Coaching Changes:         

DieruffGlenn WhitemanBilly Burch
East Stroudsburg NorthNEWChris Schneider
NorthwesternDoug BilligMike Williams
Pen ArgylDarrin EvansVic Stanley
Pocono Mountain EastMark GeurinKevin Lesoine
SalisburyEd NesfederJoe Billy
Coach Joe Billy took over the reigns at Salisbury High School

In the 2000-01 season, Easton, Wilson and Northampton dominated the local scene by going a combine 60-6 in duals.  The Rovers had a clean sweep of the AAA District & State Duals and District, Regional and State Duals with the Kids on their heels the entire season.  In AA, the Warriors had similar success but feel one spot short in the State individual team race.  With Easton and Wilson returning loads of talent, would 2001-02 be a repeat?  Could the Kids overcome the graduation of a number of long-time starters to claim the top spot?  Would any other team be able to come close?

Both Easton and Northampton returned state champions in Matt Ciasulli and Jeff Ecklof, respectively.  Easton had swept the league and post season hardware and graduated state champ Gino Fortebuono and three other key starters, but returned five state placewinners.  Easton had 6 wrestlers who had won at least 30 matches and saw Marcus Millen transfer in from Bethlehem Catholic.  For the 2nd year in a row, Northampton was hit hard by graduation.  Ecklof was joined by four district placers but the Kids were in going to need to defend their 2nd place slot in the tough MVC.  Looking to move up were the Parkland Trojans who returned nine starters in Coach Jim Best’s 2nd year.  Freedom, with 11 starters back, including eight district placers was also expected to battle for 2nd place.  Liberty and Nazareth were in the next tier and looking to break in to the top 4.

Wilson graduated four 30-win wrestlers from their 2001 Colonial League championship team. 

Coach Dave Crowell returned seven full-time starters and four part-timers.  Northern Lehigh, Pen Argyl and Saucon Valley finished tied for 2nd last season.  The Bulldogs graduated Coach Todd Herzog’s nephews, Jared and Justin, but did return eight starters while the Green Knights had 10 starters back for new head coach Vic Stanley.  Saucon Valley lost several blue-chippers but still returned 8 starters, and Bangor looked to break back in to the top 3 with eight returning starters.     

After 48 seasons, the East Penn League entered its 49th and final season after a storied history.  The EPC had ended in a 3-way tie between Bethlehem Catholic, Dieruff and Pottsville in 2001.   Becahi and Dieruff both graduated a good number of starters while Pottsville and Emmaus had 10+ returning starters each.  A four-team battle was expected After 13 years, Glenn Whiteman passed the torch to former Husky star Billy Burch.  


Opening weekend saw a number of tournaments on the local slate.  Parkland made its first trip to the Bullet Invitational and upended host Brandywine to win the team title.  Kyle Huddle defeated Northern Lehigh’s Ryan Hluschak 8-4 at 152 in a feature final.  Matt Spangler (112) and Nick Guida (160) also won titles for the Trojans.  Northern Lehigh finished 5th.

Kyle Huddle had a Big Win to Help Parkland Win the Brandywine Invitational (Photo Courtesy of Parkland HS Yearbook)
Jay Morrison was 1 of 3 Whitehall Champs at the Top Hat Tourney (Photo Courtesy of Whitehall H.S.)

In the Wilson Tournament, host Wilson defended their title and won for the 5th time in the tournaments eight-year history with five champions.  Jeremy Hartrum (112), Cory Garis (130), Bobby Frey (135), Neck Krecker (152) and Bryan Eckhart (189) all won titles.  Liberty finished 5th as Mike Pena (112) repeated.  Whitehall’s Jay Morrison (130), Michael Perinotti (135) and Christian Franco (145) won championships in the Top Hat Tourney as the Zephyrs finished 3rd.  Palisades crowned two champs – Liam DeRenzis (135) and Chris Halsworth (140) – to nip Upper Dublin to again win the New Hope Tournament.  Dieruff was 4th as Ricci Bass (112) and Brad Giandomenico (145) both won titles; Allen’s Zeke Lane won and named OW at 152; and Palmerton’s Eric Kresge (171) also was crowned champ.

On December 4th, Freedom opened strong in a non-league dual by defeating Dieruff 54-15.  Easton won 11 of 13 bouts in its MVC opener against Nazareth on the way to a 49-6 rout.  The Rovers’ Bryan Rizzo won the featured bout 3-1 in OT over Eric Frick at 125.  In non-league action, North Schuylkill proved to be too much for Saucon Valley 36-25.

Nazareth again kicked off its season with a dual against Pen Argyl, and the Blue Eagles triumphed 42-10 in a non-league match.  Joe Provini edged Jeff Santo 6-4 at 119 in a feature match-up.  Four days later, Wilson reeled off eight straight wins from 112-152 to defeat Nazareth for the first time in 29 seasons by a 37-19 score.  Bob Frey, Cory Garis, Ed Labatch and Derrick Whisenant had key wins.  Pottsville made its EPC wrestling debut by defeating Allentown Central Catholic 34-27 as Josh Evans fall in the final bout clinched the dual.

