Nazareth had gone 20-0 and had a tremendous post season, but had graduated perhaps their most successful senior class ever, and had Northampton nipping at its heels. Catasauqua had a very strong year in the AA ranks, but had to tangle with Nazareth in the Colonial League.
In the EPC, no fewer than four teams were expected to be in the mix with three more knocking at the door to break into the top spots. Northampton, Parkland, Easton and Phillipsburg graduated a combined three state champs, five state place winners and ten more wrestlers who won at least 20 bouts. Yet they were still expected to contend along with Allen, Liberty and Whitehall.
Northern Lehigh, Palmerton and Stroudsburg had shared the Centennial League title, but the Bulldogs, with the strongest group of returnees (9 starters), was a solid favorite.
Catasauqua returned almost their entire starting lineup and was expected to challenge Nazareth, who was riding a 33-match winning streak, for the Colonial League title. The Blue Eagles lost eight starters including Brad Silimperi, Mike Miller and Mike Herceg.
Once again, the ASD Tournament was on tap for the opening weekend; however, the BSD Tournament was dropped. Whitehall’s Doug Bonshak became the first wrestler to win four ASD tourney titles as he was named the MVP. Catasauqua crowned four champions (Jason Mutarelli, Joe Stofko, Mark Bartholomew and Keith Fox) as they repeated in winning the team title. In a marquee match-up, Allen’s Dan Wagner defeated Catty’s Kyle Rusnock 11-2. Nazareth traveled to Williamsport to compete in the Top Hat Tourney and was edged by Bald Eagle Area 180-177 for the title; Dan Tashner and Ryan Nunamaker (OW) won titles. Easton won the Crestwood title for the 5th time in last six years with six finalists and three champs (Tory Burgio, Tyler Purdy and Steve Calandra). Northampton beat North Penn 43-14 and Shamokin 34-26.
In an early dual on December 12th, Catasauqua had two falls and a default win to top Northern Lehigh 33-25; Nazareth cruised past Pocono Mountain 48-11. The following evening, the prior year’s top two teams in the EPC faced off. Northampton won 10 of 13 bouts in a 41-12 rout over Parkland.
Easton led 27-12 over Nazareth as the Blue Eagles won only two of the first ten bouts (with two ending in draws). “Unbelievable. Just unbelievable,” was how Nazareth Coach Ray Nunamaker described the comeback that saw Darin Wenrick, Paul Wickman and Jim Lutz score three straight falls to give the Blue Eagles a 30-27 victory. The same day, Catasauqua led Northampton 20-19 entering the last two bouts, but Jesse Kocher and Jason Grim won close decisions as the Kids stayed unbeaten with a 25-20 win. Parkland won the team title in the Quakertown Tourney with Matt Roth, Scott Radio, Eric Pierello, John Lantz, Howie Miller and Tony Conti. Freedom, Allentown Central Catholic and Pen Argyl were the top three teams in the Pen Argyl Invitational.
Easton rebounded to ride a middleweight six bout streak to shut down Allen 40-14 while Phillipsburg dealt Parkland their 2nd league loss 33-22. On December 22nd, Phillipsburg saw an early lead evaporate as Nazareth roared back through the middle weights to lead 16-10. Scott Horton (152), Jody Crouse (160) and Joe Wargo (Hwt) scored falls, and Phillipsburg won 30-28 breaking the Blue Eagles’ 35-match winning streak. In another closely contested bout, Whitehall nipped Wilson 32-31.
Northampton jumped out to an early lead in the annual Christmas City Tournament and held off Nazareth as they won the team title 197-196.5 and snapped Nazareth’s two-year team title streak. The Kids crowned one champ in Chad Billy and 7 additional place winners, but Nazareth closed the gap and almost pulled out the title. The Blue Eagles crowned three champs (Frosh Dan Tashner, Ryan Nunamaker and Dan Madson). Led by champs Brett and Kyle Werkheiser, Wilson finished 3rd; Brett provided the Kids an assist as he edged Nazareth’s Steve Herceg 4-3 in the finals. Tashner was the OW as he pinned state place winner Kyle Rusnock from Catasauqua in the finals.
Jim Thorpe won their own tourney with three champions; Whitehall crowned six champs to win the Lehighton Wrestling Tourney, Parkland’s balance led the Trojans to the Governor Mifflin title as Howie Miller won their lone title; and Stroudsburg was 2nd in the Warren Hill. Easton finished 3rd in the Manheim Tourney and Tyler Purdy was the 125-pound champ; Phillipsburg crowned 3 champs (Earl Cornine, Scott Frinzi and Jody Crouse) to with the South Jersey Wrestling Invitational; and Liberty was 5th in the Lock Haven Holiday Classic.
