|Programs Started (Coach):||Bethlehem Freedom (Jim McIntyre)|
|Notable Coaching Changes:||John Maitland --> Bob Zarbatany (Easton)|
|Robert Yavorski - Notre Dame --> Neshaminy|
|Added to East Penn League:||Freedom|
|Added to Lehigh-Northampton:||Pocono Mountain & Salisbury|
|East Penn League Champion:||Phillipsburg (9-0)|
|LVIAA League Champion:||Emmaus & Northampton Tie (5-1)|
|Lehigh-Northampton League Champion:||Nazareth (11-0)|
|District Champion:||Nazareth (4 Champions, 1 Runner-up)|
|Regionals:||District XI 7 Total Champs in a Row 127-180|
|Easton (3 Champions)|
|Individual State Champions:||Craig Fox, 133, Easton|
|Dan Newhard, 180, Dieruff|
|Other Milestones:||Bethlehem splits into two schools: Liberty & Freedom|
With Bethlehem splitting into two public high schools, there was some dilution of talent as athletes moved from Liberty to Freedom. For the second time, a defending state champion changed schools and as a result as Randy Biggs moved to Freedom. The loss of Biggs along with John Strohl has Liberty in a rebuilding mode in the East Penn League along with Allen who graduated many of its key starters including state champ Geoff Baum. EPL defending champ, Phillipsburg was loaded returning Maury Mascari, Jack Thompson, Bob Zaro amongst others. Easton was also expected to contend under new coach Bob Zarbatany while Tony Iaseillo’s Bethlehem Catholic squad returned eight starters.
In the Lehigh-Northampton League, perennial favorites, Hellertown and Nazareth both returned five starters while Wilson had ten wrestlers with varsity experience back.
In the Lehigh Valley League, three-time champion Northampton, last year’s co-champion Stroudsburg and Emmaus all returned a group of starters. Veterans Harry Wall and Bill Krebs led Northampton and Emmaus, respectively, while Stroudsburg had a new coach in Chet Dalgewicz.
Regular Season Highlights
The 1967-68 wrestling season began with two exciting non-league matches on December 1, 1967. With many new faces in the lineup for both teams, it was hard to determine what to expect. After five bouts Hellertown and Liberty were locked in an 8-8 tie. That’s when Larry Mele’s pin gave the Panthers a lead that they would not surrender. John Zenz (138) and Dave Green (165) both registered key decisions that were just enough for Coach Charlie Bartolet’s squad to win their opener 21-19 over the Hurricanes.
The same night, Parkland roared out to a 16-7 lead at the halfway point on the strength of Stoss’ pin at 95, three decisions and a draw. Emmaus’ Leigh Rockwell and Joe Schantz scored back-to-back falls to pull the Hornets ahead 18-16. Emmaus won to close decisions. The Trojans managed a draw at 180 and pin at heavyweight, but it wasn’t enough. Coach Bill Krebs’ team triumphed 26-23.
More openers followed the next evening as the Freedom Patriots made their debut in a non-league bout and thrashed Hazleton 45-9. Defending state champ Randy Biggs had a fall at 103. Wilson won 7 of the first 8 bouts and then added another fall and decision to register an easy 34-15 win over Notre Dame.
On December 4th, Nazareth hosted Northampton in a tough non-league match which featured four lead changes. The first five bouts were all decided by decisions with Nazareth winning three to lead 9-6. Rick Spangler’s pin of Craig Reimer at 133 gave the Kids a 12-9 lead. The teams traded decisions, and then Andy Nordquist’s pin of Craig Fogel at 154 put the Kids ahead 20-12. The Blue Eagles’ Pete Topping won a 12-0 decision, and Carmen Cortez won by fall to tie the match at 20. John Doto was the hero scoring a 4-1 decision over Steve Fedorek to give Nazareth a 23-20 win.
League competition began in the Lehigh-Northampton League on December 7th. Hellertown registered three pins in a 33-13 win over Parkland but showed a little vulnerability up top losing the last two bouts by fall. Nazareth shut out Pen Argyl 42-0 while Wilson routed East Stroudsburg 36-6. Northwestern, Pocono Mountain and Southern Lehigh all won their league openers.
In the EPL, Allen and Liberty faced off. John Filipos had a fall at 112 as Liberty won three of the first five bouts to lead 11-6. The Canaries went on a five match run, winning all by decisions, to hold a healthy 21-11 lead heading into the final two bouts. Larry Schroeder and John Barthol both scored second period falls to make the final score a 21-21 draw. Bethlehem Catholic showed its strength by winning nine bouts on their way to a 31-8 win over Neshaminy. The Dieruff Huskies scored six falls as they downed Notre Dame 42-11.
A few nights later, Dieruff trailed 15-3 at the halfway point, but rallied to sweep the final six bouts including falls by Bill Gilly (154) , Jim Hadeed (165) and Gary Ward (Hwt) to down Neshaminy 28-15. Easton opened their season and showed balance throughout its lineup to trip Pennsbury 32-8.
