“The Year of the Cat (Tiger That Is)”
|Notable Coaching Changes:||Tom Ortwein --> Gordon Bartholemew (Northampton)|
|Structural Changes:||Criteria added to determine winners in overtime; referees decisions are eliminated.|
|Superior decision is replaced with major decision (win by 8 points or more) earning 4 team points and major decision (win by 12 points or more) earning 5 team points in dual meets.|
|East Penn League Champion:||Easton (10-0-1)|
|Centennial Leauge Champion:||Northwestern (8-0)|
|Colonial League Champion:||Nazareth (8-0)|
|Centennial League Tourney:||Northwestern (5 Champions)|
|Class AAA:||Liberty (2 Champions)|
|Class AA:||Northwestern (3 Champions)|
|Class AAA:||District XI 12 Total Champs Bethlehem Catholic, Easton & Saucon Valley (2 Champions each)|
|Class AA:||District XI 9 Total Champs Northwestern (4 Champions)|
|Class AAA:||Freedom finishes 3rd and Saucon Valley 4th with one champion each|
|Class AA:||Northwestern finishes 4th with one champion|
|Individual State Champions:|
|Class AAA:||Bob Weaver, 105, Easton; Billy Williams, 155, Freedom; Jerry Rodriguez, 185, Saucon Valley; George Atiyeh, Hwt., Dieruff|
|Class AA:||Dan Blose, 185, Northwestern|
With no fewer than 17 District finalists and 3 State Champs back from 1976 to defend their titles, the 1976-77 season promised to be an exciting one! Bethlehem Catholic, Easton, Liberty and Phillipsburg had gone a combined 51-6-2 during the prior season and were ready to battle again for supremacy in the Lehigh Valley. Both Bethlehem Catholic and Saucon Valley graduated state champions and numerous starters from their strong 1975-76 teams as they faced an early test in the season opener for the new season on December 1, 1976. The teams split the first two bouts before Gene Waas scored a fall at 112 to spur the Hawks to a four bout win streak and a 20-3 lead. Saucon Valley would win three of the next four bouts to cut the lead to 23-13. Ed Blaner’s fall at 185 wrapped it up as the Hawks emerged with an easier than expected 29-16 victory.
The same evening, Allen nipped Wilson 23-20 as Charlie Williams fall at 145 was key to the win. Southern Lehigh’s middle and upper weights led the Spartans to a 27-24 win over Whitehall. Notre Dame whipped Salisbury 34-12.
A few nights later, Freedom served notice that they would by an EPL contender as they dealt Saucon Valley a 28-20 defeat. In a match that featured five draws, Kurt Krusen (119) and Brian Feeley (185) had key falls for the Patriots. Whitehall and Wilson both suffered close defeats for the 2nd match in a row as Northwestern had three falls to top Whitehall 31-28 and Notre Dame had two to defeat Wilson 27-21. Salisbury’s Chris Saraceno and Scott Wentz book ended falls as the Falcons and Emmaus tied 30-30. Bethlehem Catholic beat Lehighton easily 38-10. Dieruff opened their season by scoring falls in the final three bouts to defeat Hazleton 37-18.
League competition kicked off the next week. Last year’s EPL champion, Liberty whipped Bethlehem Catholic 30-13 as they won 8 of 12 bouts. The Hurricanes strung together six decisions in a row from 132-185 to defeat the Hawks. Emmaus started fast as Ray Sheffley (105) and Eric Wetzel (138) had falls to give the Hornets a 25-7 lead. Dieruff tried to battle back but the Huskies were held to draws at 145 and 155 and ultimately dropped a 29-28 decision. Easton had four falls and a forfeit win to hammer Allen 43-12; Freedom shut out Allentown Central Catholic 67-0; and Northampton won the final three bouts to defeat Whitehall 27-18.
The Centennial League saw Northwestern register four falls as they defeated Slatington 44-11; East Stroudsburg beat Pleasant Valley 60-6; and Pocono Mountain had falls from Warren Madden, Steve Slutter and Dave Lewis in the final three bouts to clip Palmerton 36-24.
In the Colonial League, Irvin Davidson’s fall in the final bout helped Pen Argyl nip Palisades 27-26; Southern Lehigh held off Bangor 26-21; and Nazareth slammed Salisbury 53-3. In Independent action, Parkland beat Pottsville 37-19, and Saucon Valley pounded Pennsbury 45-15.