Jason Groller scored a fall at heavyweight to close out the Rovers’ win over Wilson (Photo Courtesy of Easton HS Yearbook)

On December 8th, Wilson and Easton faced off in a rematch of last year’s highly competitive 29-21 dual won by the Rovers.  At 103, Alex Krom came back to defeat Rob Streunig 9-6 at 103.  Wilson’s Joe Kushernick scored a comeback 4-2 win at 112.  At 119, state runner-up Jeremy Hartrum and state 3rd placer finisher Chad Sportelli engaged in a rematch with Hartrum again winning – this time 3-1 at 119 to give the Warriors a 6-3 lead.  Easton then reeled off five straight wins from 125-145.  Bryan Rizzo scored a tech fall followed by decisions by Matt Ciasulli, Brayn Hart and Mike Rogers.  Dan Brown scored a major decision at 145, and Easton led 21-6.  The teams traded major decisions at the next two weights as Nick Krecker won for Wilson at 152 and then Matt Lear won for Easton at 160.  Dave Iobst scored a fall at 171 and then Bryan Eckhart nipped Marcus Millen at 189 to cut Easton’s lead to 25-19.  Jason Groller scored a fall at heavyweight and Easton had won again 31-19.

The same day, Northampton and Nazareth wrestled in a quad meet with Shikellamy and Milton with both the Kids and Blue Eagles going 2-0.  Liberty won the final three bouts to pull away from Stroudsburg 33-18.  Bethlehem Catholic traveled to New York and placed 3rd in the John Jay Tournament with 5 champs – Dan Weida (119), Pete Giordano (125), Drew Dehaut (135), Dan Ballard (140) and Dan Dazet (189).  Notre Dame was 1st in the Fort Meade Tournament with 2 champs – Jared Casciole (125) and Jason VanSyckle (171).  Parkland and Northern Lehigh competed in the Walsh Jesuit Ironman Tourney.  The Trojans were 12th with 3 placewinners (Brad Herman, Mike Heist and Adam Atiyeh) while the Bulldogs were 21st with Ryan Hluschak placing 4th.

Pen Argyl welcomed legendary Coach Vic Stanley with a victory (Photo Courtesy of Tom Elling’s Pennsylvania Wrestling)

On December 9th, Colonial League action kicked off with Pen Argyl scoring a decisive 46-12 win over Northern Lehigh.  In the MVC, Pleasant Valley surprised Parkland 27-15 as John Henry Zarzycki and Erik Hansen scored key decisions over Brad Herman and Mike Heist, respectively, at 145 and 171.  Nazareth scored a convincing 56-9 win over Stroudsburg.  Freedom defeated Whitehall 38-22 with the Zephyrs winning some key individual bouts but the Patriots taking the dual. Jay Morrison decisioned Colin Ackerman 5-3 at 130 while Christian Franco defeated Dave Koehler 7-3 at 152.

Palisades was 3rd in the Times-Leader Invitational as Liam Derenzis defeated West Scranton’s Dave Morgan 9-7 in OT and was named OW.  Paul Silfer (103) and Kris Holsworth (135) also won individual titles for the Pirates.  Stroudsburg was 8th as Ryan Hughes took the 145-pound title.

In the Beast of the East, Wilson had a very strong 3rd place performance while Northampton finished just behind them in 4th.  For the Warriors, Jeremy Hartrum edged two-time state champion, Jermaine Jones, 4-1 to win at 112 and be named OW.  Rob Stuenig was 2nd at 103 while Cory Garis was 3rd at 130; Bryan Eckhart was 4th at 189 and Dave Iobst, Tony Curto and Bobby Frey also placed.  For the Kids, Jeff Ecklof defeated St. Edwards’ Chris Vondruska 7-4 to win the 135-pound title.  They also had four other placers.  Whitehall, in their first year in the tourney, finished a solid 6th.  Jay Morrison (125) and Christian Franco (140) were both runner-ups, and the Zephyrs had three more place winners.

Jeff Ecklof Won a Beast of the East Title (Photo Courtesy of Northampton HS Yearbook)

On December 19th, Freedom topped Parkland 36-12, and Liberty doubled up Pocono Mountain 36-18 in MVC action.  In the Colonial League, Southern Lehigh defeated Notre Dame 35-21; Northern Lehigh routed Bangor 45-12; and Wilson pulled away from Saucon Valley early to win 47-16.

Two days later, Wilson and Nazareth faced off in a non-league bout.  Kevin Vinh won a 6-3 decision over Rob Struenig at 103.  After the teams trading decision in the next two weights (Jeremy Hartrum scoring a major decision for Wilson and Nazareth’s Joe Caramanica downing Joe Kushnerick 4-1), the Warrior strong together three straight wins by Tony Curto, Cory Garis and Bobby Frey to lead 14-6.  Joe Creazzo and John Dugey scored decisions for the Blue Eagles to narrow the lead to 14-12.  Nick Krecker scored a key fall at 152 spurring a four bout win streak by Wilson to put the match away 29-18.

Just before Christmas the news was announced that teams forming the Lehigh Valley Conference would be released from their commitments to compete in the Mountain Valley Conference during the 2002-03 sports season.  Easton, Freedom, Liberty, Nazareth, Northampton, Parkland and Whitehall all received releases.  The LVC will comprise these teams along with the Allentown-based EPC teams, Allen, Central Catholic and Dieruff.  It was expected that the 2002-03 season would see combination of LVC and MVC matches.

The weekend before Christmas, Easton was back on top at the Reno Tournament of Champions as they finished 7.5 points ahead of Great Bridge VA.  Matt Ciasulli won the 125-pound title and was named OW.  Alex Krom (103), Mike Rogers (135) and Dan Brown (140) placed 3rd.  In addition, 5 other Rovers placed in the top 8. 

Matt Ciasulli Exhibits his Strength on Top. He Won the RTOC & was Named OW (Photo Courtesy of Easton HS Yearbook)

The same weekend in non-league action, Parkland topped Blue Mountain 35-21 and Nazareth downed Pen Argyl 42-12; Jeff Santo edged Eric Frick 6-3 at 130.  In Colonial League action, Southern Lehigh rallied to defeat Bangor 31-25.  Trailing 25-16, the Spartans’ got a decision from Jesse Kulp at 171 and falls from Brandon Kelly at 189 and Tristan Churn at heavyweight to pull out the match.