Although it was unknown at the time, a non-league match on December 9th would ultimately decide who the best team in the Lehigh Valley was in 1967-68. Phillipsburg visited Nazareth to wrestle before 1,200 fans. Coach Thad Turner’s strong lightweights scored three falls – Bob Jiorle (95), Maury Mascari (127) and Jack Thompson (133) – as the Stateliners built a 22-5 lead. After a draw at 138, Terry Rissmiller and Pete Topping scored decisions sandwiched around Bob Zaro’s 7-0 win. With two bouts to go P-Burg held an insurmountable 27-13 lead. John Doto scored a fall at heavyweight to narrow the final score to 30-18.
The same day, Wilson and Northampton matched up in another challenging non-league bout. Wilson started quickly and built a 14-3 lead, including Tony Lutri’s pin at 112. But the Kids middleweights rallied by winning the next four bouts including close decisions by Rich Spengler (133) and Bruce Miller (145), a disqualification win by Dudley Mann (138) and finally a fall by Charlie Nordquist (154). Northampton led 20-14 with three bouts remaining. Coach Al Zarbatany’s team strung together three decisions by Bob Stoneback, Bob Kilpatrick and Willie Saloky to complete the comeback and triumph 23-20.
Easton picked up their 2nd EPL win by defeating Freedom 28-13. A Randy Biggs’ pin at 103 and roger Washburn and Bob Pratt battling to a draw had Freedom ahead 10-8 after the 127 pound bout. But, it would be the last time Freedom would lead as the Rovers won six of the remaining seven bouts on their way to a 28-13 victory. Craig Fox and Barry Snyder started the rally and Ron Queen added a fall at 165.
On December 14th, the LVL kicked off their league action. Northampton easily topped Lehighton 30-15 to win their first match of the year after two tough non-league losses. Emmaus registered five falls in handling Catasauqua 38-14 while Stroudsburg won easily over Slatington 47-3.
The EPL was also back in action. Dieruff was no match for Phillipsburg before a “capacity crowd of 1,500 at P-Burg” per The Morning Call. The Stateliners won lopsided decisions in almost all the matches from 95-165 including Jack Thompson’s fall at 133. The Huskies could only manage a win by Dan Newhard at 180 and two draws. Allen got rolling early against Pennsbury and held their own in the middle and upperweights on their way to a 26-17 win. Benton, Lederer, Freeman and Franco all won decisions to pace Allen to a 12-0 start. Lastly, the Liberty Hurricanes registered their first win of the year by easily beating Notre Dame 34-15. Alex Ramos (95), Steve Armstrong (103), Steve Filipos (112), Matt Marino (165) and Bart Barthol (Hwt) all had falls for Liberty.
The LNL continued with mostly lopsided dual results: Hellertown 44-6 over Palisades, Nazareth 44-0 over Salisbury, Parkland 40-8 over Northwestern, Southern Lehigh with 11 falls 64-0 over Bangor and Wilson 35-3 over Pocono Mountain. Only the East Stroudsburg-Pen Argyl bout was competitive. East Stroudsburg strung together four wins early and then three of four from 145-180 including Darr’s winning 5-0 decision at 180 to win 25-23.
Jim Thorpe, competing in the Tri-Valley League, got Coach Angie Konstas his first win 29-26 over West Hazleton.
Two nights later Allen, on the strength of falls by Tony Franco (120), Gary Rhiel (165) and Chris Nagle (Hwt), downed Neshaminy 29-18. Bethlehem Catholic held the lead on multiple occasions, but Pennsbury kept coming back. Three pins by Chichowsky (133), Dadknyna (145) and Orwig (180) were the difference as Pennsbury dealt Becahi their first loss of the year 23-22.
Easton continued to flex their muscles, winning all but one bout, to rout Wilson 39-6. They then followed by winning a league bout at Dieruff 27-17. Ed Gigliotti (95) and Bob Pratt (127) had falls for the victors. Dan Howard upset Craig Fox at 133 by a 4-2 score. Bethlehem Catholic bounced back to defeat Freedom 30-15 before a 1,000 fans in the Hawks gym. Becahi had four falls – Tom Sculley (95), Pat Fenton (133), Greg Karabin (154) and Mike Lawler (180) – in the victory.
The unbeaten kept on rolling in the EPL. Phillipsburg continued to have sellout crowds at home as they routed Liberty 34-9. Bob Jiorle (95) and Henry Kels (180) had falls. Allen improved to 3-0-1 by defeating Notre Dame 34-15. Stan Benton (95), Tony Franco (120) and John Franco (138) stayed unbeaten and scored falls for the host Canaries.
In the LNL, two of the “Big 3” matched up on December 21st as Hellertown and Wilson faced each other. Mike Mauer had a come from behind win to top Dale King 6-4 at 103 sandwiched around two draws. Charlie Kneller (120) and Ollie Neith (127) both won one point decisions followed by another draw. The Panthers led 15-6 at the halfway point. Hellertown won three more bouts in a row including John Zenz’s default win at 138 and another one point win by Hayes at 154. Wilson won the final three bouts by decision, but it was too late as Hellertown triumphed 26-15.
Nazareth shut out Bangor 58-0 to remain in a tie for first. Salisbury earned their win by beating East Stroudsburg 31-10. Palisades downed Northwestern 30-23 and Pocono Mountain and Pen Argyl tied at 20-20.