After Nazareth edged Easton 30-27 to retain the #1 spot locally, Phillipsburg nipped the Blue Eagles 30-28 to take the top spot. On January 3rd, it was Northampton who knocked off the Stateliners 29-21 as the “No. 1 Hex” continued per The Morning Call’s Ted Meixell. Mike Tomsic opened the match will a fall for the Kids. Phillipsburg tied the match at 6-6 after Scott Frinzi nipped Chad Billy 10-9 at 119. Northampton proceeded to win five of the next six bouts to largely put the match away on their way to winning 29-22.
The same night, Victor Burton bumped up to heavyweight and scored a pin as Allen defeated Liberty 32-20, and Parkland clipped Freedom 36-22. Wilson and Bangor battled to a 32-32 tie after the Warriors had to forfeit two bouts in an early Colonial League match up.
District 7 powerhouse, McGuffey, topped both Easton (26-22) and Wilson (37-19) in the Pat Reilly Invitational double dual. Easton beat Warren Hills 43-21 while Wilson battled Warren Hills to a 33-33 stalemate. Northampton went 2-1 in the Cedar Cliff Duals losing to #1 state-ranked Shikellamy 32-31. The Kids won the first four bouts to lead 21-0, but the Braves won the next five bouts to tie the match at 21-21. The teams split the final two bouts with one bonus point being the difference. Allen defeated Stroudsburg 30-24.
A last second fall, apparent winning takedown then last second reversal to tie, and back-and-forth team score. That was a typical dual meet during the competitive EPC’s 1990-91 season. On January 10th, it was Whitehall nipping Allen 32-30. The same evening in another see-saw battle Parkland defeated Liberty 33-26.
Whitehall was 4-0 but visited The Pit on Saturday, January 12th. The Stateliners were too much and they won by a convincing 44-13 score. The same day, in non-league action, Stroudsburg nipped Allentown Central Catholic 28-27, and Wilson beat Liberty 33-25. Nazareth competed in the Virginia Duals and had two very impressive wins while Northampton had an impressive win over Pocono Mountain 50-8.
On January 16th, upstart Bangor trailed 19-0 and then surprised Pen Argyl 32-30 in a Colonial League match up. Northern Lehigh opened their Centennial League season with a convincing 49-19 win over East Stroudsburg.
On January 17th, #1 Northampton face #4 ranked Easton. In a tightly-contested match that featured only one bonus point the entire night, The Rovers led 3-0, 9-6, 12-9, 16-9, 16-12, 16-15 and 19-18. However, at 171, the Kids’ Billy Wambold (2-9 previously) scored a last second takedown for a 3-1 win. Jason Grim’s 5-2 victory over Joey Jones at heavyweight gave Northampton a 21-19 win. The same night, Whitehall and Freedom battled to a 34-34 stalemate; Parkland had three falls in beating Allen 31-22; and Dieruff’s Jesse Lovell’s decision gave the Huskies a 27-26 win over Central Catholic.
A short two days later, the Kids were back on the mats hosting perennial rival, Nazareth. The Kids opened an early lead and then had a key draw from Steve Gaugler against Todd Killino at 130, 12-8 victory by Steve Moyer over favored Steve Heceg at 135 and a 9-6 win by Steve Everitt at 140. The Kids led 17-8. Nazareth rallied with falls by Sean McAlone (145), Darin Wenrich (171) and Dan Madson (189) to lead 26-24 entering the final bout. Northampton’s Jason Grim trailed early but locked up a near side cradle to score a fall and clinch a 30-26 victory.
The same day, Easton led #1 state-ranked Shikellamy 22-20, but lost 30-22 after a major decision and fall by the Braves. In the continuing competitive Lehigh Valley wrestling landscape, Central Catholic tripped Freedom 34-25; Catasauqua defeated Parkland 32-20; Northern Lehigh nipped Wilson 29-27; Allen topped Bangor 38-27; and Dieruff nipped Stroudsburg 31-29.
Nazareth won 10 of 13 bouts to beat Bangor 53-10. The top Centennial League squads all remained undefeated in the league as Pocono Mountain defeated East Stroudsburg 53-11, Stroudsburg clobbered Palmerton 43-13, and Northern Lehigh downed Notre Dame 42-16. The next night in EPC action, Easton defeated Liberty 36-19, and Allen had four falls to topple Freedom 36-23.
