bulldogs did crown three champs – Jared Herzog (112), Dean Kulp (135) and Ryan Hluschak.  Salisbury was 4th with OW Matt Roncolato (152) and Justin Moyer (189) winning titles for their respective teams; Emmaus’ Jason Hoffman was the 145-pound champ.  Southern Lehigh’s Jesse Kulp won at 171.

In the Wilson Tournament, Dallastown crowned seven champs to run away with the team title.  Liberty was a late scratch due to concerns over a skin condition.  Host Wilson finished 2nd as Jeremy Hartrum (103) and Heath Lohrman (135) won titles.  Palisades crowned four champs – Liam DeRenzis (103), Travis Thompson (112), Justin Campbell (119) and Aaron Kling (135) – in the New Hope Tournament.  Dieruff’s Matt Reiss and Jesse Glass won the final two bouts to defeat Pleasant Valley 33-30, and Nazareth defeated Pen Argyl 47-17 in a Colonial League match.

Dallastown Surprised the Locals in the Wilson Tourney (Photo Courtesy of Dallastown HS Yearbook)

Four days later, Nazareth fell behind Wilson 18-3 after the first six bouts, but the Blue Eagles ran the table the rest of the way to triumph 37-18.  Pleasant Valley opened a 24-7 lead over Liberty, but the Hurricanes won all but one of the remaining bouts to win 35-27.  Freedom reversed last year’s loss to Dieruff with a decisive 29-15 win.

Ranked #1 in AA, Schuylkill Valley visited Easton to do battle with the Rovers.  Easton won the first nine bouts on their way to a 50-15 victory.

Dieruff won the inaugural East Penn Challenge at Emmaus High School as Brad & Jason Giandomenico won titles and brother Brett placed 3rd.  Mitch Marcks also was a champ at 125 for Coach Glenn Whiteman’s Huskies.  Bethlehem Catholic was 2nd with Drew Dehaut (103) and Zack Makovsky winning titles.  For host Emmaus, Gary Hoosier won the 135-pound title.  The proceeds from the event went to benefit the recovery fund of Gary’s brother, Mike, who was injured an auto accident during the prior wrestling season and was in attendance watching his brother win the title.

Pleasant Valley won the Quakertown Invitational over the host Panthers as Ian McGoldrick (103), John Henry Zarzyicki (119), Mike Ferrara (130) and Brian Richardson (160) finished 1st.  Northampton hammered Shikellamy 59-6 and Shamokin 59-3.  Nazareth also won in impressive fashion – 47-15 over Shamokin and 47-12 over Shikellamy.  Notre Dame won the team title in the Ft. Mead Invitational with four champs – Matt Dugan (103), Kyle Messa (135), Kevin Patton (152) and Alex Karapetian (Hwt).

With 4 Champs, Pleasnt Valley Won the Quakertown Invitational (Photo Courtesy of Pleasant Valley HS Yearbook)

Mike Perinotti and Christian Franco won titles for Whitehall in the Williamsport Top Hat Tournament.  Saucon Valley placed 3rd in the Souderton Tourney as Jon Severn, Justin Ziegler and Matt Gorkos were champions.  Wilson was 2nd in Solanco’s Mule Classic with four champs – Jeremy Hartrum, Justin Hartrum, Cory Garis and Andrew Marsteller.

Michael Perinotti Was 1 of 2 Champs for Whitehall (Photo Courtesy of Whitehall HS Yearbook)

On December 15th Nazareth visited Easton and took an early 9-3 lead after three bouts.  Rover sophomore Bryan Hart turned the tables on Brett Frack and scored a fall.  Dan Brown added another fall and Gino Fotebueno scored a technical fall.  Easton then reeled off three more wins for a commanding 32-9 lead.  Nazareth rallied in the upper weights, but Easton triumphed 35-21.

Easton Held Off Nazareth to Win Their Annual Early Season Showdown (Photo Courtesy of Easton HS Yearbook)

 On December 18th, The Beast of the East brought some of the best teams in the country to Delaware.  Northampton returned after traveling to Reno the year before and was joined by Liberty, Nazareth, Parkland and Wilson.  St Edward’s led after Day 1 as Northampton’s six quarterfinalists led the local contingent.  The Kids finished 4th in the team standings as Ryan McCallum (135) and Phil Hard finished 2nd.  Liberty’s Brandon Mihalko (171) and Parkland’s Paul Velekei (189) also were runner-ups.   Thirteen other local wrestlers placed. 

Pius X had four champs while Palmerton had two in the Delaware Valley Holiday Tournament.  Bangor upended Pleasant Valley 34-17.  Whitehall was 5th in the Carlisle Tournament as Michael Perinotti and Christian Franco won titles. Catasauqua was 6th in the Parkside Holiday Tournament as Peter Celona won the 130-pound crown.