December 11th saw significant non-league action. With defending state champ, Jerry Rodriguez, dropping to 185 for the first time and pinning Tom Hersh, Saucon Valley edged Allen 29-23. Northwestern’s Dave Blose had a fall at 185 and Elmo Wright earned a draw at heavyweight as the Tigers nipped Parkland 29-27. Dieruff crushed Mahoney Area 49-9; Easton pinned Crestwood 45-5; Freedom defeated Warren Hills 27-17; Nazareth beat Lehighton 34-15; and Wilson pounded Pocono Mountain 30-16.
Liberty was riding an 18 match winning streak when they traveled to Easton on December 16th. The Rovers got back-to-back falls from Bobby Weaver and Al Sandt early on. Liberty won four of five matches from 119-145 to lead 16-15. At 145, Liberty’s John Knox held off a 12 point 3rd period rally by Bill Bryson and triumphed 19-17. Liberty retained its one point lead after the teams traded decisions at 155 and 167, but Easton had two close key wins from Tim DeLong and John Donnelly in the final two weight classes to pull out a 24-19 win over the Hurricanes.
Bethlehem Catholic knocked off Phillipsburg 24-21 the same night. Freedom shut out Emmaus 52-0; Dieruff’s Cedric Sutton, Mark McCants and George Atiyeh scored 15 team points to pace the Huskies to a 38-20 win over Northampton; Parkland shut out Allentown Central Catholic 67-0; and Allen’s Tom Hersh had a fall at 185 to clinch the Canaries 30-23 win over Whitehall.
After a few close early season non-league bouts, Northwestern won a key Centennial League match thanks to falls from Greg Stewart, Chris Wentz, Brian Billig and Bob Hicks to clip Pocono Mountain 30-23. East Stroudsburg rallied past Palmerton 31-25; and Stroudsburg easily topped Lehighton 36-15.
In the Colonial League, Saucon Valley scored four falls to defeat Wilson 38-17; Nazareth shut out Palisades 50-0; Salisbury’s strong start helped them beat Bangor 27-21; Irvin Davidson’s fall broke a tie to help Pen Argyl defeat Catasauqua 30-24. Southern Lehigh clipped Slatington 32-17 and Notre Dame defeated Phillipsburg Central Catholic 45-15 in non-league action.
If there was any doubt that the Rovers had reloaded, it was erased on December 18th as they crushed Nazareth 33-11. Bobby Weaver’s fall at 105 keyed a five match win streak for the Rovers, and Easton closed out with wins in the final three bouts. Phillipsburg shut out Hazleton 51-0; Emmaus could not hold off Spring-Ford and lost 30-21; Catasauqua rallied past Northampton 31-17; Stroudsburg’s upper weights were the key as they defeated Pen Argyl 29-22; Parkland clobbered Southern Lehigh 56-5; Allen defeated Lehighton 32-17; and Slatington nipped Jim Thorpe 26-25.
On December 22nd, Parkland roared out of the gate to lead Whitehall 12-0 and 19-9, but the Zephyrs had a default win at 185 and fall in the final bout by Tom Suppan to win 28-26. In other EPL matches, Freedom won the first ten bouts to crush Dieruff 43-9; Liberty won all bouts to defeat Allentown Central Catholic 70 to -1; Bethlehem Catholic shut out Northampton 51-0; and Phillipsburg handled Allen 37-14.
In the Colonial League, Southern Lehigh had falls from Kevin Kapanka (167) and Bob Roberts (185) to beat Salisbury 30-23. Nazareth won ten bouts in beating Catasauqua 49-9; Bangor edged Palisades 25-15; and Wilson was too much for Pen Argyl 29-22. In non-league action, Saucon Valley dropped a 33-17 decision to Council Rock.
In the Centennial League, Northwestern had four pins as they nipped East Stroudsburg 33-30; Pocono Mountain defeated Slatington 34-15; and Notre Dame easily beat Palmerton 58-3.
In the final pre-holiday action, Bethlehem Catholic trailed Wyoming Valley West 10-3 but then won five decisions in a row to win 24-17. In EPL action, Easton had six falls to defeat Emmaus 52-5.
The Christmas City Tournament would cause Lehigh Valley fans to pull out their maps wondering where in the world is Port Jervis, New York? The Banach brothers – Ed, Steve and Lou – were the highlight of the tournament as all three brothers were crowned champions. Ed came from behind to knock off Freedom’s defending Regional champ Billy Williams 9-5.