On January 26th, in a key Colonial League match, Catasauqua won the first four bouts and pulled away from 140-171, to win 40-20 over Wilson. In the Centennial League, Pocono Mountain (41-20 over Notre Dame), Stroudsburg (43-21 over Northwestern) and Northern Lehigh (35-25 over Lehighton) all stayed unbeaten in the Centennial League. Parkland continued winning close matches as the Trojans knocked off Whitehall 31-25. To the south, North Penn’s long-time coach, Ed Klavon, earned his 300th dual meet victory.
As January entered its final week, the conference races shaped up as follows:
- East Penn – Northampton (7-0), Phillipsburg (7-1), Easton (6-1), Whitehall (6-2) and Parkland (5-2)
- Colonial – Catasauqua (4-0), Nazareth (3-0), Saucon Valley (2-1) and Wilson (3-1-1)
- Centennial – Stroudsburg (5-0) and Northern Lehigh & Pocono Mountain (4-0)
In a key Centennial League match up on January 30th, Stroudsburg upset Northern Lehigh 31-23 as the Mounties had falls from Mark Miller (145), Dean Tencza (160) and Jim Ludlow (189). One day later, Phillipsburg “escaped” with a 29-25 win over Allen per The Morning Call. The Canaries’ Dan Wagner defeated unbeaten Scott Frinzi 6-4 at 112. Allen wrestled a tough match coming up one bout short.
February 2nd saw some exciting non-league matches. Easton downed Lock Haven 29-23 while Pocono Mountain and Freedom battled to a 29-29 tie. Nazareth and Parkland both won close matches with Shamokin and then the Blue Eagles topped the Trojans 38-20. At 171, Nazareth’s Dan Madson and Parkland’s Howie Miller battled to a 1-1 draw.
Bethlehem Catholic Coach Tony Iasiello won his 300th dual in a quadrangular meet by defeating Cape Henlopen, Delaware 42-21. Liberty’s top man, Frank Gutierrez stood at 298 wins with several matches to go. Coach Gutierrez would go on to win his 300th less than two weeks later with a 37-24 triumph over Central Catholic.
On February 6th, Stroudsburg trailed Pocono Mountain 19-6. Freshman Mark Miller scored a fall at 145 and then after a draw at 152, the Mounties won the last four bouts, including three falls, to all but clinch the Centennial League title 33-21. On February 9th, Pocono Mountain bounced back in more ways than one. Trailing Northern Lehigh 22-9, the Cardinals rallied in the upper weights on Travis Gross’ and Steve Almquist’s falls, John Edwards’ technical fall and Tom Smith’s decision to defeat the Bulldogs 29-28 to pretty much clinch 2nd place.
Easton won pretty easily over rival Phillipsburg 41-11 as the Rovers won nine bouts and tied one. Dieruff won 6 of the final 7 bouts to edge Saucon Valley 28-26. Catasauqua beat both East Stroudsburg and Stroudsburg 55-13 and 41-24, respectively. Nazareth clobbered Liberty 41-16.
Easton defeated Parkland 30-14 to earn a berth in the District team duals tourney, and Northampton handled Freedom 46-10 to clinch the EPC title. Stroudsburg knocked off East Stroudsburg 50-17 to finish unbeaten in the Centennial League.
That left one league title to be decided – the Colonial League – and it was the following evening. Catasauqua came arrived in front of a packed house in Nazareth’s gym looking to deprive the Blue Eagles of their 11th straight title. Ben Fry’s upset win at 103 was one of the key bouts for Nazareth, but the Rough Riders held an 18-15 lead after Brad Lower’s fall at 152. Darin Wenrich and Dan Madson won decisions and then Paul Wickman scored a fall to give Nazareth the win and the league title 29-24.
District 11 Duals
The District Dual tourneys were held on February 16th. In AAA, Northampton easily topped Stroudsburg 44-8 in one semi-final while Nazareth rallied from an 18-13 deficit to top Easton 29-21. Darin Wenrich and Mark Madsen had falls while Dan Madsen won by major decision. In the finals, Ben Fry (103), Chad Feichtel (119) and Ken Haas (140) had key wins as Nazareth opened up a scored a major decision to open a 19-12 lead on the way to a 31-26 win over Northampton.