Christian France – 1/2 of Whitehall’s Dynamic Duo (Photo Courtesy of Whitehall HS Yearbook)

Nazareth almost pulled a major upset over Blair Academy before falling short 29-28.  The Blue Eagles got falls from Justin Albert (112), Brett Frack (125) & John Dugey (140) and Jeremy Messinger upset Beast of the East champ, Zach Esposito, 3-2.  Steve Mocco’s fall at 275 clinched the match for the Bucs.  Parkland downed Shikellamy 43-18; Bangor clipped Notre Dame 41-24; and Liberty defeated Whitehall 40-30

Easton placed 2nd in the 80-team Reno Tournament of Champions.  The Rovers had six placers including champion Gino Fortebuono at 130.  Matt Ciasulli and Jake Giamoni were 3rd.  Northern Lehigh and Bethlehem Catholic joined the Rovers with both teams having two place winners.

Holiday Tournaments

Marty Limpar Was 1 of 3 Champs for the Kids in the Bethlehem Holiday Classic (Photo Courtesy of Northampton HS Yearbook)

Northampton was able to edge Blair Academy for the team title in the 23-team Bethlehem Holiday Classic.  The Kids rode a strong semi-final performance going 5-for-7 and consolation round success to win the team title in the Hurricane Classic.  Ryan McCallum (135), Tommy Rohn (152) and Marty Limpar, who reversed a tech fall loss from the Beast, (189) won individual titles.  Jeremy Bucko (119), freshman Jeff Ecklof (130), the 11th seed in a signal of what was to come, and Phil Hard, who went the distance losing only 5-0 to Steve Mocco (275) placed 2nd.  Robert Rebmann (119) and Jared Drosnock (145) both repeated their wins from a year ago as the Green Knights were 5th in the team race.  Phillipsburg was 4th; host Liberty crowned Brandon Mihalko as a champ at 171. 

Kyle Sheetz Was 1 of 3 Champs as the Eagles Won the Christmas City Tourney (Photo Courtesy of Blue Mt HS Yearbook)

With three-time defending team champ Northern Lehigh moving to the Hurricane Classic, Blue Mountain stepped up to lead after the first day of Christmas City tournament.  The Eagles outdistanced Bangor, Schuylkill Valley, Whitehall and Octorara for the team title in a competitive race.  Blue Mountain had three champs – Chris Renninger (103), Kyle Sheetz (171) and Matt Feast (189).  Tamaqua’s Andy Breiner was named the Outstanding Wrestler.

Easton turned in a dominant performance to win the 30th annual Manheim Lions Holiday Wrestling Tournament with six champions and ten placers.  Chad Sportelli (103), Matt Ciasulli (112), Bryan Hart (119), Gino Fortebuono (130), Jake Giamoni (140) and Ryan Kilpatrick (171) all won for the Rovers.  Parkland was 4th with Sean Jenkins (160) defeating Greensburg-Salem’s Greg Jones 5-3 to win the Outstanding Wrestler while Paul Velekei dropped a 3-2 decision to Cumberland Valley’s Jon Sauve at 189.

Lehighton won the Jim Thorpe Tournament as Jon Kluk (119) and Dan Williams (130) won titles; Palmerton was 4th with two champs – Mike Gerchak (135) and Trevor Bartholemew (145).

January

On January 5th, Parkland stayed close to Blair Academy throughout the match, but the Bucs had just a little too much fire power plus Steve Mocco waiting to close things out 35-24.  In a key Colonial League match up, Northern Lehigh got bonus points from Jared and Justin Herzog to build an early lead against Bangor.  Joel Trybulski (130) and R.J. DeFrain both scored falls as the Bulldogs dealt Bangor their first defeat 37-21.

One day later, Blair Academy traveled down Route 22 to challenge Easton.  Chad Sportelli won the battle of talented underclassmen 6-1 over Robbie Preston.  The teams traded decisions at the next 6 weights.  Zach Esposito defeated Jake Giamoni 8-4 in a feature bout, and the Bucs led 13-10.  Kyle Dailey scored a fall for the Rovers at 145, but Blair won 4-1 and 1-0 decisions in the next two bouts before the teams traded major decisions.  The score was Easton 23 Blair 21, but once again the Bucs had Steve Mocco waiting and he scored a first period fall as Blair Academy won 27-23.

Tommy Rohn Led the Kids to Another Cedar Cliff Duals Title (Photo Courtesy of Northampton HS Yearbook)

Numerous dual tournaments were on tap the first weekend after the holiday season. Parkland and Freedom traveled to the Virginia Duals to compete in the National and American Divisions, respectively. Parkland was knocked out by Grundy 35-25 while Freedom defeated West End Branch 43-29 to win the American Division title.  The same weekend, Bangor defeated defending champ Dieruff 32-25 in the finals of the Zephyr Duals.  Freshman Scott Heckman scored a key fall over Chad Werkheiser at 130 leading a middle weight rally.  Northampton once again won the Cedar Cliff Duals by defeating host Cedar Cliff 51-9.