Over in the LVL, defending co-champs Stroudsburg and Northampton before 900 fans. The host Kids were never in the match. Stroudsburg led 8-2 after three bouts and then got falls from Dan Moyer and Paul Lesoine to lead 18-2 and never looked back. Northampton was only able to win two bouts and Stroudsburg got two more falls from Van Buskirk (138) and Neyhart (165) to win going away 38-10. Emmaus continued their winning ways by rallying to win the last three bouts to defeat Lehighton 25-18. The match was decided on an illegal slam in the heavyweight bout with Bob Romig being injured and winning by disqualification over Ray Heiser. Whitehall’s Roger Derr won 7-6 at heavyweight on riding time in the final bout to triumph 23-22 over Catasauqua.
Host Pennsbury had three falls and defeated Notre Dame 35-10 on December 23rd. The same day Easton hosted Hunterdon Central. Easton went 6-1-1 in the first eight bouts as Ed Gigiliotti, Chico Lutes, Bob Pratt, Craig Fox, Barry Snyder and Bob Holmes all won by decision to lead 20-5. Hunterdon Central roared back with a decision and two falls to narrow the gap to 20-18. Phil Noto and Mike Villano took the mat to decide the bout at heavyweight. Noto battled Villano to a 1-1 draw to preserve Easton’s unbeaten record 22-20.
The same day there an article about the East Penn Midget Wrestling League’s appeared in The Morning Call. In a foreshadowing of what was to come in later years, Hellertown won the team title as names like Chunko, Lechner, Rohn, Underkoffler,and Travisano appeared in the finals summary.
The second annual Easton Holiday Wresting Tourney was held with Bound Brook, Dieruff, host Easton,Manheim, Neshaminy, Notre Dame, Upper Darby and Wilson competing. Paced by champions – Ed Gigliotti (95), Chico Lutes (103), Craig Fox (133), Bob Holmes (145) and Phil Noto (Hwt) – the Rovers easily won the team title. The other local teams struggled and finished 6th, 7th and 8th in Dieruff (Dan Newhard champ at 180), Notre Dame (Lou Blatnik and Mike Daniczek champs) and Wilson (no finalists).
Bethlehem Catholic traveled to Flemington NJ and again competed in the Hunterdon Central Invitational Tournament. Bethlehem Catholic had three finalists with Mike Fenton (127) winning and Greg Karabin (154) and John Gasdaska (Hwt) finishing as runners-up. The Hawks also had four 3rd place and four 4th place finishers.
The New Year began with Phillipsburg visiting perennial NJ power, Hunterdon Central. The Stateliners roared out to a 21-0 lead by winning the first seven bouts. Hunterdon Central would win all but one of the final five bouts. That win, 3-0, by Bob Zaro proved to be the clincher as Phillipsburg won 24-14.
With a three pound weight allowance and Randy Biggs dropping to 95, Freedom never trailed Neshaminy. Al Snellman won by default at 145, and Mike Hancz had a fall at 165 to lead the Patriots to a 27-14 win.
One night later, Easton got three falls – Ed Gigliotti (95), Bob Holmes (145) and Ron Queen (154) – on their way to a 32-14 win over Liberty. In a key match up Chico Lutes edged John Filipos 8-5. Phillipsburg continued their winning ways, scoring seven falls, to defeat Notre Dame 43-9.
In the LVL, Northampton bounced back from its pre-Xmas loss to Stroudsburg and dealt Emmaus its first loss 26-15. Edgar Balliet (127) and Charlie Nordquist (154) scored falls for the Kids. Whitehall led Slatington 18-9 with three bouts to go, but Slatington got pins from Williams Rettew and Larry Bleiler to lead 20-18. Roger Derr was again the hero by scoring a 7-0 decision to give Whitehall the 21-20 win. Lehighton downed Catasauqua 30-15.
Another round of lopsided scores took place in the LNL. Nazareth won 9 of 12 decisions in downing Parkland 27-9. Hellertown had little trouble with Pen Argyl 33-13. East Stroudsburg, Pocono Mountain, Southern Lehigh and Wilson also won.
On January 6th, Bethlehem Catholic had falls from Tom Sculley (95) and Mike Foley (120) while Mike Fenton had a big win over Dan Howard 8-4, and Becahi led 15-5. After trading decisions over the next four bouts, they still held a 21-11 lead. Jim Hadeed’s come from behind fall at 165 and Dan Newhard’s 9-1 decision at 180 pulled the Huskies within two at 21-19. Gary Ward took the mat and pinned John Gadaska to give the Huskies a 24-21 victory.
Two nights later, Hellertown continued its winning ways going 6-0 on the year and now holding a 16 match unbeaten streak. The Panthers easily handled Northampton 27-11. The match only featured one pin by the Kids’ Steve Fedorak (Hwt), and Hellertown won 9 of the 11 remaining bouts by decision. In another non-league bout, Whitehall heavyweight Roger Derr did it again this time with a fall to punctuate the Zephyrs coming back from a 24-9 deficit to win 26-24.