Jesse Kulp Started a Southern Lehigh Comeback to Top Bangor (Photo Courtesy of SL HS Yearbook)

Holiday Tournaments

Bangor had one champ in Scott Heckman and 5 placers in the top 4 to take the team title at the Christmas City Tournament.  Emmaus, Blue Mountain, Quakertown and Stroudsburg finished in 2nd to 5th place within 5 points of each other.   Blue Mountain, Palisades, Saucon Valley and West Scranton each had two champions.  Port Jervis’ Joe Andriac was named OW who pined Pius X’s Jordon Hildabrant at 275.

Bangor Won the Christmas City Title (Photo Courtesy of Bangor HS Yearbook)

Easton won the Manheim Lions Holiday Wrestling Tournament for the 3rd straight year as they placed all 13 wrestlers, a tournament record.  The Rovers had six champions – Chad Sportelli (112), Bryan Rizzo (125), Matt Ciasulli (130), Mike Rogers (135), Dan Brown (140) and Matt Lear (160).  Parkland was 2nd with Adam Atiyeh topping Easton’s Marcus Millen 8-7 to win the 189-pound title; the Trojans also had 3 runner-ups.

Blair Academy had again crowned five champions on their way to a 100+ point win in the Bethlehem Holiday Classic.  Wilson was 2nd with Jeremy Hartrum repeating this time at 119 and Bryan Eckhart winning at 189; the Warriors had 4 other placers in the top 4.  Northampton finished 3rd with Jeff Ecklof winning the 135-pound title.  Whitehall’s Christian Franco celebrated his birthday by winning the 140-pound title.     


Dave Koehler Began a 4 Bout Win Streak (Photo Courtesy of Freedom HS Yearbook)

On January 2nd, Freedom surprised Nazareth with a 28-27 upset in the Blue Eagles’ home gym.  Nazareth won two of the first three bouts to lead 9-3.  Jared Ackerman upended Eric Frick 7-6 in OT at 125, and Reinaldo Merced bumped up several weights and topped Cory Creazzo 5-3 at 135.  In between, Joe Provini defeated Colin Ackerman 3-2.  Nazareth got falls at 140 and 145 to open up a 24-9 lead.  Dave Koehler, Brandon Horlick, Mike Cleffi and John Steiner then reeled off four straight wins, and the Pates led 28-24. Rocky Schoenberger won by decision at heavyweight, and the final score was Freedom 28-27.

The next evening, Liberty vs. Parkland was the big match in the MVC.  The Hurricanes led 17-10 after 140.  The Trojans then won the next 5 bouts, including four by bonus points, as Brad Herman, Kyle Huddle, Nick Guida, Mike Heist and Adam Atiyeh put the match away for the Trojans. Liberty’s Devin Derrico won the final bout, but Parkland triumphed 34-20.

The Trojans had a Big Win over Liberty (Photo Courtesy of Parkland HS Yearbook)

 The Easton-P-Burg and Zephyr Duals were on tap the following weekend.  The Rovers were dominant in winning four duals.  There were some excellent matches involving the 27 teams in attendance with the best probably being Freedom, ranked #4 in PA, topping #8 Connellsville 27-27 on criteria.  In the Zephyr Duals, host Whitehall led in the finals against AA=powerhouse Wyalusing but lost on criteria after the match ended 33-33.  Southern Lehigh topped Quakertown 33-27 to take 3rd, and Emmaus beat Blue Mountain 33-25 for 5th.

On January 8th, Brandywine Heights won its 400th dual of all-time and 309th in the storied career of Coach Sam Lovello as they defeated Cedar Crest 41-16.

One day later, Easton hosted Freedom with the Rovers taking 10 of 13 bouts to win 39-12.  Coach Steve Powell cited frosh Alex Krom (103), Matt Pizarro (171) and Marcus Millen (189) as key bouts won.  In another MVC match, Nazareth nipped Pleasant Valley 26-22.  On the other side of 25th Street, Wilson rolled to a 49-6 win over Pen Argyl as the Warriors stayed unbeaten in the Colonial League. 

The same evening Coach Tony Iasiello won his 400th bout as Bethlehem Catholic, as they had done the year before, won the final two bouts to defeat Dieruff in an EPC match 39-33. 

The three Bethlehem schools and Nazareth traveled to the Virginia Duals.  The Blue Eagles topped Freedom 31-22 in the semi’s but lost to Great Bridge in the finals.  Freedom came back to take 3rd.  Liberty was 1-2 in the main bracket while Bethlehem Catholic was 1-2 in the American Division.

Nazareth was 2nd in the Virginia Duals (Photo Courtesy of Nazareth HS Yearbook)

Parkland hosted the Lehigh Valley Challenge.  Northampton and Parkland both beat two out-of-town visitors in the early rounds before matching up against each other in Round 4.  The Kids were too much for the Trojans as they won 10 of 13 bouts to easily win 41-9.  For the 2nd straight year, Pleasant Valley went 3-0 as they defeated Wyoming Valley West, Germantown Academy and Downingtown to improve to 11-1 on the season.  The same weekend, Pius X won their own dual tourney as they defeated Notre Dame 40-26 in the championship match.