Freedom, Parkland, Bethlehem Catholic and Nazareth led the way in early action. The four teams had 30 of the 48 semi-finalists. Freedom crowned only one champion, John Hammersmith at 132, but used tremendous balance to win the team title 174.5-168.5 over Parkland. Parkland and Becahi were able to match Port Jervis with three champs apiece. The Trojans crowned Rich Shoemaker (98), Greg Oswald (126) and Brian Bobbin (145) while the Hawks had winners in Frank Vrecsics (112), Tom Bold (126) and Pat Brown (Hwt).
Phillipsburg won their own holiday tournament with six champions and four runners-up. Pocono Mountain and Northwestern won the Wallenpaupack and Perkiomen Valley tourneys, respectively. Pocono Mountain had three champions and Northwestern had seven champions. Panther Valley dominated the Jim Thorpe tournament winning with eight champions.
Council Rock crowned five champions to win the Easton Area Holiday Wrestling Tourney while host Easton finished 2nd. Bobby Weaver (105), Bill Bryson (138) and Jeff Turner (155) triumphed for the Rovers. Liberty had three champions and finished 2nd in the Top Hall Invitational. The Hurricanes crowned Rich Cabrera (98), John Knox (145) and Tom Jones (155) while Saucon Valley’s Jerry Rodriguez (185) won his school’s lone title.
The first match after the holidays would be the dual meet to decide the Centennial League title. Propelled by falls by Bryan Billig, Dwight Billig and Dan Blose, Northwestern defeated Notre Dame 29-24. The Billigs, Chris Wentz and Rich Mohr scored 20 of the Tigers’ 29 points in a four bout stretch. East Stroudsburg topped Slatington 42-18, and Lehighton easily beat Palmerton 58-6 on other Centennial League Action.
Freedom defeated Bethlehem Catholic 24-21. The teams alternated wins in the first six bouts with Gene Waas’ pin of Bob Kern (in a battle of future referees) giving the Hawks a 12-9 edge. The Patriots would win the next three bouts and then get a fall from Tom Holland at 185 to clinch the win. In other EPL action, Parkland was too much for Allen 35-25; Easton crushed a short-handed Dieruff 50-5; Liberty battered Whitehall 58-2; Emmaus beat Allentown Central Catholic 54-3; and Phillipsburg decisioned Northampton 43-6.
In the Colonial League, Bangor clipped Catasauqua 29-21; Southern Lehigh defeated Palisades 33-16; and Saucon Valley beat Pen Argyl 45-14.
On January 8th, Freedom won four of five one-point decisions and Brian Feeley and Tom Holland had wins in the final two bouts as Freedom defeated and Nazareth 26-17 to remain unbeaten. In EPL action, Phillipsburg moved past Parkland 33-15. Northwestern defeated Southern Lehigh 40-18; Saucon Valley upended previously unbeaten Stroudsburg 42-12; Notre Dame topped Palisades 35-9; Catasauqua downed Quakertown 31-23; and Dieruff dropped a decision to Wyoming Valley West 41-17. Lehighton nipped Panther Valley 27-24.
Nazareth Gained Revenge on Saucon Valley & Won the Colonial League Title (Photo Courtesy of Nazareth HS Yearbook)
January 13th was dubbed potentially “the biggest wrestling night of the season” by The Morning Call with at least four feature duals on tap. Nazareth had lost 7 of its last 8 matches (along with league titles) to Saucon Valley. But Coach Ray Nunamaker’s team was fired up before 1,200 fans in its home gym. The Blue Eagles jumped out to a 14-0 lead and never trailed as they triumphed 33-19 over the Panthers. Jeff Tripp’s early fall at 105 over an opponent he had lost to the prior year along with Todd Lahr’s (167) and Craig Miller’s (Hwt) falls to close out the match were the key. Coach Ray Nunamaker said of his team “They were ready tonight…they just went out there and attacked.”
The balance of the “feature” duals were in the EPC. Phillipsburg and Freedom faced off in a nip-n-tuck bout that had six bouts decided by three points or less and two draws. The only bonus point of the match proved to be the key to the win as Mike Stocker majored Billy Williams 13-5 at 167 and the ‘Liners won 20-19, knocking Freedom from the unbeaten ranks. Bobby Weaver’s early fall and an Easton run from 119-145 gave the Rovers the margin they needed to upend Bethlehem Catholic 27-18. Jeff Kuhns, Mark Noto, Dave Smith, Bill Bryson and Rick Scarpantonio all won decisions to open a 24-6 lead that was too much for the Hawks to overcome.