In AA action, Pine Grove upended Catasauqua 33-19 while Wilson won the final two bouts to edge Tri-Valley 31-27 in the semi-finals. In the finals, Pine Grove won the first five bouts to lead 24-0. Wilson won the rest of the contested bouts, but forfeited two weights as Pine Grove won the title 34-28.
Phillipsburg had topped Brick Memorial and High Point to win their sixth New Jersey state dual crown.
In the final week of dual action, Allen defeated Catasauqua 42-16, and Liberty tripped Freedom 34-18. In Colonial League action, Nazareth whipped Wilson 34-19, and Catasauqua clipped Bangor 39-23. Parkland was too much for Emmaus 52-7. The final dual of the season saw Allen’s Victor Burton bump up to heavyweight to register the deciding win to defeat Dieruff 33-30 and finish 13-6 for the season.
Pocono Mountain edged Northern Lehigh 157-155.5 as both teams had three champions in the Centennial League tourney.
The final league standings were as follows:
|Allentown Central Catholic||9||3-8|
League champions overall records were: Northampton (21-2), Nazareth (18-2) and Stroudsburg (13-4). Other teams with very good records were Phillipsburg (21-2), Pocono Mountain (14-3-1), Catasauqua (14-4), Northern Lehigh (12-4), Parkland (14-5), Easton (13-5), Pen Argyl (14-6), Allen (13-6) and Wilson (15-7-2).
Northampton had won the first two rounds in their ongoing rivalry with Nazareth, before the Blue Eagles turned the tables in the District Duals. So it was only appropriate that the District team title would be decided in the final bout of the tourney. The level of competition in the District was underscored be the fact that a dozen of the 21 teams competing had finalists and nine crowned champions.
Two freshmen who would be fixtures in the district tourney led off the evening as Whitehall’s Whitey Chlebove edged Pocono Mountain’s Jon Laudenslager 4-3. Another super frosh, Nazareth’s Dan Tashner, took the mat at the next weight but was defeated by Northampton’s Chad Billy 9-3.
Nazareth’s closed the gap in the team race as Ryan Nunamaker and Todd Killino won back-to-back titles. Northampton’s Steve Moyer and Parkland’s John Lantz took the mat at 130 in what was one of the most exciting finals in district history. Moyer led 6-2 early but Lantz scored a takedown with ten seconds left to tie the bout at 11-11 and send it into overtime. Lantz had Moyer on his back and led 18-14 and extended his lead to 19-14. A stalling point plus a four point play as time ran out tied the bout at 19-19. Lantz won the title on criteria.
Wrestlers from six different schools would win the next six weights – Emmaus’ Brett Brown, Easton’s Greg Geiger (6-5 upset over Doug Bonshak to extend ‘The Streak’), Parkland’s Roger London, Freedom’s Orlando White, East Stroudsburg’s Aaron Poster and Nazareth’ Dan Madson. With Madson’s 4-3 win over previously unbeaten Howie Miller of Parkland, Nazareth held a 2-1/2 point lead in the team race. After Parkland’s Tony Conti scored a fall to win at 189, Northampton’s Jason Grim took the mat, but Becahi’s Lance Morabito scored an 11-6 decision.
The final team standings had Nazareth, Northampton and Parkland as the top three squads.
“Repeating” was the theme in the AA tournament held at Allen High School. Pine Grove’s J.J. Fasnacht (125) and Pen Argyl’s Rick Kocher (130) both claimed their 3rd straight District titles while Wilson’s Kyle Werkheiser (160) and Notre Dame’s Frank Morici (171) repeated as champions. Mike Connor’s Catasauqua squad displayed great balance in repeating to win the team title despite crowning just one champ, Brad Lower at 152. The Rough Riders had five additional regional qualifiers and four more wrestlers placing in the top six.
Wilson’s Steve Klass (119) and Pine Grove’s Ken Newswanger (112) each gave their teams 2nd titlists as they finished 2nd and 3rd, respectively, in the team race. Salisbury had two champs in Chris Zaun (103) and Ethan Brownback (189). Tri-Valley crowned Todd Bennick at 145 in finishing 4th, and Northern Lehigh had five finalists, including 130-pound champ Bob Wetzel and 140-pound champ Mike Reichard, on their way to a 5th place finish. The final champ was North Schuylkill’s Sean Foley (Hwt).
