“New Coaches Power Rovers & Crusaders”
|Coaching Changes:||Steve Wolfe to Jim Angeline (Catasauqua)|
|Art Schaeffer to Terry Buckno (Dieruff)|
|Bob Zarbatany to Dave Crowell (Easton)|
|Roy Miller to E Bechtel (East Stroudsburg)|
|Bill Deibler to Al Snellman (Freedom)|
|Jack Steber to John Lutinsky (Jim Thorpe)|
|Jim Angeline to Dennis Fenton (Notre Dame)|
|Unknown to John Balliett (Palmerton)|
|John Clark to Brown (Pius X)|
|Mark Newman to Richard Martin (Pleasant Valley)|
|East Penn League Champion:||Easton (11-0)|
|Colonial League Champion:||Nazareth (8-0)|
|Centennial League Champion:||Northwestern (8-0)|
|Colonial League Tournament:||Nazareth (5 Champions)|
|Centennial League Tournament:||Notre Dame (4 Champions)|
|Class AAA:||Bethlehem Catholic (3 Champions)|
|Class AA:||Northwestern (2 Champions)|
|District XI 5 Total Champs Bethlehem Catholic (2 Champions)|
|Class AA:||District XI 10 Total Champs Notre Dame (3 Champions)|
|Bethlehem Catholic 5th (T) with one champion.|
|Individual State Champion:|
|Class AAA:||Rich Santoro, 98, Bethlehem Catholic|
With many teams wrestling 15, 17, even 19 dual meets, there was no shortage of fiercely competitive dual meets every week during the 1977-78 season. A lot of talent from the past two years’ tremendous success had graduated, but the cupboard was far from bare.
The ’77-’78 season saw Bethlehem Catholic, Easton, Freedom, Liberty and Phillipsburg continue to battle for the top spots in the East Penn League. Nazareth’s and Saucon Valley’s rivalry dated back to the beginning of the Lehigh-Northampton League in 1965 and was no less intense in the 3rd year of the Colonial League. Notre Dame & Stroudsburg had stepped up to challenge Northwestern for league supremacy in the Centennial League, and the current season would find these three teams again fighting for the top spot with a surprising team. Easton and Notre Dame both had new coaches as Bob Zarbatany had retired and Dave Crowell moved into the top spot for the Rovers while Dennis Fenton took over from Jim Angeline for the Crusaders.
The season kicked off on December 1st as Bethlehem Catholic topped Saucon Valley 26-14. Becahi had many returning starters in the first half of their lineup, including Rich Santoro, Gene Waas, Fran Vresics and Tom Bold, and jumped out to a 17-8 lead. Easton, with only four returning starters, won 8 of 12 bouts to beat Parkland 31-15.
Two days later Saucon Valley rebounded to beat Freedom 24-23 on Jim LaPorta decision at heavyweight. The Patriots led 14-6 before a middle weight rally gave the Panthers a 21-14 lead. In non-league bouts, Notre Dame had three falls to top Wilson 34-20 and Whitehall had falls in the final two bouts to nip Northwestern 27-26.
On December 8th, a dual with early EPL ramifications saw Becahi battle to a 23-20 victory over Liberty. The Hawks opened up an 18-6 lead as they won five of six bouts from 105-138. Liberty won three of the next four bouts to close to 21-18 but Mike Balik and Chuck Hinkel fought to a 1-1 draw at heavyweight, and Becahi had the win. Gene Waas’ 2-1 win at 119 over defending regional champ and Parkland transfer, Steve Busits, was a key bout in the match. Whitehall again had falls in the final two bouts to defeat Northampton 27-26. The same evening in a match that only featured one bonus point win, Notre Dame nipped Stroudsburg 23-19 in a key Centennial League match.
Two days later, Saucon Valley led Allen 24-6 and held off a Canary rally for a 24-21 win.
On December 15th, two key EPL duals were on the schedule. Easton strung together four wins in a row from 138-167 (Mark Noto, Bob Clause, Steve Stone and Gary Vinson) to stage a comeback and top Liberty 26-21. Gary Carty (126) and Stone (155) both scored falls. Phiilipsburg had falls from Kevin Happel (98) and John Margeson (145) along with key wins by John Rutledge (9-7 over Gene Waas at 119) and Tim Osborn (3-2 over Tony Wittic at 132) to defeat Bethlehem Catholic 25-20. The same night, Saucon Valley with pins from John Rodriguez (145) and Jim LaPorta (Hwt) defeated Wilson 30-18 in a key Colonial League match.
On December 17th, Easton defeated Nazareth 26-19 in a non-league match. On December 22nd, East Stroudsburg announced itself as the “surprise team” in the Centennial League by stunning Northwestern 30-19. Rich Jacobs (119) and Lue Nase (Hwt) both scored falls. Notre Dame had a strong middleweight performance to down Palmerton 29-21.
In the Christmas City Tournament, the Banach Brothers (Ed and Lou) led Port Jervis to the team title as they tallied five champions. Nazareth with three champs (Jeff Tripp at 112, Keith Fairman at 119 and Robbie Albert at 145) edged Bethlehem Catholic with three champs (Rich Santoro at 105, Tom Bold at 132 and Bernie Brown at 155) for 2nd place.