Easton Coaches Steve Powell & Barry Snyder Watch the Action (Photo Courtesy of Easton HS Yearbook)

St. Edward’s Ohio again made the trip East.  They started with a Friday night dual at Blair Academy but lost 38-24.  They then faced off against Easton the next afternoon.  The Rovers roared out to a 15-0 lead as Alex Krom, Chad Sportelli, Bryan Rizzo (by 3-2 score over national #1 Mark Moos) and Matt Ciasulli (by fall) all scored victories.  St. Ed’s had a fall at 130, but Easton went on another run Mike Rogers, Dan Brown and Sean Richmond scored decisions.  The Rovers would also get wins from Matt Lear, Matt Pizarro and Marcus Millen on their way to a big 37-14 win.  St. Ed’s traveled to Parkland where they topped Wilson 37-13 before heading back to Ohio. 

On January 16th, Easton underscored the gap between it and a very good Pleasant Valley squad.  The Bears were missing two starters, but the Rovers scored bonus points in 9 bouts to win 55-7.  The same night, Whitehall Coach Bob Hartman did much line up juggling in an attempt to upend Nazareth.  The Blue Eagles won three of the first five bouts to lead 15-8.  Joe Provini edged Jay Morrison 5-3 in a key bout at 135.  After Christian Franco bumped all the way up to 152, the Zephyrs had cut the gap to 24-19.  Nazareth scored falls in the next two bouts to give them five on the night on their way to a 36-25 win. 

In other league action, Northampton topped Stroudsburg 53-12 to stay unbeaten in the MVC, and Emmaus cruised past Dieruff 46-16 in the EPC.  Wilson beat Bangor 55-12 to stay unbeaten in the Colonial League while Southern Lehigh defeated Palisades 40-27 and Northern Lehigh nipped Catasauqua 31-30.

On January 19th, Saucon Valley fought off injuries and illness to defeat Northern Lehigh 38-22 as they scored 5 falls / tech falls.  In a very competitive non-league bout, Pleasant Valley opened up a big lead to top Emmaus 26-25.

One day later, the Final Four of High School Wrestling was on tap at Easton High School.  Both #1 Blair Academy and #2 Easton easily beat Solon OH and Washington Township NJ during the first two sessions.  In the grand finale, the Rovers jumped out to an early 17-0 lead after winning the first 5 bouts including 3 one point or overtime wins.  However, Blair won the remaining eight bouts to win going away 38-17 to preserve their #1 national ranking.

Northampton would have two huge matches the next week.  On January 23rd, The Kids traveled to Nazareth for their annual showdown with the Blue Eagles.  Coach Terry Daubert was hoping to win at least one bout of the first two and 160.  Billy Stenack and John Paukovits both won decisions to stake the Kids to a 6-0 lead.  Nazareth fought back to take a 7-6 lead as Eric Frick and Joe Provini scored decisions.  Joey Ecklof topped Joe Caramanica 7-3 at 130 followed by Billy Haydt’s 4-3 win over Cory Creazzo.  Jeff Ecklof then scored a decision at 140, and Northampton led 15-7.  Nazareth’s John Dugey scored a 5-4 decision to narrow the gap to 15-10.  The Kids then pulled by stringing together four straight wins by Bobby Zuber, Danny George, Josh Haines and Jon Oplinger on their way to a 29-16 win.

The same evening, Easton and Parkland faced off in an MVC match up.  The Rovers led 33-6 after the 140-pound bout and received three forfeits along the way.  The final six bouts were highly competitive and featured some very solid individual matches. Parkland’s Brad Herman (5-2 over Sean Richmond at 145), Kyle Huddle (4-2 over Isaac Csezmadia at 152) and Mike Heist (8-2 over Matt Pizarro at 171) won their bouts.  Easton’s Matt Lear (5-3 over Nick Guida at 160), Marcus Millen (4-2 in OT over Adam Atiyeh avenging an earlier loss at 189) and Jason Groller (8-2 over Jason Loughridge at 275) won for the Rovers.  The final score was 42-15 Easton.

In the Colonial League, Pen Argyl defeated Notre Dame 44-19; Palisades upset Bangor 42-24; and Wilson downed Northern Lehigh 56-9.  In the EPC, Emmaus continued their march to the league title with a 44-20 victory over Bethlehem Catholic.

On January 26th, Easton hosted Northampton in a bout between the state’s top two ranked AAA teams.  An hour before the match started as fans began to enter the gym and looked at the line-ups on the boards and saw state champs Matt Ciasulli and Jeff Ecklof both listed at 125.  Indeed Ecklof had dropped down to seek out the match up.  “It was a great thing for wrestling.  Everyone wanted to see it,” said Northampton Coach Terry Daubert and added “Jeff made it happen.” 

Before the big match up took place, Easton jumped out to a 13-0 lead as Alex Krom, Chad Sportelli and Bryan Rizzo all scored victories.  That’s when Ciasulli and Ecklof took the mat at 125.  Ecklof scored a 4-point play in the first period and made it stand up for a 4-3 victory.  Brother Joey Ecklof scored a fall to cut the lead to 13-9, but the Kids would get no closer.  Mike Rogers, Dan Brown and Sean Richmond strung together three wins to open up a 25-9 lead.  Easton won 3 of the final 5 bouts for to defend their #1 ranking 36-15 and take sole possession of 1st place in the MVC. 

The same night, Freedom matched up against crosstown rival, Liberty.  The Patriots’ took control early as Ross Strebig, Sean Greco (by fall over previously once-beaten Mikey Pena), Renaldo Merced, Jared Ackerman and Colin Ackerman staked Freedom to a 22-0 lead.  Liberty won the next three bouts to cut the lead to 22-9, but Freedom answered back by winning the next three bouts to wrap up the win.  The teams traded falls in the final two bouts and Jeff Karam’s squad won the Battle of Bethlehem (and the Karam brothers) 39-15. 