The same day, in a back and forth bout at Nazareth, the Blue Eagles came out on top of Phillipsburg 27-19.  Jeremy Messinger had a key win over Frank Stillo 12-9 at 130 to give Nazareth a 15-9 lead.  Phillipsburg won the next two bouts to take their only lead of the match 16-15, but Nazareth won 3 of the final 4 bouts including Dan Miller’s 8-6 win over Craig Kempinski at 189 and Jaime Kleinle’s 2-1 double overtime win over Rob Stantini at heavyweight.

Notre Dame won the Wayne Yeisley Jr. Memorial Tournament with Jared Casciole (112), Pat Dugan (140) and Kevin Patton (152) won titles.  Salisbury’s Matt Roncolato was the 145-pound champion.

January 12th featured bouts critical to the league title race in both the Colonial and East Penn Leagues.  Pen Argyl led Wilson 18-15, and Coach Darrin Evans did some line up juggling to try close out the win.  Seth DeBoer, in the lineup for the first time this season, hit a 5-point move against favored Ed Johnson at 171, but Johnson came back to win 11-6.  Chad DeFelice then bumped up to 189 but lost a close 5-3 decision to Andrew Marstellar.  The Warriors’ Mike Bertolino scored a first period fall to give Wilson the 27-18 victory.  Defending league champ Northern Lehigh downed Salisbury 58-12, and Bangor handled Saucon Valley 51-10.

In the East Penn League, Bethlehem Catholic had falls in the first two bouts, but Dieruff roared back and led 24-19 with only three bouts to go. The Hawks were able to score three close decisions to win 28-24.  Chris Liberto defeated Kelvin Burton 7-2 at 171; Tim Kress edged Matt Reiss 6-3 at 189; and Dan Dazet scored a reversal with 18 seconds to go to nip Jesse Glass 5-4 at heavyweight.  In competitive MVC matches, Freedom went to 13-0 on the season by downing Lehighton 45-22, and Nazareth was too much for Liberty 39-12.

Nazareth Topped Liberty (Photo Courtesy of Nazareth HS Yearbook)

Twenty-seven schools from five states were in town on January 14 and 15th for the Easton-Phillipsburg Duals at Lafayette’s Kirby Field House.  #1 St. Edward’s Ohio was in town and topped Blair Academy in the Buc’s home gym 35-23 as a prelude to the event.  They then cruised past #6 Easton 42-13 and Grundy Va 60-6 before beating Northampton 32-18.  In the bout with the Kids, St. Ed’s won the first four bouts by a combined 9 points.  Northampton won 3 of the next 4 bouts to close to 16-10, but could get no closer than that.  Northampton defeated Walsh Jesuit 41-21 and Connellsville 49-12.  Phillipsburg beat both Bald Eagle Area 44-12 and Walsh Jesuit 33-29.  Easton was able to top Walsh Jesuit 30-24 but lost to Connellsville 34-30 while Nazareth was 2-0, Liberty 1-1 and Northern Lehigh defeated Council Rock in their only match 44-18.

The Stateliners Had a Strong Performance in the Duals (Photo Courtesy of Phillipsburg HS Yearbook)

The same day, visiting Dallastown won the Parkland Duals, and Pen Argyl went 3-0 to win the New Oxford Duals.  Bangor defeated Stroudsburg 30-28 in a competitive non-league match.

The following week, on number of big matches were on tap in the MVC.  Freedom was looking to knock off Nazareth and was within 20-15, but saw Nazareth pull away for a 33-18 victory that broke the Patriots 13-match win streak.  In other MVC action, Easton almost doubled up Parkland 41-21; Northampton topped Liberty 38-14; and Pleasant Valley tripped Stroudsburg 30-24.  In EPC action, Dieruff rebounded to defeat Emmaus 44-18.

With three Nazareth grads in their lineup, Lehigh hosted “Nazareth Night” at Grace Hall on January 21st.  The alumni did their job as Chris Vitale, Travis Doto and Rob Rohn all won as Lehigh shut out F&M 48-0, and the current Blue Eagles did their part by defeating Bethlehem Catholic 58-6.

On January 22nd, Easton’s packed 25th Street Gym was the site for the annual Easton-Northampton dual.  Chad Sportelli nipped Jake Cole 1-0 to get the Rovers on the board first.  Northampton won the next three bouts in a row as Aaron Suranofsky had a ride out win in his rivalry with Matt Ciasulli; Jeremy Bucko nipped Bryan Hart 5-3; and Jeff Ecklof scored a takedown in OT to beat Dan Brown 3-1.  Easton answered back to win three of its own in a row to lead 12-9.  Gino Fortebuono shut out Bob Zuber 5-3; Andy Ciasulli defeated Ryan McCallum 5-2; and Jake Giamoni beat Seth Lisa 6-4 in OT.  The Kids won three of the next four bouts to retake the lead including Tommy Rohn’s tech fall and Marty Limpar’s fall over Richie Wilkins after dropping to 171 for the first time.  Northampton led 23-15, but the Rovers again answered back with Justin McLennan’s fall at 189.  The Kids led by two, and Phil Hard scored a fall to wrap up a 29-21 victory. 

