Coaching Changes:        

Allentown Central CatholicJeff ArbushitesJack Pressman
East Stroudsburg NorthNEWChris Schneider
PalisadesTom SockerBryan Klass
Pocono Mountain WestNEWAndy Snyder
Southern LehighDoug RoncolatoKeith Turner
WhitehallBob HartmanTim Cunningham
Tim Cunningham Became the New Coach at Whitehall (Photo Courtesy of Whitehall HS Yearbook)

For forty-nine seasons, the East Penn Conference provided excellent competition.  The first title was won by Phillipsburg while the last was won by Emmaus. The newly formed Lehigh Valley Conference would be comprised of the three Allentown Schools, Bethlehem Catholic and Emmaus from the EPC along with Easton, Freedom, Liberty, Nazareth, Northampton, Parkland and Whitehall from the Mountain Valley Conference.  The MVC continued with northern tier teams East Stroudsburg South, Lehighton, Pleasant Valley, Pocono Mountain East and Stroudsburg along with newly formed East Stroudsburg North and Pocono Mountain West.  The Colonial League entered its 38th year with the same twelve team line up as the prior year. 

In other changes, the 215-pound weight class was added which increased the total weight classes to fourteen.  In addition, duals were no longer required to start at 103, but rather used a random draw method to determine the starting weight class.

In the newly formed Lehigh Valley Conference, Easton and Northampton were expected to continue their battles of the past several seasons to vie for the top spot.  The Rovers lost three-time state champ Matt Ciasulli along with Chad Sportelli, Dan Brown and several other starters.  Still state champ Mike Rogers and a talented core returned for Coach Steve Powell.  Northampton returned 10 starters including 2001 state champ Jeff Ecklof, Josh Haines, Jon Oplinger and 7 more wrestlers who won 20+ bouts.  They also add transfer Ryan Nowicki for Saucon Valley.  EPC champ Emmaus returned 7 starters and was looking to be competitive in the new conference.  Freedom had 16 wins the prior season but lost 8 starters.  Liberty returned 8 starters plus gained transfer Ricci Bass from Dieruff.  Nazareth and Parkland were also expected to contend and returned nine and seven starters, respectively. 

NL’s Todd Herog (Photo Courtesy of Northern Lehigh HS Yearbook)

Wilson put together back-to-back outstanding seasons, but how do you replace three graduating state champs and two additional 40-win wrestlers?  Coach Dave Crowell and his staff were certainly going to try and did return state runner-up Tony Curto and placer Dave Iobst along with four more starters.  Northern Lehigh, with nine returning starters, was expected to be the top contender for the title.  Southern Lehigh, coming off a very successful year, had a coaching change but still returned a good amount of talent.  Pen Argyl, Saucon Valley and Bangor were also expected to contend.

PV Coach Dan McIntyre (Photo Courtesy of Pleasant Valley HS Yearbook)

With the Lehigh Valley-based teams moving to the newly formed LVC, the Mountain Valley Conference had a new look and that was before two of the continuing districts opened new high schools.  Pleasant Valley was favored in the first year of the seven-member MVC.  Coach Dan McIntyre’s Bears had eight full-time returning starters and also gained transfer Steve Mytych from Wyoming Valley West.  East Stroudsburg South, Lehighton and Stroudsburg were expected to challenge Pleasant Valley.   

November / December

Host Brandywine Heights used a balanced attack to easily win the Bullet Invitational over 2nd place Northern Lehigh.  Pottsville, Southern Lehigh, Emmaus, Parkland and Hamburg all finished within 13 points of each other in a competitive tourney.  Parkland’s Matt Spangler (119) repeated his title from the prior year.  Emmaus, Northern Lehigh & Southern Lehigh each had two champions. 

Jess Kulp Was 1 of 2 Southern Lehigh Champs (Photo Courtesy of Southern Lehigh HS Yearbook)

In the Wilson Tournament, Liberty and Wilson engage in a great battle for the 9th Wilson Invitational Tournament title.  Liberty led by ½ point entering the finals.  The lead changed several times during the finals as each time crowned four champions.  In the end, it came down to the 215-pound final when the Hurricanes’ Devin Derrico scored a takedown with six seconds to go to win 3-1 and give Liberty the team title by ½ point.  In addition to Derrico, Dieruff transfer Ricci Bass (112), Mikey Pena (who won his 3rd title at 119) and Andrew Dalley (140) were winners from Liberty.  Russ Souders (103), Joe Kushnerick (125), Ed Labatch (135) and Dave Iobst (189) won titles for 2nd place Wilson. 

The same weekend, Nazareth routed Pen Argyl 66-3 and Whitehall was 2-1 in the Dog Duals of Winter losing to Susquenita 35-29.