Freedom Topped Liberty in the Annual Showdown Match (Photo Courtesy of Freedom HS Yearbook)

In another competitive MVC match, Parkland’s Matt Spengler scored a major decision at 103, but Nazareth then strung together six straight wins from 112-140 to lead 29-4.  Parkland roared back to win four straight bouts which along with a team point deduction for the Blue Eagles, left the score at 28-22 with one bout remaining.  Rocky Shoeneberger’s decision clinched the match 31-22 for Nazareth.

Emmaus had not won a league title since the old Lehigh Valley League days back in 1970, but on January 28th that changed.  Emmaus got falls from Derrick Reinsmith and Gary Hoosier on their way to a 30-25 victory over visiting Pottsville to win the EPC title. 

One night later, Freedom was able to win seven of thirteen bouts against Northampton, but the Kids won the battle for bonus points on their way to a 28-24 victory. Billy Stenack and John Paukovits both scored tech falls to lead 10-0.  Freedom strung together three straight wins by Reinadlo Merced, Jared Ackerman (5-4 over Joey Ecklof) and Colin Ackerman to cut the lead to 10-9.  Billy Haydt scored the Kids’ only regular decision of the night before Jeff Ecklof’s fall at 140 increased the lead to 19-9.  Freedom then sandwiched to regular decisions around Bobby Zuber’s major at 152, and the score was 23-15.  Josh Haines scored a tech fall at 171 before John Steiner nipped Jon Oplinger 7-6 and Josh Kelly scored a fall at heavyweight.  In another MVC match, Easton won 10 of 13 bouts to top Liberty 41-10, and in the EPC Dieruff win all but 2 bouts in defeating Allen 51-10.

Dieruff Won the Annual Battle Against Allen (Photo Courtesy of Dieruff HS Yearbook)

In the Colonial League, Pen Argyl dominated the early and middle weights to lead Saucon Valley 37-0 after the 160-pound bout in a match that was expected to be much closer.  Saucon Valley won 3 of the final 4 bouts to narrow the final score to 40-14.  Southern Lehigh trailed Northern Lehigh 21-16 with only 4 bouts to go.  Ed Williams, Jesse Kulp and Brandon Kelly scored three straight bonus point wins to complete a 31-24 comeback win.

In non-league bouts, it was another close finish between North Schuylkill and Pottsville.  The Spartans again rallied to defeat Pottsville 26-25.


District Duals

Easton and Wilson were again the top seeds for the AAA and AA District Duals, respectively.  In AAA, #1 Easton defeated Blue Mountain 45-14; #2 Northampton defeated Pleasant Valley 42-19; and #3 Freedom cruised past Emmaus 45-15.  In the #4-#5 match, Nazareth doubled up Liberty 32-16.

In AA, Wilson routed Notre Dame 56-6, and #2 North Schuylkill had 6 falls to beat Northern Lehigh 48-18.  #3 Pen Argyl built a big lead in downing Tri-Valley 43-18.  #5 Lehighton upended #4 Pius X 49-19 as they won the first five bouts and had five falls total. 

In the AAA semi-finals, Easton won 10 of 13 bouts to defeat Nazareth 35-12.  The Blue Eagles’ Eric Frick edged Bryan Rizzo 2-1 in OT at 119 to win his 100th career bout.  Northampton and Freedom had battled in a 28-24 dual earlier in the week.  The Kids were able to reverse three losses from that match as Joey Ecklof beat Jared Ackerman 9-1 at 130; Jon Oplinger beat John Steiner 14-13; and Jesse Probus avenged a fall to beat Josh Kelly 7-5.  Northampton won by an impressive 31-11 score.  In the finals, Alex Krom, Chad Sportelli, Bryan Rizzo and Matt Ciasulli got the Rovers off to a good start to build a 14-0 lead.  Jeff Ecklof scored a fall at 130 to get the Kids on the board, but Mike Rogers, Dan Brown and Sean Richmond strung together three more wins as Easton led 25-6.  Just as they had done last year, Northampton finished strong and won 3 of the final 5 bouts, but Easton triumphed 35-16. 

In AA, Wilson defeated Lehighton 53-12 while Pen Argyl beat North Schuylkill 38-15 in the semi-finals. Jeff Santo was trailing Tony Curto 2-0 when he scored a reversal and fall at 125 to put Pen Argyl in the lead 12-7.  However, Wilson won the remaining nine bouts to defeat the Green Knights 44-12 and repeat as AA District Dual champions. 

(Team District Duals Photos Courtesy of Jackie Crowell)

PIAA Team Dual Championships

In the AAA quarterfinals, Easton won all but one bout to defeat Erie Cathedral Prep 61-3. Next up in the semi-finals was District 1 Champ, North Penn.  Easton continued their domination by defeating Pennsbury 53-6 to advance to the finals.  Easton again started quickly by winning six of the first seven bouts to defeat Trinity 47-15 to win their 2nd straight AAA state dual title.

The Rovers Won the AAA State Duals Title (Photo Courtesy of Easton HS Yearbook)

The AA quarterfinals, would see a rematch from last year as Wilson routed the District 10 AA champ, Reynolds 44-6.  In the semi-finals, Wilson defeated Brockway 50-6.  The finals the Warriors toppled previously unbeaten Bloomsburg 45-9 to win their 2nd straight AA state dual title.  Wilson was dominant in the dual post-season by 1) winning their 6 District and State dual bouts by an average score of 47-9 and 2) scoring 96 takedowns while only giving up 12 in the state duals.

Other February Duals

On February 6th, Easton and Phillipsburg faced off at Lafayette in their annual match up.  The Rovers won 11 of 13 bouts as they won 45-12.  Matt Lear won the Brad Weaver Award by defeating previously unbeaten Dave Post 8-6 at 160.  The next night, Northampton rolled past Liberty 50-3.