Northern Lehigh was in the Brookville Tournament and defeated perennial AA contenders Brookville 42-26 and Reynolds 41-15.  Stroudsburg defeated Bethlehem Catholic 38-23, and Dieruff won three bouts to take the Indian Valley Duals.

Northampton won all but three bouts to top Freedom 45-9 in MVC action, and Blue Mountain rallied in the upper weights to defeat Pleasant Valley 32-27.

On January 29th, Easton roared out to a 30-3 lead over Liberty after the 152-pound bout.  The Hurricanes won the final four bouts to narrow the gap to 30-18.  Northampton was missing three starters due to injuries but still routed Parkland 43-15 while Freedom got back on the winning track to defeat Stroudsburg 47-16.  In the Colonial League, Northern Lehigh defeated Saucon Valley 53-13.

January snow again postponed a number of key Colonial and East Pen League bouts, but Northampton and Phillipsburg were able to wrestler their MVC showdown.  The Kids won 10 of 14 bouts to triumph 36-12.

February

February began with a bang on February 2nd with full schedules in all three leagues.  Jeremy Hartrum scored a major decision to get the visiting team off to a 4-0 lead as Wilson visited Northern Lehigh.  The Bulldogs won five of the next six bouts to lead 18-7.  Coach Todd Herzog elected to bump up several wrestlers, but Wilson won three straight upset bouts as freshman Eric Donaldson upset Ryan Hluschak 5-4 at 145; freshman David Iobst pinned Shawn Mantz at 152; and sophomore Brian Eckhart, just back in the line up from a football injury, defeated Steve Hluschak 9-5.  All of a sudden, Wilson led 19-18.  Scott Horack’s 11-5 win over Ed Johnson put the Bulldogs back in the lead, but Andrew Marstellar’s decision and Mike Bertolino’s fall gave the Warriors a big 29-21 win and the inside track to win the Colonial League title.

In the MVC, Nazareth won a closer than expected 33-25 match over Parkland; Easton’s strong lower and middle weights keyed a 31-19 win over Freedom; and Liberty scored bonus point wins in all eight of its bout victories to top Stroudsburg 45-19.  In the EPC, Dieruff easily defeated Allen 59-6, and Bethlehem Catholic beat Allentown Central Catholic 37-25.

Lberty Hurricanes Topped Stroudsburg (Photo Courtesy of Liberty HS Yearbook)

Two days later, Easton won all but two bouts for a surprisingly lopsided win over Phillipsburg 42-9.  Matt Ciasulli won the Brad Weaver Memorial Award.

February 5th was another big wrestling Saturday in the Valley.  Northampton captured the Mountain Valley Conference title by winning 9 of 13 bouts to defeat Nazareth 34-15.  Liberty had topped Freedom in the first three match-ups between coaches and brothers Jody and Jeff Karam.  This year would be different as the Patriots jumped out to 23-0 lead on their way to a 38-16 victory.  After the win, the younger brother of the Karam duo, Jeff, said “for the first time in 32 years, I finally beat him.”

In the Colonial League, Wilson all but wrapped up the title by winning all but three bouts over Bangor for a 41-9 victory.  Northern Lehigh topped Notre Dame 37-21; Dieruff defeated Pottsville 30-28 in a non-league bout and Parkland defeated Bethlehem Catholic 38-26.

A few days later, Northern Lehigh defeated Pen Argyl 33-19, and Bethlehem Catholic defeated Emmaus 42-19 to win the EPC title. 

In the MVC, Renaldo Merced, Marc Israel and Adam Jordan all scored big wins for Liberty in a 30-27 win over Parkland.  Bangor wrapped up 3rd place in the Colonial League by beating Salisbury 43-18 as Adam Kulak dealt Matt Roncolato his first loss of the year 6-2 at 145.  Stroudsburg Coach Ron Spinner won his 300th dual as the Mounties defeated Pocono Mountain 38-19.  Wilson officially claimed the Colonial League title by beating Palisades 53-6.

District Duals

Northampton and Pine Grove were the top seeds for the AAA and AA District Duals, respectively.  In AAA, Northampton defeated Dieruff 51-6, and Easton shut out Bangor 55-0.  Nazareth upended Liberty 32-9 with Dan Miller defeating #1-ranked 171-pounder Brandon Mihalko 9-7 up at 189.  Freedom easily beat Parkland 45-21 as the Trojans rested some of their insured stars.

In AA, Pine Grove romped over Jim Thorpe 57-12; Wilson handled Pius X 44-21; North Schuylkill beat Notre Dame in a tight 30-24 win; and defending champ Northern Lehigh had a come-from-behind win over Pen Argyl 34-18.