East Stroudsburg finished 2nd in the Wallenpaupack Tourney with three champions. Easton won their own tournament as Mark Noto (132), Rick Scarpantonio (145) and Tim DeLong (167) won titles. The Rovers had seven more wrestlers in the Top 3 to outdistance Wilkes-Barre Meyers and Council Rock. Phillipsburg sent nine wrestlers to the semi-finals and went on to win the Manheim Central Tournament with three champs (Frank Losagio at 98, John Rutledge at 112 and Jim Clauss at 138).
The post-holiday dual action saw Bethlehem Catholic defeat Freedom 26-21 leaving Easton and P-Burg as the only undefeated teams in the EPL. The Hawks led 17-15 with four bouts to go and saw Bernie Brown, Joe Zaun and Mike Balik win decisions.
Nazareth crushed Wilson 44-8 to again set up their match with Saucon Valley as the Colonial League championship battle. In the Centennial League, Northwestern trailed Notre Dame 19-15 with three bouts to go, but Mark Blose, Frank Metzger and Doug Rothrock won decisions to give the Tigers a 24-19 victory.
On January 7th, Port Jervis and Bethlehem Catholic wrestled a dual at Lehigh. The Hawks jumped out to leads of 12-2, 15-5, 21-11 and 24-14. Ed and Lou Banach both scored falls and Bob Masters defeated Mike Balik at heavyweight as Port Jervis won 29-24, repeating their Christmas City triumph over Becahi.
On January 12th, Nazareth won 7 of 12 bouts including falls by Jeff Tripp (112), Todd Lahr (167) and Al Haberle (185) to defeat Saucon Valley 30-15 and all but lock up the Colonial League title.
The same evening, in a back and forth match, Bethlehem Catholic and Easton saw Tom Mascavage & Chuck Leiderman (98) and Gene Waas and Brian Liska (119) battle to draws. In a battle of future state champs, Rich Santoro nipped Randy Ascani 3-2. The teams were tied 5-5 after four bouts. Mark Noto’s fall put Easton ahead 11-8 at the halfway point, but the Hawks won 3 of the next 4 bouts to lead 21-16. Tim DeLong and Dan Kasperkoski won decisions to give the Rovers a 22-21 win to stand as the only unbeaten EPL team. Freedom knocked off Phillipsburg 25-20 won several close bouts in the middleweights and got a fall from Dennis Young at 185.
In the Centennial League, Stroudsburg edged Palmerton 23-17 and East Stroudsburg started fast and held off Pocono Mountain 23-18 in competitive action.
On January 19th, Stroudsburg on the strength of falls from Randy Garis (138) and John Tomanio (145) defeated Northwestern 29-19. Notre Dame took over the Centennial League lead by beating East Stroudsburg 26-18; the Crusaders won 7 of 8 bouts from 112 to 167.
Freedom led Parkland 22-15 with three bouts to go; Mike Koch, Russ Hall and Scott Borman won the final three bouts, and the Trojans upset the Patriots 27-22.
On January 26th, Notre Dame won five bouts in a row (132-167) to defeat East Stroudsburg 26-18. Then on January 31st, Stroudsburg nipped East Stroudsburg 23-21.
On February 2nd, after trailing Freedom 20-11, roared back with falls from Gary Vinson and Dan Kasperkoski and a major decision by Tim DeLong to extend their unbeaten streak in the EPC to 39 with a 27-20 victory. Nazareth won the Colonial League title by beating Bangor 51-2. Stroudsburg clinched a share of the Centennial League title by winning the final four bouts to defeat Pocono Mountain 30-20.
Two days later, Liberty rallied from a 17-8 deficit to top Saucon Valley 30-17.
On February 8th, Easton led early thanks to two one-point decisions and Mark Noto’s fall at 132, but saw rival Phillipsburg battle back to lead 20-16 with two bouts to go. Tim DeLong and Dan Kasperkoski again delivered wins, and the Rovers extended their unbeaten streak in the EPC to 41. The Rovers won the match and the EPL title 22-20. Freedom built a huge lead thanks in part to falls by Dale Smith (132) and Barry Bartek (145) and held off Liberty for a 26-25 win.
Phillipsburg’s middleweights (John Margeson, Jim Clauss, Ed Marason and Scott Loudenberry) led the way as they topped Liberty 24-21. Notre Dame defeated Lehighton 46-14 on Valentine’s Day to claim their share of the Centennial League title.
The regular season ended with the following league champions:
- East Penn League – Easton 11-0 (17-0 Overall)
- Colonial League – Nazareth 8-0 (13-2 Overall)
- Centennial League – Notre Dame & Stroudsburg – tied at 7-1 (14-1 & 12-3 Overall, respectively)
Other teams finishing with strong dual records included Liberty 13-4, Phillipsburg 15-2, Bethlehem Catholic 15-4, Freedom 11-6 and Saucon Valley 13-4.