Both Phillipsburg and Allen had great success jumping out to leads due to their strong lower weights, and the two unbeaten in the EPL met on January 11th. Undefeated Bob Jiorle and Stan Benton battled to a 4-4 draw to start the match. Bill Cavanaugh’s pin and Jim Mangino’s decision put P-Burg ahead 11-2. Tony Franco briefly interrupted with an 11-1 decision, but Maury Mascari’s late takedown of Jim Siminelli re-established the Stateliners’ momentum. Jack Thompson pinned John Franco at 133 for a 21-7 lead. Allen would win four of the final six bouts, but Don Jessamine’s decision at 145 and Bob Zaro’s fall at 154 were more than enough for a 30-19 win, P-Burg’s 18th in a row.
Easton kept pace by easily defeating Notre Dame 44-8 on six pins. The Morning call noted that “Lutes, a sophomore, who has won about 90 straight bouts since starting to wrestle in CYO competition” had one of those falls. Bob Pratt and Lou Blatnick tied 2-2 at 127. Bethlehem Catholic went 4-1-1 in the middleweights as Pat Fenton and Greg Karabin both scored falls against Liberty. After a draw at 165, Becahi held a 21-14 lead. Liberty won the final two bouts, but couldn’t get the fall they needed to win. Freedom won six of seven bouts from 103 to 145, and Balluff decisioned Lindenmuth 3-2 at heavyweight as Freedom edged Pennsbury 23-18.
Hellertown and Nazareth kept rolling in the LNL winning 45-3 over Salisbury and 37-11 Palisades, respectively. Wilson also downed Southern Lehigh 34-9. Pen Argyl, Parkland and Pocono Mountain also won. The league leaders were Hellertown and Nazareth each at 5-0 while Wilson was 4-1 and Pocono Mountain 3-1-1.
In the LVL, Stroudsburg sat tied with Whitehall atop the league standings at 2-0, but Emmaus had other ideas. Stroudsburg had a pin to start the bout, but Emmaus won the next two including Jack Nonnemacher’s fall at 112. After a Mounts’ decision, Emmaus reeled off six wins in a row bookended by Ron Valli’s and Dave Steiner’s falls as the Hornets won 32-17. Northampton upended Whitehall 33-17 on the strength of five pins, including three to start the match. Slatington rallied from a 20-15 deficit and won the final three bouts to defeat Catasauqua 28-20. The results left Emmaus, Northampton, Stroudsburg and Whitehall all battling for the league title with one loss each.
On January 13th, Dieruff traveled to Pottstown to battle Hill School. The Huskies opened a 21-3 lead before Hill School won three matches in a row to close the gap to 21-12, but Coach King had Dan Newhard and Gary Ward waiting in the wings. They both registered falls for a 31-12 win.
On January 17th, the most anticipated bout of the year took place as Phillipsburg visited Easton. The Morning Call reported that Easton A.D. John Maitland reported adding 300 seats to increase capacity for the match to 2,300. Both teams were undefeated and loaded with talented underclassmen. Bob Jiorle blanked Ed Gigliotti 4-0 at 95, but Chico Lutes’ fall put Easton in the lead 5-3. Jim Mangino nipped Kurt Weaver 2-0 and Maury Mascari blanked Terry Gibson 5-0 to put P-Burg back in the lead at 9-5. Once again, Easton answered back winning three matches in a row as Bob Pratt, Craig Fox and Barry Snyder all scored decisions for a 14-9 Rover lead. Don Jessamine dealt Bob Holmes his first loss of the year 10-0. Henry Keis and Bob Zaro swapped spots at 154 and 165, and it paid off as Keis won by decision and Zaro downed tough Ron Queen 10-1. P-Burg had opened an 18-14 lead. That’s when unheralded senior Tom Bakely took the mat against Joe Parsons at 180 and scored an 8-4 win to clinch the match. Per The Morning Call “when referee Dick Santoro raised Bakely’s hand in victory, pandemonium brook loose in the gym…” Phil Noto added a decision, but it was too late and the Stateliners sat alone at the top of the EPL standings after a 21-17 win.
The same night, Dieruff again rallied in the upperweights. After trailing 14-9, the Huskies won five in a row again punctuated by pins from Dan Newhard and Gary Ward to down Pennsbury 28-14. Bethlehem Catholic easily defeated Notre Dame 48-6, but the Crusaders’ Lou Blatnick did defeat Mike Fenton 2-1 in a marquee match up. Freedom also surprised Allen 30-12 as the Patriot lightweights got the better of the Canaries and then they were able to pull away in the middleweights.
Emmaus stayed in the LVL hunt by upending Whitehall 33-11. Northampton started fast with three consecutive falls to defeat Slatington 37-17. Stroudsburg who had opened an 11-6 lead after four bouts saw its lead fade to 21-19 after Lehighton went 2-0-1 at 154-165-180. Heavyweight Keenhold won a close 7-5 decision to keep the Mounts in the race with a 24-19 win. It was now a three-team race.
Nazareth got over a hurdle in their quest for a LNL title as they beat Wilson 30-12. The Warriors put a scare into the Blue Eagles by winning three of the first 4 bouts to lead 9-3, but Nazareth answered with falls from Pelz and Reimer and never looked back. Hellertown also stayed unbeaten as they beat Bangor 50-5. Parkland won a very competitive bout with Pocono Mountain 22-20. Palisades, Pen Argyl and Salisbury also won.