In the AAA semi-finals, Northampton was too much for Freedom 46-10 while Easton jumped out to a 28-0 lead over Nazareth and held off the Blue Eagles’ rally 31-19.  In the finals, Chad Sportelli again got the Rovers started with a win, but Aaron Suranofsky was again able to edge Matt Ciasulli and Jeremy Bucko turned the tables on Bryan Hart 12-3.  Dan Brown was able to beat Jeff Ecklof 7-5 in OT, and the Kids led 7-6.  Northampton then won four close bouts in a row.  Ryan McCallum dealt Gino Fortebuono his first loss 3-1 in OT; Bobby Zuber upset Andy Ciasulli 7-5; Tommy Rohn edged Jake Giamoni 5-3; and Seth Lisa clipped Kyle Dailey 4-2.  Rayan Wasser pinned Matt Lear, and the Kids led 25-6.  Easton would win 3 of the final four bouts, but Northampton won 31-15.

In AA, Northern Lehigh built a big lead to knock off #1-seed Pine Grove 38-24 while Wilson beat North Schuylkill 35-13.  This set up a rematch between the two Colonial League rivals.  Wilson’s Jeremy Hartrum scored a major decision to give Wilson a 4-0 lead.  Northern Lehigh reeled off nine bouts in a row, and then Scott Horack’s fall at 171 clinched the win.  The Bulldogs won their 3rd District Dual title in a row 33-22.

(Photos Courtesy of Todd Herzog)

PIAA Team Dual Championships

In AA, Northern Lehigh competed in a pigtail match and defeated District 1 champ, Garnet Valley, 50-18.  The Bulldogs had five tech falls and falls in defeating Bermudian Springs 44-15.  The Bulldogs and Wyalusing were locked in a tight semi-final bout 17-17 after Steve Hluschak’s major decision at 152.  Wyalusing scored bonus points in each of the next three bouts to defeat Northern Lehigh 34-23.

Ryan Wasser Had Several Big Wins in the State AAA Duals (Photo Courtesy of Northampton HS Yearbook)

In the AAA quarterfinals, Dallastown surprised Northampton by winning 3 of the first 4 bouts to lead 13-4.  The Kids rallied to win 7 of the remaining 9 bouts including falls by Tommy Rohn and Ryan Wasser to defeat the District 3 champ 33-23.  They then went on to win the first five bouts against Upper Perkiomen before Mark Smith and Derek Zinck got the Indians on the board.  Northampton won four the final six bouts to advance to the finals 42-20.  Northampton had handled Connellsville back in mid-January, but this dual would be much closer.  The teams split the first four bouts, and Connellsville led 7-6.  Ryan McCallum dealt Drew Joseph his first loss of the year 5-1 at 130.  Seth Lisa, Tommy Rohn and Ryan Wasser all scored bonus points, and the Kids led 22-10.  Marty Limpar’s tech fall at 171 clinched the state title as Northampton won 31-19. 

Other February Duals

Pleasant Valley had four falls to defeat Parkland 39-20; Wilson downed Notre Dame 34-19; Freedom also had four falls to beat Blue Mountain 44-21; and Pen Argyl’s middle weights pulled away from Bangor for a 30-21 win.

Phillipsburg defeated Randolph for the 4th straight year 50-25 in the North 2 Group 4 finals.  The Stateliners defeated Hunterdon Central 38-24 to win the NJ Group 4 state dual championship.

Final league standings were as follows:

 PlaceW-L-D
East Penn
Bethlehem Catholic14-0
Dieruff23-1
Allentown Central Catholic32-2
William Allen41-3
Emmaus50-4
Colonial
Wilson111-0
Northern Lehigh210-1
Pen Argyl39-2
Bangor48-3
Notre Dame57-4
Southern Lehigh65-6
Salisbury7T4-7
Saucon Valley7T4-7
Northwestern9T3-8
Palmerton9T3-8
Northwestern9T3-8
Catasauqua120-11
Mountain Valley
Northampton1 (*)7-0
Nazareth27-0
Easton36-1
Freedom4T4-3
Liberty4T4-3
Lehighton6T3-4
Parkland6T3-4
Pleasant Valley6T3-4
East Stroudsburg9T2-5
Stroudsburg9T2-5
Pocono Mountain111-6
Whitehall120-7
(*) Won title based upon head-to-head win

League champions overall records were:  Bethlehem Catholic (8-7), Wilson (13-2) and Northampton (23-1).  Other teams with very good records were Northern Lehigh (19-2), Freedom (19-4), Bangor (18-4), Phillipsburg (18-4), Nazareth (16-4), Pen Argyl (17-5), Easton (16-5), Notre Dame (11-5), Dieruff (13-6), Lehighton (12-6) and Liberty (12-6).

District Tournaments

State Title Contender Sean Jenkins Missed the Post Season After Knee Surgery (Photo Courtesy of Parkland HS Yearbook)

Parkland’s Sean Jenkins had hoped to compete for a state title despite a torn ACL but elected to have season ending knee surgery.  Upsets were the story of Day #1 of the AAA tournament.  Liberty had two upsets of #1 seeds as Nick Silva defeated Northampton’s Brad Youwakim 3-2 in OT at 160 and Adam Jordan downed Nazareth’s Jaime Kleinle 5-2.  Nazareth’s Brett Frack upset Easton’s #1 seeded Bryan Hart 8-5 at 119.  Both Northampton and Easton advanced nine wrestlers to the semi-finals.