On February 9th, in non-league action, Pen Argyl stated quickly to defeat Freedom 32-20; Southern Lehigh beat Emmaus 44-15; and Northern Lehigh clipped Lehighton 38-27.

As the MVC schedule wound down, on February 13th, Jeff Ecklof pinned Michael Perinotti for his 100th career win as Northampton topped Whitehall 47-10, and Nazareth topped Liberty 36-9. 

Final league standings were as follows:

East Penn
Bethlehem Catholic33-2
Allentown Central Catholic51-4
William Allen60-5
Pen Argyl2T9-2
Southern Lehigh2T9-2
Northern Lehigh4T7-4
Saucon Valley4T7-4
Notre Dame6T6-5
Mountain Valley (*)
Pleasant Valley5T4-3
East Stroudsburg11T0-7
Pocono Mountain11T0-7
(*) - Standings not completely verified

League champions overall records were:  Emmaus (15-5), Wilson (19-2) and Easton (20-4).  Other teams with very good records were Northampton (19-2), Southern Lehigh (16-3), Pen Argyl (19-5), Pleasant Valley (14-5), Parkland (9-5), Freedom (15-6), Whitehall (11-6) and Nazareth (14-7).

District Tournaments

As they had all season long, Easton and Northampton dominated the action and took the lead as they each advanced nine wrestlers to the semi-finals.  Only one #2 seed lost as Pottsville’s Chris Paulo decisioned Liberty’s Mike Pena 5-2 in the quarters; two #3 seeds were upset.  Nazareth, Pleasant Valley and Whitehall each moved five wrestlers to semi’s while Parkland advanced four. 

In the semi-finals, Northampton frosh John Paukovits upset Easton’s Chad Sportelli, who owned to wins over the K-Kid, 3-2.  Despite the upset, Easton was still able to advance one more man to the finals than Northampton (6-5).  The Rovers also had four wrestlers finish 3rd as they pulled away from Northampton in the team race. 

Three freshmen won district titles, including wrestlers in the first two weights.  Easton’s Alex Krom took 103-pound title 9-7 over Dieruff’s Ricci Bass.  Northampton’s Paukovits then topped fellow frosh Tim McGoldrick of Pleasant Valley 6-2 at 112.  The 3rd frosh to win was Parkland’s Nick Guida at 160 who escaped for a 2-1 OT rideout win over Southern Lehigh’s Jess Kulp.  Easton crowned two additional champions as Matt Ciasulli defeated Northampton’s Joey Ecklof 5-0 at 125, and Matt Lear topped Freedom’s Dave Koehler 3-2 at 152.

Northampton led all teams by crowning five champs.  In addition to Paukovits, Jeff Ecklof decisioned Whitehall’s Michael Perinotti 7-2 at 130; Bobby Zuber nipped Pleasant Valley’s John-Henry Zarzycki 7-5 in OT at 145; Josh Haines topped Freedom’s John Steiner 10-6 at 171; and Jon Oplinger defeated Southern Lehigh’s Brandon Kelly 4-2 in OT at 189.

Jon Oplinger Was 1 of 5 District Champs for the Kids (Photo Courtesy of Northampton HS Yearbook)

Nazareth’s Eric Frick (119), Bangor’s Scott Heckman (who pinned Easton’s Mike Rogers at 135 and won the OW), Whitehall’s Christian Franco (140) and Pottsville’s Josh Evans (who won the 4th OT bout of the finals at 275) won the balance of the titles.  Coach Steve Powell was again named Coach of the Year.

Eric Frick Won the 119-Pound Title (Photo Courtesy of Nazareth HS Yearbook)

In AA, Wilson was gunning for their 2nd straight team title, but found competition from Pen Argyl.  The Green Knights had 9 semi-finalists and led Wilson, who had 8 in the semi’s, by 1.5 points.  Pen Argyl was aided by 11th seed Jake DeBoer (135) and 12th seed Justin Mutchler (152) being among their semi-finalists.  Pine Grove, Saucon Valley and North Schuylkill rounded out the top five. 

The Warriors went 6 for 8 in the semi-finals while Pen Argyl had a rough Saturday morning winning their first two bouts but dropping the rest.  In the finals, all six Warrior wrestlers won their bouts as they easily won the team title. Jeremy Hartrum won his 3rd title at 112 by defeating Panther Valley’s Justin Kopp 2-1 (Hartrum had defeated Kopp in the 103 final the prior year).  Tony Curto gained revenge against Pen Argyl’s Jeff Santo with a fall in the first period at 119 to repeat his district title and win the OW award.  At 125, Wilson’s Cory Garis was another repeat champ as he downed Pine Grove’s James Michaud 17-8.  Bobby Frey (13-5 over Palisades’ Liam Derenzis at 135), Nick Krecker (21-8 over Panther Valley’s Brian Sommers at 152), and Bryan Eckhart (8-3 over Becahi’s Dan Dazet at 189) rounded out the Warriors’ champs.

Pius X and Saucon Valley each had two champs.  Keith Smith scored a quick fall at 152 while Eric Rath nipped North Schuylkilll’s Mark Knock 3-2 at 171 to win his 2nd District title for Pius X.  For Saucon Valley, Brian Nowicki topped Central Catholic’s David Rivera in OT at 160 while Steve Grida defeated Pius X’s Jordan Hildebrant 3-2 at 275.  Palisades’ Paul Silfer (103), Pine Grove’s Cleary (135) and North Schuylkill’s Matt Edwards (140) were the remaining winners.

Wilson’s Coach Dave Crowell was again named Coach of the Year. 

Regional Tournaments

District 11 had the most semi-finalists with 34 but was not quite as dominant as it had been the prior two years (40 advancers on the first day of the Northeast Regional tourney.  Easton took the early lead with seven semi-finalists while 2nd place Northampton advanced six wrestlers.  Whitehall had a solid performance with four in the semi’s. 