On January 20th, Liberty traveled to Langhorne to battle Neshaminy in an EPL meet. The Redskins led 8-5 after four bouts including S. Senior’s 4-2defeat of John Filipos. Neshaminy then had four wins in a row to open up a 20-5 lead. The Hurricanes battled back winning three of the final four bouts but fell 23-16.
Bethlehem Catholic, on its way to its best record since starting wrestling, easily downed Northampton 40-9 winning 10 of 12 bouts. Becahi improved to 8-2 as a team and Tom Sculley and Greg Karabin remained undefeated in dual meets.
Neshaminy won their 2nd EPL meet by defeating Notre Dame 32-21 in a bout that featured seven falls.
The big match up in the LNL was scheduled for January 25th as Hellertown visited Nazareth. Coach Ray Nunamaker’s Blue Eagles won two or the first three bouts to lead 8-2. Rich Albert upset previously unbeaten Mike Staffieri 6-1 at 95, and Frank Stampf tied Mike Mauerer at 103. Hellertown strung together four wins in a row from 120 to 138 to lead 14-8, but Coach Charlie Bartolet probably thought he’d have a bigger lead…and, he needed it. Terry Rismiller won a 6-0 decision at 145 and sparked a streak of five wins in a row punctuated by John Doto’s pin at heavyweight to wrap up a 25-14 win. It was Nazareth’s first win over Hellertown since the 1961-62 season and all but assured Coach Nunamaker and the Blue Eagles of their first outright LNL title.
In the remaining LNL slate, there were actually a series of close matches. Parkland defeated Pen Argyl 26-18 as Frank Wirth and Randy Poole both scored falls in the final two bouts. Pocono Mountain trailed Southern Lehigh 22-12 after nine bouts, but won the final three bouts including two by fall to triumph 26-22. With a fall in the final match, Palisades nipped Salisbury 26-23. Wilson beat Bangor 48-3, and East Stroudsburg downed Northwestern 38-17.
Phillipsburg continued its domination in the EPL by easily defeating Bethlehem Catholic 31-9 in a match where strength matched up with strength and the Stateliners won the battle. At 95, Bob Jiorle decisioned Tom Sculley 14-8 and Maury Mascari pinned Mike Foley at 120. Both Fentons lost to Storm and Jack Thompson. Bob Zaro defeated Greg Karabin 5-2 at 154.
The same night Easton and Allen locked up. Stan Benton edged Ed Gigliotti 3-1 in the opening bout. Easton’s Chico Lutes and Kurt Weaver answered back with falls, and Bob Pratt handled Tony Franco 10-3 at 127. Easton led 16-5, but Craig Fox was injured and had to default. After a Barry Snyder decision, Allen and a draw between Hoffman and Bob Holmes at 145, Allen won the next two bouts to narrow the score to 21-18. Ron Queen bumped up to 180 and defeated John Bartges 9-0, and Phil Noto won by fall over Chris Nagle to make the final score 29-18 Rovers.
The same night, Dieruff triumphed over Freedom 27-17. Dan Howard pinned former teammate Roger Washburn at 127, Howard Farmer won be default at 138 and Jim Hadeed won by fall at 165 for the Huskies. Liberty was able to get a 2-1 decision from Bart Barthol at heavyweight in the deciding match to nip Pennsbury 21-18.
In the LVL, Emmaus doubled Slatington 28-14 to clinch a tie for the league title. Stroudsburg stayed in the hunt by beating Catasauqua 37-7 while Northampton won a non-league bout against Allentown Central Catholic 52-2. Lehighton also moved past Whitehall 39-8.
On January 27th, Allen became the third local team to challenge Hunterdon Central. The Canaries built a huge lead 21-5, but the Red Devils won the last five bouts to triumph 27-21. Phillipsburg continued their march to an EPL title by defeating Freedom 31-8. Several interesting bouts took place. Defending state champ, Randy Biggs was held to a 2-2 draw by Gary DeAlmo, and Don Jessamine blanked Al Snellman 2-0.
Northampton built leads of 9-0, 12-9 and 15-12, only to fall behind 21-15 entering the final bout. The Kids needed a 1st period fall to win, and Steve Ferorak won 14-0 but could not gain the fall as Northampton lost 21-18. In the 138 pound match, 39 points were tallied as the Kids’ Dudley Mann fell to John Benedict 21-18.
On the last day of January, Phillipsburg wrapped up at least a tie for the EPL title when they beat Neshaminy 33-16. In a much more competitive bout, Easton and Bethlehem Catholic were in a back and forth match with five lead changes. Tom Sculley defeated Ed Gigliotti 14-4 to open the match. Easton answered as Chico Lutes scored a decision and Kurt Weaver scored another fall. After Becahi’s Mike Foley won by forfeit, Mike Fenton and Bob Pratt drew; Pat Fenton’s won by decision at 133. Barry Snyder and Bob Holmes won by decision to move Easton back into the lead. Greg Karabin’s fall tied things up at 17, before trading decisions at 165 (Easton’s Ron Queen) and 180 (Becahi’s Mike Lawler). With the match tied at 20, Phil Noto took the mat and edged John Gasdaska 3-2 to give the Rovers a 23-20 victory.
In the LNL, it was back to winning by wide margins. League leader Nazareth easily beat Northwestern 46-3. Hellertown, Parkland, Wilson, Pen Argyl and Pocono Mountain all registered victories by at least 25 points.