The final key bout had Liberty facing upstart Parkland with strength against strength in the lighter weights. The Hurricanes had the upper hand as Rich Cabrera edged Rich Shoemaker 4-1 at 98 and Frank Snyder decisioned Russ Shoemaker 7-3 at 112. Carlos Rivera and Greg Oswald battled to a draw at 126. The Hurricanes went 3-0-2 in the first five matches to open a 13-4 lead. Liberty’s Bill Vitez, Tom Jones and Gary Wrabel locked up the match up to as Liberty won 26-14. In other EPL action, Allen topped Northampton 35-9, and Dieruff whipped Allentown Central Catholic 49-5.
Northwestern crushed defending league champion, Lehighton, 39-12 as they put themselves in position to win the Centennial League title. Stroudsburg pounded Palmerton 52-9; Pocono Mountain handled East Stroudsburg 32-17; and Notre Dame nipped Slatington 28-24.
The Colonial League had some close matches with Bangor edging Wilson 25-23; Southern Lehigh getting a fall from Jim Hoffstetter (Hwt) to clip Catasauqua 24-23; and Palisades beating Salisbury 31-24.
A few nights later, Parkland visited Freedom and almost pulled off a big upset. The Trojans lightweights rebounded to win four of the first five bouts to lead 15-3, but Freedom won all but one of the remaining bouts to triumph 22-18. Tom Holland defeated Bob Oxenford 5-3 in the deciding bout. Allen shut out Allentown Central Catholic 65-0; Bethlehem Catholic didn’t drop a bout until 155 in defeating Dieruff 38-17; Easton whipped Whitehall 46-6; Phillipsburg shut out Emmaus 49-0; and Liberty hammered Northampton 42-3. Stroudsburg nipped Wilson 27-24, and Pen Argyl won the final four bouts to beat Slatington 27-23 in non-league action.
On January 19th, Bethlehem Catholic faced off in a non-league bout against a Council Rock team that featured future state and NCAA champ, C.D. Mock, who defeated the Hawks’ Tom Bold 7-3. The Hawks led 13-11 after 138, but Council Rock won the next four bouts and triumphed 29-15.
On January 20th, Northwestern avenged another defeat from the prior season and cemented their lock on the Centennial League title by whipping unbeaten Stroudsburg 38-17. The Tigers had five falls – paced by Chris Wentz, Bryan & Dwight Billig, Rick Mohn and Dan Blose. Lehighton won the final three bouts to defeat Slatington 28-19; Notre Dame nipped Pocono Mountain 27-22; and Palmerton beat Pleasant Valley 55-12.
In the EPL, Whitehall and Dieruff were tied at 18-18, but the Huskies won the final four bouts to win 31-18; Easton shut out Allentown Central Catholic 60-0; Parkland pounded Emmaus 43-9; Liberty clipped Allen 33-6; and Freedom defeated Northampton 48-3.
In the Colonial League, Nazareth won all but one bout to down Pen Argyl 54-6; Southern Lehigh defeated Wilson 30-21; Saucon Valley had five falls in beating Bangor 41-21; and Catasauqua clipped Salisbury 33-27.
Two days later, Freedom defeated Whitehall 49-3 in the only league action. In non-league action, Nazareth handled Northampton 51-3; Easton had five falls in beating Wilson 46-12; Northwestern was too much for Emmaus 42-9; and Saucon Valley whipped Dieruff 41-9.
The end of January saw the energy crisis and cold weather impact saw a week with no high school athletics played in the state of Pennsylvania. Changes were made, including earlier start times and shortening of JV games and matches. This also resulting in some interesting coordination and scheduling to fit in all the matches with one week lost on the calendar.
Action resumed on February 3rd and saw Freedom travel to Easton for a key EPL match. The Rovers roared out to a 19-6 lead after 145, but Coach Bob Zarbatany was worried the lead was too small. While Easton had won six of the first eight bouts, they only had one bonus point. Freedom Coach Bill Deibler shifted a number of wrestlers around in the last four weights and it paid off with four straight decisions including Jim Fraivillig’s 5-4 decision at 155 over Jeff Turner and 167 pounder Brian Feeley’s major decision at heavyweight to earn a 19-19 tie. Both Billy Williams and Tom Holland just missed major decisions by one point that would have given the Patriots the “W”.