Final Standings were as follows:
|Compiled Standings 1977-78||Place||W-L-D|
|Allentown Central Catholic||11||1-10|
|Pen Argyl||5||3-4 (*)|
|(*) Note - Salisbury-Pen Argyl match may not have been wrestled.|
Nazareth crowned five champs to easily win the Colonial League Tournament. Notre Dame had four champs and won a close battle with Northwestern, Stroudsburg and East Stroudsburg to win the Centennial League Tournament.
The District Tourney was still held over two weekends with the AAA teams all competing together and AA teams split between Pen Argyl (AA East) and Panther Valley (AA West). After the first weekend, Bethlehem Catholic, Liberty and Easton were locked in a tight team race. In AA, Northwestern, Notre Dame, Palmerton and Panther Valley qualified eight wrestlers each for the 2nd weekend of competition.
The AAA team title came down to the heavyweight both with three, yes three teams, still having a chance to win. Bethlehem Catholic led Liberty and Easton by 4 and 4.5 points, respectively, as the final bout began. The Hawks had three champions (Rich Santoro at 98, Gene Waas at 119 and repeat winner Tom Bold at 132) with Santoro and Bold picking up bonus points for falls. Easton’s Dan Kasperkoski defeated Liberty’s Chuck Hinkle 5-0 at heavyweight, and the Hawks won the team title by ½ point over the Rovers. In addition to Bold, Saucon Valley’s John Rodrgiuez (138) also repeated as champion. Dieruff’s Abe Atiyeh followed in brother George’s footsteps to win Districts as a junior by nipping Allen’s Tom Hersh 1-0 at 185. Eight of twelve champions were underclassmen including Parkland’s Rich Shoemaker (105), Freedom’s Rick Negrete (112), Liberty’s Lou Capuano (126) and Matt Reiss (167). Easton’s Rick Scarpantonio (145) and Stroudsburg’s Dan Woolever (155) also won titles.
In AA, Northwestern won the team title with four finalists and two champions (Vince Stravino at 98 and Rick Mohr at 126). Notre Dame had the most champions with three – Dennis Andrews (112), Frank DeFelice (138) and Dave Holva (145). Palmerton’s Phil McGarry (155) and Salisbury’s Craig Ziegler (167) repeated as champions. In addition, Wilson’s Tony Tarsi (105), Lehighton’s Mark Kunkle (119), Catasauqua’s Tom Riegel (132), Panther Valley’s Duane Slonaker (185) and East Stroudsburg’s Lou Nase (Hwt).
In the AAA Northeast Regionals, a change in the PIAA’s classification shifted four District 4 teams from AA to AAA. District 11 was able to qualify 17 wrestlers for the state champonships with Becahi leading the way with five. Champions included Bethlehem Catholic’s Rich Santoro (98) and Tom Bold (132). Santoro avenged a dual meet defeat against Wyoming Valley West’s defending state champion, John Brennan 5-3 while Bold defeated Easton’s Mark Noto for the 2nd week in a row 8-5. Parkland’s Rich Shoemaker (105) and Dieruff’s Abe Atiyeh (185) also won titles while John Rodriguez of Saucon Valley lost the battle of unbeatens by a 3-0 score to Wilkes-Barre Meyers’ Frank Catrignano.
For the 2nd year in a row, District XI qualified 22 wrestlers in the AA Southeast Regional Tourney. Six of the final bouts were rematches of the District XI tourney with the same results. District XI had ten champions with Notre Dame leading the way with three – Dennis Andrews, Frank DeFelice and Dave Holva. Salisbury’s Craig Ziegler (167) won his 2nd title while Vince Stravino (98), Tony Tarsi (105), Mark Kunkle (119), Rick Mohr (126), Tom Riegel (132) and Lou Nace (Hwt).
PIAA State Tournaments
In the AAA state tournaments, District XI had four finalists but was only able to manage one champion, Becahi’s Rich Santoro at 98. Santoro defeated future Iowa State star, Kevin Darkus, 4-3. Nazareth’s Jeff Tripp (112), Easton’s Mark Noto (132) and Dieruff’s Abe Atiyeh (185) finished as runner-ups and Liberty’s Mike Walter downed Sgroudburg’s Dan Woolever 4-2 at 155 to take 3rd. Allen’s Tom Hersh was 4th at 185.
In its best showing ever, District XI moved 14 wrestlers into the AA quarterfinals. Success was more limited in the quarters round as four of the 14 wrestlers moved into the semi-finals. Northwestern freshman, Vince Stravino, lost 1-0 to finish as a runner-up at 98, and Lehighton’s Mark Kunkle was 2nd at 119. Northwestern’s Rick Mohr took a 3rd at 126 while Salisbury’s defending runner-up, Craig Ziegler, settled for 4th at 167. Northwestern’s Rick Mohr was 3rd at 126
Phillipsburg Post Season
With five champions (Kevin Happel (98), Frank Losagio (105), John Margerson (132), Jim Claus (138) and Ed Marason (145)), Phillipsburg won the NJ District 16 title for the 12th year in a row.
Phillipsburg had three NJ Region 4 champs, Kevin Happel, Frank Losagio and Jim Clauss, and John Margerson was a runner-up.
The Stateliners were not able to place any wrestlers in the NJ state tourney.