On February 1st, intracity rivalries were center stage as Allen vs. Dieruff and Liberty vs. Freedom were on the schedule. After seven bouts, Allen had edged Dieruff 4-3 in wins, but Collidge Ringer (120) and Kenny Miller (138) scored falls to give the Canaries a 16-9 lead. According to The Morning Call, Allen was favored in each of the next two bouts and both Huskies were trailing, but Barry Trexler pinned Wayne Hoffman and Bill Gilly defeated John Bartges 4-2. Dieruff led 18-16, but Allen’s Rhiel won a decision to give Allen the lead again. Dieruff hammers, Dan Newhard and Gary Ward, were waiting in the wings. Newhard scored a fall and Ward shut out Chris Nagle as the Huskies won 25-19.
Freedom visited Liberty before 1,500 fans in Memorial Gym. After trading decisions early on, Freedom won four bouts in a row punctuated by Al Snellman’s fall at 145 as the Patriots led 17-9. Coach Frank Gutierrez’s squad was not done as they won three bouts in a row including a default win by Gottwald at 165 to take the lead at 20-17. Randy Bailuff decisioned Matt Marino 4-0, and the match ended in a 20-20 tie.
The same night, Stroudsburg and Northampton joined Emmaus at 5-1 in the LVL by defeating Whitehall 43-10 and Catasauqua 29-11, respectively. Stroudsburg had six falls in their win while the Kids’ Rick Spengler (138) kept his unbeaten record intact. Lehighton downed Slatington 29-14. Emmaus, Northampton and Stroudsburg ended in a three-way tie for the Lehigh Valley League title.
Two days later, Easton won five of the first six bouts against Hill School, only surrendering a fall to defending National Prep School Champ Kit Kuntz (120) to lead 15-5. The teams split the last six bouts, and Phil Noto’s fall at heavyweight was a fitting exclamation point to the Rovers’ 29-14. Easton stood 10-1 overall with four unbeaten wrestlers in dual meets – Chico Lutes, Bob Pratt, Barry Snyder and Phil Noto.
The leading teams in the LNL continued their winning ways. Nazareth topped Pocono Mountain 38-3 while Hellertown handled Northwestern 46-8. Wilson whipped Salisbury 44-2. Pen Argyl defeated Palisades 30-16 with Palisades Keith Ernst moving to 12-0 with a pin. East Stroudsburg clipped Southern Lehigh 31-19.
Phillipsburg remained unbeaten by more than doubling up North Hunterdon 32-15. Bob Jiorle (95), Bob Zaro (154) and Henry Kels (180) all scored falls for the Stateliners.
On February 5th, Dieruff traveled to Hellertown and won four of the first six bouts to open up a 12-8 lead. Dan Howard had a key 6-4 win over tough Ollie Neath at 127. Hellertown rallied to win decisions in the next three matches to take a 17-12 lead, but as they had done many times during the season, Dieruff’s upper weights rallied. Jim Hadeed, Dan Newhard and Gary Ward all won decisions, and Coach Dick King’s Huskies won their sixth straight match by a 21-17 score.
Easton visited Kingston, PA to match up District II power, Wyoming Valley West. The Rovers won the close matches, got a fall from Bob Pratt, and Phil Noto’s 4-1 decision in the final match clinched a 25-18 win.
On February 8th, Phillipsburg won their 4th East Penn League title in the past five years by defeating Pennsbury 30-12. Bob Jiorle (95) and Henry Kels (154) scored the only fall of the match. Bob Zaro bumped all the way up to 180 and dropped a 5-4 decision to Tom Orwig in an otherwise happy night for Coach Thad Turner and his team. Freedom got falls from Lano (95), Randy Biggs (103), Roger Washburn (133) and Al Snellman (154) all had falls as Freedom downed Notre Dame 35-13.
Liberty roared out to a 16-0 lead against Dieruff after four bouts, before Dan Howard’s 8-0 decision spurred a four bout win streak that was capped by Barry Trexler’s pin at 145. Liberty still held a 16-14 lead which they extended to 19-14 after Mark Gottwald’s decision at 154. Jim Hadeed and Dan Newhard both scored falls to lead the Huskies to a 25-22 win over the Hurricanes. Bethlehem Catholic won four of the first five bouts including Tom Sculley’s opening 13-4 win over Stan Benton and a fall by Don Lonergan (120) to take a 17-2 lead. Allen held their own in the upperweights, but Becahi won 28-13.
Nazareth shared the LNL title with Hellertown each of the past two years, but the 1968 title belonged solely to Ray Nunamaker’s Blue Eagles. On February 8th, Nazareth scored falls in the final three bouts (Thelmer, Cortez and Doto) to rout Southern Lehigh 39-8 as Terry Rissmiller, Pete Topping, Will Thelmer and John Doto all stayed unbeaten. Two days later, Nazareth beat East Stroudsburg by an identical 39-8 score to win the league title outright.
Wilson opened up a 17-11 lead against Parkland, but the Trojans won four of the final five bouts. Frank Wirth’s 10-7 win at 180, and Randy Poole’s 4-2 win at heavyweight completed the 25-22 comeback win. Hellertown, Palisades, Pen Argyl and Pocono Mountain also won.