In other East Penn action, Bethlehem Catholic’s light weights came through with wins in the first five bouts including three wins by one point to take a 15-0 lead. While Parkland outscored the Hawks the rest of the way, it wasn’t enough and Becahi triumphed 27-17. Liberty beat Dieruff 40-15; Allen cruised past Emmaus 41-9; Phillipsburg whipped Whitehall 46-3; and Northampton handled Allentown Central Catholic 57-3.
Southern Lehigh remained in contention in the Colonial League by outscoring Pen Argyl 27-22in part thanks to back-to-back falls by Don Koch and Tim Long at 105 and 112. Nazareth remained unbeaten in the league by beating Bangor 35-10; Wilson had three falls to top Palisades 33-26; and Saucon Valley easily beat Salisbury 44-13.
In the Centennial League, Northwestern stayed unbeaten by defeating Palmerton 62-3; Stroudsburg won a close bout over Pocono Mountain 28-22; Lehighton downed East Stroudsburg 40-9; and Slatington was too much for Pleasant Valley 54-10.
On February 5th, Bethlehem Catholic had a dual meet against Port Jervis NY. The Hawks led 19-8 and then the Banach brothers took the mat. Twins Ed and Lou bookended falls around Steve’s 5-point major decision. Pat Brown’s fall at heavyweight earned Becahi a 25-25 tie. Northwestern’s pinner Chris Wentz scored a fall to lead the Tigers to a 48-8 win over Catasauqua, and he also tied the state record for career falls. Allen had falls from Tom Hersh and Rick Gardner in the final two bouts to clip Southern Lehigh 32-23. Lehighton battled North Schuylkill but dropped a 32-21 decision; Notre Dame upended Stroudsburg 27-13; Salisbury nipped Slatington 25-22; and Bangor edged East Stroudsburg 27-19.
The same night, Liberty and Saucon Valley continued their fierce rivalry. The Panthers built a big lead as they won five of the first seven bouts including Eric Strum’s 3-1 upset of Frank Snyder at 112 and a fall by John Flok at 119 to lead 18-7. John Nix and Bill Vitez both had falls and Tom Jones beat Mike Neith 12-5 as the Hurricanes rallied to lead 22-18. Jerry Rodriguez’s fall again put Saucon Valley ahead 24-22, but Chuck Hinkel scored a first period fall to give Coach Frank Gutierrez a 28-24 win.
Southern Lehigh was hoping to make the jump into the upper tier of the Colonial League, but Saucon Valley would have none of it as they won all but two bouts to win 41-9. Wilson defeated Salisbury 33-22, and Palisades edged Catasauqua 33-25.
In the EPL, “close” was not a word to describe any of the matches on February 8th. Phillipsburg shut out Allentown Central Catholic 69-0; Freedom beat Allen 43-5; Liberty defeated Emmaus 55-4; Easton shut out Northampton 53-0; Bethlehem Catholic crushed Whitehall 48-4; and Parkland pounded Dieruff 42-15.
Lehighton clipped Pocono Mountain 30-11 in a Centennial League match up.
Liberty, Freedom and Phillipsburg were all hoping for a Parkland upset over Easton so they could stay in the EPL title race. The Trojans came close but the Rovers escaped with a 25-22 win to stay unbeaten. The Trojans hoped to keep it close early, but Al Sandt’s fall over Russ Shoemaker with 7 seconds left was a boost at 112. Still Easton led only 15-10 at the halfway point. After Bill Bryson and Rick Scarpantino extended the Rovers lead, Brian Bobbin, Mike Polgar and John Sulzer strung together three wins in a row to tie the match. Dan Kasperkoski’s 1-0 victory at heavyweight proved to be the clincher for the Rovers.
The same night, Bethlehem Catholic defeated Allen 32-9; Whitehall whipped Allentown Central Catholic 52-4; Northampton downed Emmaus 46-9; and Phillipsburg handled Dieruff 46-9.
In the Centennial League, Notre Dame’s Chuck Muller had a fall in the final match to clinch a 33-24 win over Lehighton; Stroudsburg, Pocono Mountain and Slatington also registered wins.
Nazareth wrapped up the Colonial League title by handling Southern Lehigh 41-9; Saucon Valley defeated Palisades 41-15; Salisbury tripped Pen Argyl 41-14; and Wilson clipped Catasauqua 30-22.
After two weeks, the energy-saving restrictions were listed, and scheduling went back to normal although there were still many make-up matches.