Phil Hard Won the AAA Heavyweight Crown (Photo Courtesy of Northampton HS Yearbook)

Northampton pulled away from Easton and the field in the semi-finals and consolations.  Ultimately, the Konkrete Kids crowned six champions and advanced a dozen wrestlers to the regionals.  Aaron Suranofsky reversed last year’s District final result by defeating Matt Ciasulli 4-3 in their ongoing rivalry at 112.  Jeremy Bucko won both his Day 2 bouts by OT including a 4-2 decision over Dieruff’s Mitch Marcks at 119.  Jeff Ecklof pinned Pottsville’s Brian Burns at 125, and Ryan McCallum edged defending District champ Christian Franco from Whitehall 6-5 at 130.  Tommy Rohn pinned Andy Ciasulli at 140 to win his 3rd District title and the Outstanding Wrestler Award.  Phil Hard was the final title winner for the Kids with a fall over Liberty’s Adam Jordan at heavyweight.  Coach Don Rohn was named Coach of the Year for the 7th time as his team won the District team title for the 6th time.

Parkland’s Paul Velekei Rides Opponent (Photo Courtesy of Parkland HS Yearbook)

In another year, Easton may have done enough to win the team title with three champs and 11 regional qualifiers.  Chad Sportelli edged Blue Mountain’s Chris Renninger 4-2 at 103; Jake Giamoni defeated Seth Lisa 8-2 at 135; and Ryan Kilpatrick beat Freedom’s John Steiner 10-5 at 160.  Pottsville’s Keith Kleckner (145), Nazareth’s Travis Frick (152), Liberty’s Brandon Mihalko (171) and Parkland’s Paul Velekei (189) rounded out the champions.

In AA, Wilson moved eight wrestlers to the semi-finals to lead the way.  Defending champ Northern Lehigh saw #1 seed Jared Herzog get caught and pinned in a headlock by Saucon Valley’s Matt Gorkos but were still in 2nd place.  North Schuylkill, Pen Argyl and Pius X rounded out the top five. 

Steve Hluschak Won the 145-Pound District Title (Photo Courtesy of Northern Lehigh HS Yearbook)

With both Wilson and Northern Lehigh advanced three wrestlers to the finals, the Bulldogs had a stronger performance in the consolation rounds and was within range.  Wilson’s Hartrum brothers split as Jeremy defeated Palisades’ Liam DeRenzis 8-3 at 103, but Justin lost to Robert Rebmann of Pen Argyl 7-2 at 112.  Saucon Valley’s Jon Severn and Tamaqua’s Matt Benza won titles at the next two weights.  Northern Lehigh’s Dean Kulp (130 – 7-3 over North Schuylkill’s Matt Edwards) and Steve Hluschak (145 – by default over Pine Grove’s Jeremiah Warner) won titles to pull the Bulldogs even closer.  Pine Grove’s Jacob Warner (135), Salisbury’s Matt Roncolato (140) and Tamaqua’s Andy Breiner (152) were crowned champions.  The team race was decided at 160 when Jim Thorpe’s Mike Wernett nipped Northern Lehigh’s Scott Horack 3-2; Wilson’s Ed Johnson then followed by defeating Salisbury’s Justin Moyer for the first time in five bouts 4-3.  Panther Valley’s Tegan McKee (189) and Palisades’ Barry Helverson (Hwt) won the final two titles.

Wilson edged Northern Lehigh by six points for the team title, and Coach Dave Crowell was named Coach of the Year.  Pine Grove’s Jacob Warner was named OW.

Regional Tournaments

In AAA, 160-pound District Champ Ryan Kilpatrick had to withdraw due to an injury.  District 11 again dominated the first day of regional action by claiming 40 of 52 semi-final slots.  Northampton advanced ten wrestlers to the semi-finals while Easton advanced seven.  The Kids would move six wrestlers into the finals while the Rovers advanced five, and there would be three head-to-head match-ups.  Ultimately, Northampton crowned four champs to win the team title with Easton finishing 2nd and Blue Mountain 3rd.

The first of the head-to-head match-ups was Ciasulli-Suranofsky VI, and it was another classic with Matt Ciasulli scoring a reversal in the ride out to win 3-1 at 112.  Jake Giamoni defeated Seth Lisa 4-1 at 135, and Tommy Rohn won 15-6 over Andy Ciasulli.  In the loaded 130-pound weight class, Gino Fortebuono pinned Ryan McCallum in the semi’s, but then lost to Whitehall’s Christian Franco 13-6 in the finals.