Waiting in the friendly confines of Liberty’s Memorial Gym was #1 state ranked Shikellamy. The Braves advanced six wrestlers to the semi-finals. The surprise was that Freedom was the local squad with the most semi-finalists at four. The ’91 Regionals also gave many local fans an introduction to a tall lanky sophomore from Milton, Bob Crawford, who was a AA state champ the prior year. Crawford survived a wild 16-16 regulation battle with Allen’s Dan Wagner when he pinned Wagner in OT. Against the undefeated Ryan Nunamaker, Crawford scored a takedown and nearfall to lead 5-0. Nunamaker converted a pancake for five points and cut the lead to 7-5 after two periods. He took a 10-8 lead on his 3rd takedown with 25 seconds to go, but Crawford scored a reversal and back points for four seconds to go to win a 12-10 thriller.
Shikellamy had two champs and four state qualifiers to finish 1st in the team standings. Nazareth and Freedom finished 2nd & 3rd in the team race. Nazareth, Freedom and Whitehall each had two champs in Todd Killino & Dan Madson, Sonny Rivera (130) & Orlando White (152) and Whitey Chlebove & Doug Bonshak, respectively. East Stroudsburg’s Aaron Poster was the other local winner.
In AA action, District XI had the top three teams in Catasauqua, Northern Lehigh and Pine Grove with Wilson taking the 5th spot. Catty repeated as team champ with four runner-ups and one 3rd place finisher. Pine Grove crowned champions at three of the four first weights in Trevor Warner (103), Ken Newswanger (112) and J.J. Fasnacht (125). North Schuylkill’s David Rentschler (119), Northern Lehigh’s Bob Wetzel (130) & Mike Reichard (140), Pen Argyl’s Rick Kocher (135), Palmerton’s Rick Hertzog (145) and Notre Dame’s Frank Morici (171) also won titles. Wilson’s Kyle Werkheiser suffered his 1st loss of the year by a 4-3 upset in the 160-pound final.
Nazareth led the AAA contingent with four quarterfinalists and then three semi-finalists (Ryan Nunamaker, Todd Killino and Dan Madson). Seven more wrestlers from District XI moved into the semi’s. Northampton’s Chad Billy won the state title 7-4 at 112 to become the Lehigh Valley area’s only champ. Ryan Nunamaker again matched up with Bob Crawford in the finals. The two traded five point moves and battled to a 7-7 tie in regulation, but Crawford hit a four-point move in the 2nd OT on the way to a 15-11 win. Dan Madson led early but lost 14-13 in OT to Jesse Rawls while Whitehall’s Doug Bonshak dropped a 4-3 decision to both finish 2nd. The Blue Eagles again finished 2nd in the team race to Shikellamy. Other place winners were Nazareth’s Todd Killino (6th-125) & Steve Herceg (5th-135), East Stroudsburg’s Aaron Poster (5th-160), Parkland’s Howie Miller (3rd-171) and Bethlehem Catholic’s Justin Morabito (6th-Hwt).
In AA, Northern Lehigh’s Ivan Rosario had lost to Pine Grove’s J.J. Fasnacht each of the prior two weeks, but he won a referee’s decision after OT to win the gold medal. Wilson’s Kyle Werkheiser also went into OT and gained revenge 14-8 over Springfield-Montco’s Angelo Martino. Pine Grove’s Ken Newswenger, Palmerton’s Rick Hertzog and Notre Dame’s Frank Morici all finished 2nd. Pine Grove finished 2nd and Northern Lehigh was 3rd in the team race. Other placers included Catasauqua’s Kyle Rusnock (5th-112), Mt. Carmel’s Mike Garcia (5th-119), Northern Lehigh’s Bob Wetzel (4th-130) & Mike Reichard (4th-140), Pen Argyl’s Rick Kocher (4th-135) and Wilson’s Brett Werkheiser (6th-135).
Phillipsburg Post Season:
Phillipsburg had four champs (Earl Cornine, Scott Frinzi, Pat Coyle and Jody Crouse) as the ‘Liners won the NJ District 16 team title; Coach Bob Jiorle was Coach of the Year. Five Phillipsburg wrestlers advanced through regional competition to gain state title berths with Pat Coyle being crowned regional champion. Crouse took 4th in the NJ state tourney.
The PA Team topped the NJ Team 45-12 in the Easton Lions Classic; Doug Bonshak scored a 12-10 OT win over two-time National Prep champ, Dave Leonardis. In the Challenge of Champions the AAA team topped AA 27-20. Northampton’s Chad Billy and Northern Lehigh’s Ivan Rosario both won their bouts. Billy scored a fall to help lead the PA Team to a 24-22 win over the USA Team in the Pittsburgh Wrestling Classic.