In some final non-league bouts to wrap up the regular season, Dieruff fell 33-11 to Hunterdon Central and Liberty was edged by Hill School 20-19. Liberty held leads of 11-2 and 14-8, but Hill School won four of the last five bouts to garner the win. Easton won 8 of 12 matches to defeat Neshaminy 24-17 in their EPL finale.
Final league standings were as follows:
|Compiled Standings 1967-68||Place||W-L-D|
EPL Champion Phillipsburg finished the year undefeated at 14-0 and now built a 25 match winning streak. Losing only to Phillipsburg, LNL Champion Nazareth had an outstanding 13-1 record. Also finishing with only one loss were EPL runner-up Easton (12-1) and LVL Co-Champ (9-1). Other teams finishing with very good records were Hellertown (12-2), Stroudsburg (7-2), Wilson (10-4), Dieruff (9-3) and Parkland (9-3).
Once again the sectional tourneys underwent changes as the district qualifiers would be determined based upon each league, as follows:
|East Penn||Lehigh-Northampton||Lehigh Valley||Tri-Valley|
|Pocono Mountain||West Hazleton|
Easton had six #1 seeds in the EPL while Nazareth and Stroudsburg each had four to lead the way in their respective leagues. The top two finishers in each sectional advanced to the District XI quarterfinals.`
In the EPL sectional, Easton dominated the action with seven wrestlers advancing; however, two of their favored wrestlers lost. Chico Lutes (16-0) was upset by Liberty’s Steve Armstrong (6-2) by a 9-6 score at 103. The Morning Call reported that Lutes had been undefeated since seventh grade. Allen’s Wayne Hoffman (2-5-1) upset Bob Holmes at 145 by a 13-6 score. Allen and Freedom each advanced five wrestlers while Liberty had four and Dieruff had three.
Nazareth continued their dominating season by advancing nine wrestlers out of the LNL sectional. Other advancers by team were as follows: Hellertown (4), Wilson (4), East Stroudsburg (2), Parkland (2) and one each for Palisades, Pocono Mountain and Southern Lehigh.
Tri-Valley League Champion, North Schuylkill was 14-0 during the regular season as Coach Joe Cesari began establishing the dynasty that his teams would be for many years to come. North Schuylkill and Tri-Valley dominated the action and each advanced eight wrestlers to the districts while Jim Thorpe advanced three. Five teams split the remaining seven qualifiers.
District XI Championships
The 1968 district tournament featured the two best wrestlers for each of four leagues and new bracketing and scoring systems. The brackets were set up so no two wrestlers from the same league could meet until the finals. The championships were held at Easton on February 23rd and 24th.
The EPL and LNL dominated the action by each advancing 19 wrestlers into the semi-finals. Nazareth and Easton went a combined 16-0 in the quarterfinals. The Tri-County league advanced eight wrestlers (5 from Tri-Valley) while the Lehigh Valley League really struggled only advancing two wrestlers to the tourney’s 2nd day. Defending state champ, Randy Biggs of Freedom, won by fall at 103. At 120, West Hazleton’s Ray Guydish upset Stroudsburg’s Dan Moyer 3-2. In a battle of unbeaten, Palisades Keith Ernst downed Northampton’s Rick Spengler 9-2. In what was called the “most exciting bout” by The Morning Call, Nazareth’s Will Theimer nipped Allen’s Gary Rhiel 15-14 on a takedown in the matches last few seconds.
With Nazareth and Easton locked in a battle for the top spot, the Rovers were looking to win their first title in three years by advancing six of their seven wrestlers into the finals, but Nazareth still led despite only going 4-5 in the semi-finals due to prior advancement points and falls. Dieruff only brought three wrestlers to Easton, but all three qualified for the finals. The Huskies’ John Leitgeb upset unbeaten Keith Ernst 7-6 at 133. Easton’s Ron Queen defeated previously unbeaten Pete Topping of Nazareth 6-1 at 154.
Both of defending champion Allen’s finalists moved up one step on the podium this year as Stan Benton decisioned Easton’s Ed Gigliotti 6-2 at 95 while Tony Franco downed John Pulli of Wilson 10-2 at 120. Randy Biggs scored the only fall in the finals at 103, and Nazareth’s Jeff Duelley shut out Greg Filipos of Liberty 4-0 at 112. Easton brought itself back into contention as Bob Pratt (127), Craig Fox (133) and Barry Snyder (138) won three titles in a row; Snyder’s 3-2 win was over Rick Metz of Nazareth.
After Nazareth’s Terry Rismiller defeated Emmaus’ Joe Schantz 7-1 and Hellertown’s Bruce Lawrence defeated Ron Queen 11-3, Easton held a 70-68 lead. Joe McAndrew of North Schuylkill (165) and Dan Newhard of Dieruff (180) followed with easy wins. This set up John Doto of Nazareth versus Phil Noto of Easton at heavyweight to decide the team champion. Per The Morning Call, “Doto…used a takedown with 31 seconds in the match to post a 3-2 decision over previously unbeaten Noto” and give Nazareth a one point advantage in the team score and its first ever team title. Coach Ray Nunamaker was quoted by The Morning Call as saying “It was a great team effort. I can’t say enough about my kids. They never quit, and they kept shooting all the time. We’re all proud of them.”