Northwestern continued rolling, and senior Chris Wentz broke the state record for career falls as the Tigers defeated Pen Argyl 41-15; Easton’s lightweights led the Rovers to a 28-17 win over Lower Dauphin; Bethlehem Catholic easily defeated Southern Lehigh 41-7; Wilson edged Whitehall 27-20; Saucon Valley dropped a close 26-22 match to Cumberland Valley but then nipped Lehighton 27-26; and Notre Dame defeated East Stroudsburg 44-12.
Liberty defeated Phillipsburg 23-21 to stay in the hunt and then hoped the ‘Liners could knock off the Rovers. The Liners led 9-3 after Tim Osborn’s fall at 112 and then 15-6 at the halfway point. However, the Hurricanes then won four bouts in a row including Bill Vitez’s fall at 155 and Tom Jones’ big 4-3 win over Mike Stocker at 167. P-Burg would win the final two bouts but fall just short.
Stroudsburg defeated Slatington 33-14, and Northwestern downed Pleasant Valley 51-12 in Centennial League action on Valentine’s Day.
On February 16th, Easton roared out to a big lead against Phillipsburg by only dropping one of the first seven bouts to lead 20-5. Phillipsburg rallied, but could never pull close enough, and Easton clinched the EPC title by beating their rival 25-19. Allen led crosstown rival Dieruff 21-9 after eight matches, but Abe Atiyeh, Cedric Sutton and George Atiyeh all scored falls and Mark McCants decisioned Tom Hersh as the Huskies won 33-21.
Liberty and Freedom were tied at 14-14 with three bouts to go. Both teams did some lineup maneuvering with Coach Frank Gutierrez coming out on top. Gary Wrabel scored a fall at 167 while Tom Jones who had bumped up nipped Brian Feeley 3-2. Chuck Hinkle edged Tom Holland 5-4 at heavyweight to close out a 26-14 win for the Hurricanes. Parkland defeated Northampton 48-6; Whitehall defeated Emmaus 27-18 on falls by Jerry Sukanick and Tom Suppan in the final two bouts; and Bethlehem Catholic shut out Allentown Central Catholic 56-0.
In Independent action, Council Rock scored falls in the final three bouts to rally past Nazareth 32-17. Saucon Valley defeated Catasauqua 48-9 in a Colonial League match. In East Penn action, Bethlehem Catholic had four falls to defeat Emmaus 46-7.
As the season wound down, the 2nd Centennial League tourney was held. Northwestern had five champions – Kurt Wentz (91), Chris Wentz (112), Bryan Billig (119), Dwight Billig (126) and Dan Blose (185) to easily outdistance Stroudsburg.
Bangor defeated Pen Argyl 33-23 in Colonial League action. Freedom topped Carlisle 27-17; Saucon Valley defeated Northampton 39-15; Palisades edged Souderton 30-20; and Parkland had three falls to beat Wilson 34-19.
Liberty continued with their challenging schedule as they faced Nazareth. The Blue Eagles had consecutive falls by Brian Boyer (119) and Robbie Albert (126) to lead 18-3, but Liberty would not lose another match as they came back to win 28-20.
On February 21st, Freedom scored four falls to defeat Lehighton 45-15.
As a very competitive dual season came to a close, Easton (15-0-1 overall), Nazareth (10-4 overall) and Northwestern (14-0 overall) had won the East Penn, Colonial and Centennial League titles, respectively. Final league standings were as follows:
|Compiled Standings 1976-77||Place||W-L-D|
|Allentown Central Catholic||12||0-11|
Other teams finishing with at least 10 wins were: Bangor 10-4, Bethlehem Catholic 12-4-1, Freedom 13-2-1, Liberty 13-1, Notre Dame 12-2, Phillipsburg 15-3, Saucon Valley 13-6 and Southern Lehigh 10-6.
Sectionals & Districts:
The AAA tournament was again held over two consecutive weekends while the AA was structured with two sectionals, East & West, followed by the District tourney the following weekend.
Liberty took the lead after the first weekend and had seven wrestlers alive in the championship bracket as they led Bethlehem Catholic, Easton and Freedom who each advanced six or seven wrestlers. Nazareth’s Craig Miller pulled the biggest upset of the day by pinning 2nd seeded Mark McCants from Dieruff while trailing 14-6. Dieruff’s Maurice Salim upset top-seeded Tom Deiter of Becahi at 132. The Hawks pulled their share of upsets over #2 seeds with Bucky Glueck upsetting Parkland’s Rich Shoemaker 4-0 at 105; Frank Vresics defeated Easton’s Jeff Kuhn 6-4 at 119; and Ed Planar downed Parkland’s Mike Polgar 10-9 at 167.