Matt Ciasulli & Aaron Suranofsky Had a Classic Rivalry. In the Regionals, Ciasulli Triumphed 3-1 (Photo Courtesy of Easton HS Yearbook)
Pottsville’s Keith Kleckner Won the 145-Pound Regional Title (Photo Courtesy of Pottsville HS Yearbook)

A.J. Bucko and Jeff Ecklof won rematches and close bouts against Mitch Marcks and Brian Burns, respectively, by scores of 4-3 and 5-4 while Phil Hard was the Kids’ 4th champ.  Easton’s additional champ was Chad Sportelli at 103.  Pottsville’s Keith Kleckner won at 145 before Pittston’s Wooddall brothers – Jason and James – claimed the 152 and 160-pound titles.  Liberty’s Brandon Mihalko and Blue Mountain’s Matt Feast won the final two crowns.  District XI claimed 32 of 39 state qualifiers.

In AA, District 11 again traveled north – this time to Hazelton to compete in the Northeast Regional against Districts 2 and 4.  Northern Lehigh led all teams with five semi-finalists while Pen Argyl and Tamaqua each had three.  The locals would fare better in Year 2 against Districts 2 and 4 by claiming the most state qualifiers with 29 and tieing District 4 in gold medals with six.  Wyalussing would again win the team title, but Northern Lehigh finished 2nd

Wilson’s Jeremy Hartrum defeated Northern Lehigh’s Jared Herzog in double OT 3-1 at 103 while Pen Argyl’s Robert Rebmann beat Justin Herzog 5-3 at 112.  Tamaqua had two champions who both won by fall in Matt Benza (125) and Andy Breiner (152).  Salisbury’s Matt Roncolato also scored a fall to win the 140-pouind title, and Northern Lehigh’s Scott Horack gained revenge against Jim Thorpe’s Mike Wernett 3-1 at 160.

PIAA State Championships

Jeff Ecklof Had a Great Run to the State Finals (Photo Courtesy of Northampton HS Yearbook)

Nineteen AAA District XI wrestlers were able to win their first round bouts and advance to the quarterfinals, including six from Northampton, four from Easton and three from Blue Mountain.  Eleven wrestlers including all three at 130 advanced to the semi-finals, but District XI could easily have had four more – who all lost by 2 points or less or in overtime.  In the semi-finals, Northampton advanced three wrestlers – Jeff Ecklof, Ryan McCallum (who nipped Christian Franco 2-1) and Tommy Rohn.  Easton’s Matt Ciasulli and Jake Giamoni won their bouts along with Liberty’s Brandon Mihalko and Parkland’s Paul Velekei.  In the finals, Ciasulli got the locals off to a great start by shutting out West Alleghney’s Chris Lape 5-0.  Freshman Jeff Ecklof’s amazing post-season run ended with a tough 5-3 OT loss to Connellsville’s Ron Doppelhauer.  Ryan McCallum and Jake Giamoni scored solid wins to give District XI three champs with three more wrestlers to go.  Unfortunately, three successive heartbreaking overtime ride out losses ensued.  Northampton’s Tommy Rohn lost 1-1 / rideout to State College’s Nathan Galloway; Brandon Mihalko lost 7-6; and Paul Velekei fell to Cumberland Valley’s Jon Sauve 2-1.

Ryan McCallum Won the 130-Pound State Title (Photo Courtesy of Northampton HS Yearbook)

Northampton had an outstanding state tournament setting a state record with 8 place winners as the Kids won the team title for the 5th time, and Don Rohn was named Coach of the Year for the 4th time.  In addition to their three finalists, Aaron Suranofsky (112), Seth Lisa (135), Marty Limpar (171) & Phil Hard (275) were 3rd while Brad Youwakim (160) was 6th.  Easton finished a solid 2nd and probably would have won the team title in just about any other year.  In addition to their two champs, Chad Sportelli (103), Gino Fortebuono (130) and Andy Ciasulli (140) all finished 4th.  Other placers from District XI included Blue Mountains’s Chris Renninger (103 – 5th), Southern Lehigh’s Bryan Rizzo (112 – 7th), Stroudsburg’s Joey Rivera (119 – 8th) & Mike Yetter (275 – 8th), Whitehall’s Christian Franco (130 – 3rd), Nazareth’s Travis Frick (152 – 4th).

Above – A few of the Area’s AAA State Placers Seth Lisa, Brad Youwakim of Northampton & Travis Frick of Nazareth (Photos from Northampton HS & Nazareth HS Yearbooks)

Sixteen local wrestlers won to advance to the AA quarterfinals including three from each of Northern Lehigh and Pen Argyl.  Notre Dame’s 5th place regional placer, Kevin Patton scored a big upset by pinning Southeast Regional champ Mitch Naugle with a headlock at 152.  On Day 2, ten District XI wrestlers won their quarterfinal bouts, including Patton who won 6-5. Three locals were able to advance to the finals – Northern Lehigh’s Jared Herzog won 5-4 at 103, but saw his twin brother Justin lose to unbeaten Glenn Sample of Saegerstown 5-4 at 112.  Robert Rebmann won in overtime to advance to face Sample in the 112-pound final.  Salisbury’s Matt Roncolato defeated Northwestern’s Zach Wehr 9-4 to set up a rematch with Brandywine’s Joe Lovello at 140.  All three local finalists won their bouts to claim state titles.  Herzog defeated Burrell’s Joe Makara 4-3.  Rebmann went into overtime for the 3rd time and converted a takedown to win 3-1.  Roncolato scored three takedowns to defeat Lovello 8-5. 