Team scores were as follows:
|North Schuylkill||18||West Hazleton||3|
|Jim Thorpe||12||Pen Argyl||2|
Northeast Regional Tournament
The 1968 Regional tournament was hosted at Rockne Hall in Allentown. Defending 95 pound State Champ, Randy Biggs of Freedom, and defending 103 pound State Runner-up, Ken Hess of West Snyder, were on a collision course in the 103 final. The only other returning regional champ was Rich Bechtel of Selinsgrove.
District XI had a very successful semi-final round going 10-2. Allen’s Stan Benton (95) and Easton’s Craig Fox (133) both scored falls while Randy Biggs was stretched to overtime but advanced. With 112 District Champ Jeff Duelley unable to make weight, Liberty runner-up Greg Filipos dropped the necessary pounds and got the call, but lost a 3-2 nailbiter.
The finals did not start as well as both Benton and Biggs fell to wrestlers who would go on to win state titles with Biggs losing 6-3 to Hess in the night’s featured bout. The Easton middleweight trifecta of Bob Pratt (127), Craig Fox (133) and Barry Snyder (138) all won titles. Pratt and Snyder won by wide margins, but Fox won on a referee’s decision. Nazareth, Hellertown, North Schuylkill and Dieruff crowned one champ each as District XI completed a run of seven regional champs in a row. Dean Rismiller (22-0), Bruce Lawrence (19-2), Joe McAndrew (24-0 & Tri-County League’s first regional champ) and Dan Newhard (20-0-1) each won by decisive margins. Nazareth’s John Doto tried to make it eight in a row but dropped a close 3-2 decision at heavyweight.
District XI led with 7 champions while District IV had 4, District II had 2 and District XII none.
PIAA State Wrestling Championships
The state championships were again held at Penn State, and in the semi-finals, Easton’s three qualifiers were first up. Bob Pratt trailed 8-4 but rallied to tie his bout at 8-8. In overtime, he had a reversal nullified as the wrestlers were ruled off the mat and dropped a 2-1 decision. Craig Fox was able to advance by winning 8-4, but Barry Snyder dropped a 9-7 decision. The Districts bad luck continued as Nazareth’s Dean Rissmiller lost 4-2; Hellertown’s Bruce Lawrence was pinned and North Schuylkill Joe McAndrew dropped a 9-6 decision. That left Dieruff’s Dan Newhard as the only remaining grappler trying to join Fox in the finals. Newhard did not disappoint by dominating 13-1.
In the finals, both Bob Zarbatany of Easton and Dick King of Dieruff crowned their first state champions. Craig Fox had a takedown and cradle to lead 5-0 in the first period on his way to an 8-4 win over Ed Wright of Oil City. Newhard’s opponent was Erie Prep’s Fletcher Cox who had dropped a close decision to Geoff Baum last year and had not lost since going 23-0 with 17 first period pins. Cox started quickly against Newhard scoring an early takedown to lead 2-0 By the end of the second period, Newhard had tied the match and pulled away in the third to win 7-2.
Phillipsburg Post Season
Coach Thad Turner’s entire team advanced to the NJ District 16 semi-finals at P-Burg’s home gym. Nine Stateliners advanced to the finals and six were crowned District Champions as Phillipsburg ran away with the team title – 92 to 54 over Warren Hills. Bob Jiorle (95), Gary DeAlmo (103), Jim Mangino (112), Maury Mascari (120), Don Jessamine (145) and Bob Zaro (154) all won titles. Defending champion, Jack Thompson was upset in overtime at 138.
In the Regionals, Bob Jiorle, Maury Mascari and Bob Zaro were able to win titles and advance to NJ States. The Stateliners’ success continued in the State tournament as all three wrestlers made the finals. Jiorle and Zaro were crowned state champions while Mascari finished as a runner-up for a second consecutive year.
Allentown Central Catholic, Bethlehem Catholic and Notre Dame all participated in the PCIAA Eastern Regional at Bethlehem Catholic. The Haws returned four champions (Tom Sculley, George Fidnik, Chris Keating and Greg Karabin) while Notre Dame and Allentown Central Catholic each returned one – Mike Danjczek and Casmir Pele. The Hawks easily won the Eastern title with five individual champions (Tom Sculley, Chris Keating, Larry Gasda, Greg Karabin and Bill Farrell) and four runners-up. Notre Dame finished tied for fourth place and had two champions in Lou Blatnick (127) and Mike Danjczek (165).
Bethlehem Catholic was equally impressive the next week, placing ten wrestlers and winning the PCIAA team title in Dubois. Tom Sculley (95), George Fidnik (103), Chris Keating (138), Greg Karabin (154) and Bill Ferrell (Hwt) won titles for the Hawks. Notre Dame picked up two champions as well as Lou Blatnick defeated Mike Fenton from Becahi 4-0 at 127 and was named the outstanding wrestler. Mike Danjczik (165) won his second title.
National Prep School Championships
Hill School, who many Lehigh Valley teams regularly compete with, won the 33rd annual National Prep School Championships at Lehigh University. Hill School had three runners-up and three fourth place finishers on their way to their second title in a row.