The Rovers advanced seven wrestlers to the finals and had six state qualifiers to again win the team title.  District 11 had 19 of 26 finalists.  Easton had two champions both of whom who their 3rd regional titles – Chad Sportelli defeated Milton’s Mike Acedo-Malaney 7-4 at 112, and Matt Ciasulli shut out Whitehall’s Jay Morrison 6-0 at125.  Second place Northampton had the most titlists with three.  Jeff Ecklof edged Whitehall’s Michael Perinotti 3-2 at 130; Josh Haines topped Freedom’s John Steiner 7-2 at 171; and Jon Oplinger defeated Liberty’s Mike Liberto 6-4 at 189. 

Josh Haines (shown in action earlier in the season) Won a Regional Title for the Kids (Photo Courtesy of Northampton HS Yearbook)

Whitehall had a solid performance by finishing 3rd with three finalists including 4-time champ Christian Franco, who opened up for an 8-1 win over Easton’s Dan Brown at 140.  Other District 11 champs included Bangor’s Scott Heckman who won by fall over Easton’s Mike Rogers at 135 and Pleasant Valley’s John-Henry Zarzycki who won his team’s first regional championship by defeating the Kids’ Bobby Zuber 3-2 at 145.  Parkland had four wrestlers win their consolation final bouts to qualify for states.

Pinner Scott Heckman Won a NE Regional Title for Bangor (Photo Courtesy of Bangor HS Yearbook)
(Photo Courtesy of Tom Elling from PIAA Program)

With six semi-finalists, Wilson jumped out to a big lead in the AA Southeast Regionals.  The Warriors continued their strong performance by crowning five champions and qualified eight wrestlers for the state tournament to easily win the regionals for the 2nd straight year.  Jeremy Hartrum (112), Tony Curo (scoring a fall over Jeff Santo at 119) and Cory Garis (125) won three straight titles.  They were joined by Nick Krecker (145) and Bryan Eckhart (189). 

Pius X brought three wrestlers to the AA tourney, and all three made the finals with Keith Smith winning the 152-pound title by a fall to finish in a tie for 2nd with North Schuylkill.  The Spartans’ Matt Edwards (140) and Mark Knock (171) both won championships.  Pine Grove’s Kyle Cleary romped to a 15-3 win over Matt Lambach of ECLO at 135 while Saucon Valley’s Ryan Nowicki again topped Central Catholic’s David Rivera 3-1 at 160.    

(Photo Courtesy of Tom Elling from PIAA Program)
(SE Regional Photos Courtesy of Jackie Crowell)

PIAA State Championships

Easton led the local wrestlers with five winners advancing to the quarterfinals. Northampton, Nazareth and Whitehall each advanced two wrestlers while five additional District XI wrestlers were able to win their first round bouts.  In the quarterfinals, Easton had three winners – Matt Ciasulli (125), Mike Rogers (135) and Dan Brown (140) – to take a narrow lead in the team race over State College and Waynesburg.  as they advanced five to the semi’s.  Nazareth and Whitehall each advanced two wrestlers to the semi’s and four additional District 11 wrestlers won their bouts. Three defending state champs – West Chester East’s Jermaine Jones, McGuffey’s Jeff Breese and Northampton’s Jeff Ecklof lost in their first two rounds.  Ecklof dropped a tough 7-6 ride out bout to Red Land’s Brian Baglio in a rematch of last year’s semi-final bout won by Ecklof in overtime. 

In the semi-finals, Nazareth’s Eric Frick lost a 5-4 bout at 119 while Ciasulli pinned Frick’s teammate, Joe Provini at 125.  At 135, Bangor’s Scott Heckman dropped a 7-5 decision to Connellsville’s Jarrod King while Easton’s Mike Rogers won 4-2 over State College’s Matt Kocher on the other side of the bracket.  At 140, Dan Brown and Christian Franco both advanced to set up an all-District 11 finale.  Pleasant Valley’s John Henry Zarzycki and Northampton’s Jon Oplinger both won close bouts to advance. 

In the finals, Matt Ciasulli had to go to OT to win his 3rd title 4-2 by turning Greensburg-Salem’s Brian Sticca.  Soph Mike Rogers followed with a 7-5 win over King to claim the 135-pound title.  Christian Franco used an arm bar for three back points against Dan Brown to key his 6-1 win to reach the top of the podium after finishing 3rd and 2nd.  Franco became Whitehall’s first state champ.  John-Henry Zarzycki lost 9-2 to State College’s Matt Storniolo, while Jon Oplinger dropped a 4-1 decision to Plum’s Matt Cassidy.

Matt Ciasulli Won his 3rd State Title (Photo Courtesy of Easton HS Yearbook)
Christian Franco Capped a Fantastic Career with a State Title (Photo Courtesy of Whitehall HS Yearbook)

With three finalists and five placers, Easton won the team title, and Coach Steve Powell was again named Coach of the Year.  In addition to their two champions and runner-up, the Rovers had Chad Sportelli place 4th at 112 & Matt Lear (152) was 3rd.  Northampton finished 4th while Whitehall was 6th and Parkland was 7th.  Other placers from District XI included Nazareth’s Eric Frick (119 – 3rd), Whitehall’s Jay Morrison (125 – 3rd), Nazareth’s Joe Provini (125 – 6th), Northampton’s Jeff Ecklof (130 – 3rd), Whitehall’s Mike Perinotti (130 – 7th), Bangor’s Scott Heckman (135 – 5th), Blue Mt’s Chris Renninger (135 – 8th), Parkland’s Brad Herman (140 – 3rd), Northampton’s Bobby Zuber (145 – 4th), Parkland’s Nick Guida (160 – 5th), Northampton’s Josh Haines (171 – 3rd), Freedom’s John Steiner (171 – 4th) & Liberty’s Mike Liberto  (189 – 5th). 