Six defending champions were in the mix – Easton’s Bob Weaver (105), Liberty’s Carlos Rivera (119), Stroudsburg’s Bob Hemhauser (138 & won AA crown last year), Freedom’s Billy Williams (145), Saucon Valley’s Jerry Rodriguez (185) and Dieruff’s George Atiyeh (Hwt).
The Big 3 of Easton’s Bobby Weaver, Saucon Valley’s Jerry Rodriguez and Dieruff’s George Atiyeh easily repeated as district champions with only Weaver having to go the distance against Northampton’s Lee Billy with a 14-2 win in the finals. Both Liberty and Freedom advanced three wrestlers to the finals and were locked in a tight battle after Liberty placed six wrestlers in the consolation finals. All of Freedom’s finalists won to put the pressure on the Hurricanes. Bob Kern nipped Becahi’s Gene Waas 3-2 at 112, Billy Williams went overtime against previously unbeaten Bryan Bobbin from Parkland and won 5-5, 4-2. The Hurricanes’ Carlos Rivera won his 2nd district title 13-5 over Becahi’s Frank Vresics but John Knox dropped a 7-6 decision to Saucon Valley’s John Rodriguez. As a result, when Tom Jones won his title at 155, it clinched the team title for Liberty; the final margin was 2.5 points after Freedom’s Brian Feeley won at 167. Bethlehem Catholic had five finalists including four underclassmen to finish 3rd. Tom Bold was the Hawks’ champ at 126. Parkland’s Steve Busits (98) and Easton’s Dave Smith (132) were the remaining champions.
1977 AAA District XI Champs: Front Row – Steve Busits (Parkland), Bobby Weaver (Easton), Bob Kern (Freedom), Carlos Rivera (Liberty), Tom Bold (Beth Catholic), Dave Smith (Easton); Back Row – John Rodriguez (Saucon Valley), Billy Williams (Freedom), Tom Jones (Liberty), Brian Feeley (Freedom), Jerry Rodriguez (Saucon Valley), George Atiyeh (Dieruff) (Photo Courtesy of Tim Kuhn)
The final team scores were:
|AAA Team Scores:|
AA East Sectionals saw surprising Wilson advance seven wrestlers to the following week to match Northwestern while Notre Dame advanced six men. In the AA West Sectionals, Blue Mountain advanced eight wrestlers while North Schuylkill moved five men forward. Defending champions included Northwestern’s Chris Wentz – going for his 4th title at 112, Lehighton’s Rick Kirkendall (119), North Schuylkill’s Mike Harris (155) and Northwestern’s Dan Blose (185). In addition, Wilson’s Jim Nolasco (126) was a champ in 1975.
Northwestern advanced four wrestlers to the finals led by four-time champion and pinner extraordinaire Chris Wentz. Wentz picked up his state leading 74th career fall over Salisbury’s Perry Saraceno to win the title at 112. Bryan Billig (119) and Dan Blose (185) also won titles as Northwestern easily won the team title 101-83 over Wilson. Billig edged Lehighton’s tough Rick Kirkendall 12-9. The Warriors had two champs in Jim Nolasco (126) and Jeff Bartholomew (Hwt). Nolasco upended Dwight Billig 11-5 to win the Outstanding Wrestler. The remaining champs were Bangor’s Bob Caizzo (who upended both the #1 & #2 seeds at 98), North Schuylkill’s Ron Wary (105), Jim Thorpe’s Farley Foster (132), East Stroudsburg’s Greg Beck (138), Palmerton’s pinner Phil McGarry (145), Salisbury’s Craig Ziegler (155) and Pocono Mountain’s Warren Madden (167). Final team standings (top 9) were as follows:
|AA Team Scores:|
|Blue Mountain||50.5||Notre Dame||34|
AAA Northeast Regionals:
District XI wrestlers won 23 of 36 bouts in the quarterfinals, and sixteen of them were able to advance to the finals. When the night ended at Liberty’s Memorial Gym, twelve District XI wrestlers were crowned champions – a clean sweep! Bethlehem Catholic, Easton, Liberty, Parkland and Saucon Valley all had two champs each while Freedom and Dieruff each had one in a very balanced performance. Four more District XI grapplers took 3rd place bringing the total state qualifiers to an even twenty.