Salisbury’s Matt Roncolato Won 1 of 3 AA Titles (Photo Courtesy of Salisbury HS Yearbook)

Northern Lehigh finished 3rd in the team standings while Pen Argyl was 6th.  For the Bulldogs, Justin Herzog was 4th at 112; Steve Hluschak was 3rd at 145; and Scott Horack was 6th at 160.  Place winners included Palisades’ Liam Derenzis (103 – 8th), Saucon Valley’s Jon Severn (119 – 3rd), Pen Argyl’s Ryan Williams (125 – 4th) & Jared Drosnock (135 – 4th), Tamaqua’s Matt Benza (125 – 5th) & Andy Breiner (152 – 3rd), North Schuylkill’s Matt Edwards (130 – 7th), Pine Grove’s Jacob Warner (135 – 5th), Northwestern’s Zach Wehr (140 – 3rd), Notre Dame’s Kevin Patton (152 – 6th) and Jim Thorpe’s Mike Wernett (160 – 4th),  

Phillipsburg Post-Season

Phillipsburg won its 8th straight NJ District 1 team titles with an amazing ten champs – Trevor Duddy (103), Justin Koeller (125), Mike Fania (130), Frank Stillo (135), James Allen (140), Dave Post (145), Dale Rismiller (160), Craig Kempinski (171), Rob Santini (215) and Chauncey Levisay (275).

In the Region 1 Championships, after such a strong district performance, unfortunately none of the ‘Liners won championships.  In the NJ state championship, Mike Fania finished 6th.

In the Challenge of Champions Class AA again defeated Class AAA 28-22.  Six wrestlers from District XI (5 in AA and 1 in AAA) participated.  For the winning squad, Pen Argyl’s Robert Rebmann won by decision while teammate Jared Drosnock had a fall.  Tamaqua’s Andy Breiner pinned Pittston’s Jason Wooddall and was named Outstanding Wrestler.  Northampton’s Ryan McCallum won 3-1 at 130. Salisbury’s Matt Roncolato and Jim Thorpe’s Mike Wernett both dropped decisions.

 In the Easton Lions Classic, the New Jersey Team triumphed over the Pennsylvania Team 39-21 in a match that featured six state champs.  PA state champs Robert Rebmann, Ryan McCallum and Matt Roncolato all won.  In the feature bout, NJ 3rd place finisher Justin Lijo decisioned Jake Giamoni 9-6 in an exciting bout. 

The Pennsylvania wrestlers defeated the US Team 34-12 in the Dapper Dan Classic.  Four local wrestlers competed with three winning.  Robert Rebmann completed his post-season meet trifecta with a 10-4 decision; Jake Giamoni won by major decision; and Matt Roncolato defeated a 4-time Oklahoma state champ 4-3.  Ryan McCallum lost his bout at 130.

Coach Don Rohn & Going Out on Top

Don Rohn was a dominant wrestler in high school at Hellertown/Saucon Valley and in college at Clarion State.  He won two PA state titles, an NCAA title and was a three-time All-American.  Not all outstanding wrestlers make the transition to be an outstanding coach, but Don Rohn certainly did.  With a passion, intensity and dedication, Coach Rohn took two programs – Hazleton and Northampton – to heights not previously seen in the schools’ history.

Photo from Clarion State Wrestling Guide

During his eighteen-year career as the head coach at Northampton, the Kids:

  • Were 309-59 in duals;
  • Won 11 conference titles (8 EPC & 3 MVC);
  • Won 5 District XI Duals Championships & 1 State Duals Championship;
  • Won 6 District XI individual tournament team titles and were 2nd five times;
  • Won 6 Northeast Regional Team Titles;
  • Won 5 Team State Titles;
  • Won 2 national championships & 5 public school national championships;
  • Had 51 District, 35 Regional and 8 State Champs;
  • Had 39 State Place Winners; and
  • Saw Coach Rohn named District Coach of the Year 7 times & State Coach of the Year 4 times.

At Hazleton, Rohn took a team that had not had much success in the Schuylkill League and immediately made then a contender.  In five years at Hazleton, Coach Rohn’s teams were 83-17 in duals, ended North Schuylkill’s 127-match Schuylkill League winning streak and won two league titles.  He had 2 District Champs, and Hazleton finished 2nd in the District and Northeast Regional Championships in 1982.

Don Rohn has continued to support wrestlers and the wrestling community by serving as assistant coach at Northampton and Saucon Valley.

Coach Rohn and the 2000 Kids had a tremendous season.  During the final stretches of the dual season and the post season, they were dominant as their Coach finishing his head coaching career in a much deserved way – “Going Out on Top”!

1999-2000 Konkrete Kids (Photo Courtesy of Northampton HS Yearbook)