AAA State Champs – Front Row: Coleman Scott (Waynesburg Central), Drew Headlee (Waynesburg Central), Tim Haas (Cedar Cliff), Matt Ciasulli (Easton), Brian Baglio (Red Land) & Mike Rogers (Easton). Back Row: Christian Franco (Whitehall), Matt Storniolo (State College), Nathan Galloway (State College), Zac Fryling (North Penn), Steve Borja (Garden Spot), Matt Cassidy (Plum) & Tom Parks (North Allegheny) (Photo Courtesy of Tom Elling)
(Photo Courtesy of Tom Elling from PIAA Wrestling Program)

Wilson continued their strong post-season performance as they had seven first round winners.  North Schuylkill, Palisades, Pius X and Saucon Valley each advanced two wrestlers and five additional District 11 wrestlers won their first round bouts.  Wilson’s Friday got off to a much better start than the prior year as they advanced five wrestlers to the semi-finals to continue building their lead; a total of ten District XI wrestlers won their quarterfinal bouts.  In the evening session, the Warriors continued to lead the way as Jeremy Hartrum (112), Tony Curto (119), Cory Garis (125) and Nick Krecker (145) all moved into the state finals!  In addition, Pine Grove’s Kyle Cleary (135) and ACC’s David Rivera (160) joined them in the finals. 

In the finals, Wilson’s Jeremy Hartrum got the locals off to a solid start as he defeated Any Henry of Strong Vincent 9-3 at 112.  Tony Curto dropped a 7-6 decision to Burrell’s Joe Makara at 119 while Cory Garis won the 125-pound title by an 8-2 decision.  Pine Grove’s Kyle Cleary also took 2nd at 135.  The Warriors’ Nick Krecker scored a 3rd period takedown for a 7-6 win at 145 giving Coach Dave Crowell three state champs.  Allentown Central Catholic’s David Rivera used a four-point play on his way to a 5-3 victory to become his school’s first state champ.  Wilson scored 132 points for a dominant win in the team standings as Coach Dave Crowell was named Coach of the Year. 

AA State Champs – Wilson Warriors (Photo Courtesy of Jackie Crowell)
Central Catholic’s David Rivera Won his Schools 1st State Title (Photo Courtesy of ACC HS Yearbook)

Place winners included Palisades’ Paul Silfer (103 – 6th), Pen Argyl’s Jeff Santo (119 – 4th), Wilson’s Bobby Frey (130 – 4th), Palisades’ Liam DeRenzis (130 – 5th), Northern Lehigh’s Ryan Hluschak (140 – 3rd), North Schuylkill’s Matt Edwards (140 – 5th), Pius X’s Keith Smith (152 – 4th), Saucon Valley’s Ryan Nowicki (160 – 5th), Palmerton’s Erick Kresge (160 – 7th), Pius X’s Eric Rath ( 171 – 5th), Wilson’s David Iobst (171 – 7th), Wilson’s Bryan Eckhart (189 – 4th) and Saucon Valley’s Steve Grida (275 – 7th).  Truly, an excellent year for the AA grapplers!

AA State Champs – Front Row: Jake Strayer (Forest Hills), Jeremy Hartrum (Wilson), Joe Makara (Burrell), Cory Garis (Wilson), Jeremy Walsh (Oley Valley) & Jarrett Mussleman (Claysburg Kimmel). Back Row: Chd Sichak (Richland), Nick Krecker (Wilson), Derrick Morgan (Athens), David Rivera (Allentown CC), Kurt Brenner (Freedom Area), Matt Wilcox (Maplewood) & C.J. Wonsettler (Bentworth) (Photo Courtesy of Tom Elling)
(Photo Courtesy of Tom Elling from PIAA Program)

Phillipsburg Post-Season

For the second year in a row, Phillipsburg finished 2nd to Absegami in the Group 4 State Duals when they dropped a 33-26 dual.

Phillipsburg won its 9th straight NJ District 1 team titles with an 11 champions – Robert Au (103), Brandon Stillo (112), Trevor Duddy (119), Dan Buss (125), P.J. Budd (135), Mike Frank (140), Justin Koeller (145), Dave Post (160), Derek Schisler (171), Mike Bray (189) and Ian Roncoroni (215).

In the Region 1 Championships, Dave Post (160) and Derek Schisler (171) finished 1st.  In the NJ state championships, Post finished 5th and Robert Au was 8th

In the Easton Lions Classic, the Pennsylvania Team defeated the New Jersey Team 26-18 as Wilson wrestlers were prominent in the night’s results.  Cory Garis, Nick Krecker and Bryan Eckhart all won their bouts for the PA team.  In the final match PA AA State champ, Jeremy Hartrum lost a 3-1 OT bout to Kittatinny’s two-time NJ state champ Matt Valenti, who was named OW.  Pa state champs, Christian Franco and David Rivera also won their bouts for the PA team.

The Pennsylvania wrestlers lost 26-21 to a US Team, which featured three future NCAA champs plus a 4-time All-American, in the Dapper Dan Classic.  Four local wrestlers competed, but unfortunately they all droped decisions.  Wilson’s Jeremy Hartrum lost 14-10 to unbeaten Sam Hazewinkel (the future 4-time AA); Cory Garis and Christian Franco both dropped decisions while David Rivera lost by tech fall to Johnny Hendricks (future 2x NCAA champ).   Teyon Ware and Zach Esposito were winners for the US team.