While not matching the prior year’s state qualifiers, it was remarkable the District XI won titles in all twelve weight classes, especially considering some tough competition for District II. Parkland’s Steve Bursits edged John Brennan from Wyoming Valley West 1-0, who had finished 2nd in the state to Bobby Weaver the prior year, to get things started. Weaver was able to repeat as regional champ at 105. Becahi’s Gene Waas (112) and Tom Bold (126) each won titles; in between Liberty’s Carlos Rivera repeated at 119. Easton’s Dave Smith won at 132 while Saucon Valley’s John Rodriguez (138) and Liberty’s Tom Jones (145) won rematches from the prior week. However, at 145, Parkland’s Bryan Bobbin turned the tables on Freedom’s Billy Williams 9-8. Freedom’s Brian Feeley (167), Saucon Valley’s Jerry Rodriguez (185), and Dieruff’s George Atiyeh (Hwt) to complete the amazing District XI clean sweep!
AA Southeast Regional:
Northwestern continued their stellar season by crowing four regional champions – Chris Wentz (112), Bryan Billig (119), Dwight Billig (126) – who all scored falls – and Dan Blose (185) all won titles. In fact, with Bangor’s Bob Caiazzo and North Schuylkill’s Ron Wary plus the three Northwestern grapplers, District XI started the regional finals with five falls! Three more District XI wrestlers won titles – East Stroudsburg’s Greg Beck (138), Notre Dame’s Neil Buschi (145) and Salisbury’s Craig Ziegler (155). A total of 22 District XI wrestlers qualified for states.
AAA State Wrestling Championships
Fourteen District XI wrestlers won their first round bouts, and nine went on to win their quarterfinal bouts. Freedom had three semi-finalists in upsetter Tim Mugavero (126), Billy Williams (145) and Brian Feeley (167). Saucon Valley matched them with John Rodriguez (138), Mike Neith (155) and Jerry Rodriguez (185). The other members of the “Big 3” of Bobby Weaver and George Atiyeh also won; Atiyeh had a state tourney record ten second fall. Liberty’s Tom Jones (155) rounded out the local winners.
District XI advanced four wrestlers to the finals, and all four triumphed. Bobby Weaver won his 3rd title while Jerry Rodriguez and George Atiyeh won their 2nd titles. Weaver finished his career 87-3 (62 wins in a row) by beating Ken Whitsel of Lewistown 7-4. Rodriguez’s final record was 98-7 (also 62 wins in a row), and he won the battle of unbeaten by defeating Altoona’s Todd Benson 6-1. Atiyeh wrapped up his career 67-4 and pinned two unbeaten opponents, Wilson West Lawn’s Drew Keiser and Fox Chapel’s Leo Wisniewski, in his final two bouts. Billy Williams was the 4th winner and won by fall in the finals. Tom Jones finished 3rd while Mugavaro, John Rodriguez, Neith and Feeley were 4th. In the team standings, Freedom was 3rd and Saucon Valley finished 4th.
AA State Wrestling Championships
The local contingent from AA was not nearly as successful. Northwestern’s Chris Wentz (112) and Dan Blose (185) advanced to the semi-finals along with Wilson’s Jim Nolasco (126) and Salisbury’s Craig Ziegler (155).
Wentz held a 3-0 lead in the semi-finals but dropped a 4-3 decision; he won his final bout 24-17 to finish 3rd after two state runner-up finishes and ended his career 99-5 with 76 by fall. The Tigers’ other semi-finalist, Dan Blose battled through a knee injury and won by fall and then 6-3 in the finals to become Northwestern’s first state champ. Northwestern was not golden, but finished a fantastic season in 4th place in the team standings. Salisbury’s Ziegler finished as a state runner-up, and Nolasco was 4th.
Phillipsburg Post Season
Phillipsburg would win their 11th District 16 team championship in a row by crowing five champions. John Rutledge (98), Tim Osborn (112), John Margeson (119), Mike Stocker (167) and Dave Reppert (185) all won titles. Osborn and Margeson each won their 2nd titles.
Rutledge, Margeson and Stocker would all go on to win regional titles the following week. In the NJ state championships, John Rutledge took 4th place.
All four District XI AAA champs participated in the U.S. All-Star Wrestling Classic (a/k/a Dapper Dan Classic). Bobby Weaver, Jerry Rodriguez and George Atiyeh all pinned their U.S. team opponents to lead the PA contingent to a 29-26 triumph! Wrestlers for the US All-Stars included Olympic champions Randy Lewis and Dave Schultz!