Matt Lear’s Fall Helped the Rovers Down the Hurricanes (Photo Courtesy of Easton HS Yearbook)

On December 4th, two inaugural Lehigh Valley Conference matches were on the schedule.  Easton and Liberty faced off in a match starting at 152.  The Rovers led 10-0 after Sean Richmond’s major decision and Matt Lear’s fall.  Liberty roared back to win the next 3 bouts, including Jon Anderson’s pin at 189, to lead 15-10.  Jason Groller and Seth Ciasulli scored falls but Liberty’s Ricci Bass countered with one of his own at 112, and the Rovers led 22-21.  Easton’s Alex Krom then came from behind to defeat a favored Mikey Pena 9-3 to win the Chuck Liederman award and spark the Rovers to a 42-25 victory.  In the other LVC match, Freedom cruised past Bethlehem Catholic 64-7.

In Colonial League action, Northern Lehigh had eight falls to top Northwestern 48-23, and in a non-league match, Nazareth had five falls to defeat Pleasant Valley 37-29.

On December 7th, Wilson and Easton annual early season dual started off at 145 with the Warriors Jon Hoagland got a late takedown to defeat Sal Crivellaro 10-7.  Easton won three of the next four bouts before Coach Dave Crowell bumped Dave Iobst up to face Marcus Millen.  The move paid off as Iobst pinned Millen to tie the match at 12-12.  Easton won the next four bouts to open up a 31-12 lead.  The teams split the final two bouts as Easton won 42-21.  The same day, Northampton and Nazareth wrestled in a quad meet with Governor Mifflin and Milton with both the Kids and Blue Eagles going 2-0. 

Mike Ferrara Was Won a Mule Classic Crown (Photo Courtesy of Pleasant Valley HS Yearbook)

The same weekend, Pleasant Valley edged Cesar Rodney 170-166 to win the Mule Classic.  Ian McGoldrick (140), Mike Ferrara (152) and Erik Murphy (275) won individual titles.  Palmerton was 4th in the New Hope Tourney; Allen, Central Catholic, Dieruff and Palisades also competed.   Notre Dame was 1st in the Fort Meade Tournament with 5 champs – Cory Wismer (125), Jared Casciole (130), Mike Parisi (135), Mike Smith (140) and Jason VanSyckle (189).

On December 9th, Easton and Upper Perkiomen had a competitive back-and-forth dual.  Jason Groeller, Seth Ciasulli and Alex Krom had falls for Easton in a match that went down to the final bout.  Sean Richmond’s major decision gave the Rovers a 37-33 victory.  Liberty also topped Stroudsburg 48-24 the same evening.  Saucon Valley defeated North Schuylkill 37-33

On December 11th in LVC action, Liberty defeated Whitehall 41-22 in a match which featured some very competitive bouts in the lighter weights.

On December 14th, Wilson visited Nazareth which started at 130 with a great match up between Tony Curto and Joe Provini.  Provini scored an early takedown but Curto triumphed 3-2 on the strength of two escapes and a penalty point.  At the next weight, Nazareth’s Dave Gentile headlocked Ed Labatch for a fall.  The teams then split the next four bouts, and the Blue Eagles led 12-9.  That’s when another Nazareth wrestler scored a fall on a headlock as Jake Abel pinned Eric Donaldson.  Wilson won the next two bouts including Dave Iobst’s fall to tie the score at 18-18.  A fall by Rocky Schoeneberger, forfeit at 103 and close wins by Kevin Vinh and Joe Caraminica (7-5 in OT over Joe Kushnerick) iced the 36-21 win for thes Blue Eagles. 

Salisbury’s Matt Haldeman Won 1 of 5 Titles for the Falcons in the Viking Invitational (Photo Courtesy of Salisbury HS Yearbook)

The same weekend, Salisbury competed in the Viking Invitational in Delaware with Nick Polly, Larry Unger, Adam Polly, Don Stratt and Matt Haldeman all winning titles.  Bethlehem Catholic traveled to New York and placed 3rd in the Fishkill Tourney as Chris Ramos won the 152-pound championship.  In the Walsh Ironman Tourney, Parkland and Northern Lehigh finished 17th and 18th as the Trojans’ Brad Herman was 2nd at 152.

Brad Herman was 2nd at Ironman (Photo Courtesy of Parkland HS Yearbook)

In Colonial League action, Saucon Valley topped Southern Lehigh 34-34 criteria but dropped a 28-26 match to Notre Dame while the Crusaders topped the Spartans 46-24.

Parkland’s Mike Heist & Nick Guida Both Won Against the Blue Eagles (Photo Courtesy of Parkland HS Yearbook)

On December 18th, Nazareth visited Parkland just two weeks after the Trojans won the Class 4A football state title and their football players still rounding into shape.  The Blue Eagles jumped out to a 10-0 lead by winning the first three bouts with the match starting at 140.  The Trojans countered to win four straight bouts as Brad Herman, Mike Heist, Nick Guida and Pete Grodziak scored 20 team points to give Parkland a 20-10 lead.  Rocky Schoeneberger decisioned Adam Atiyeh 4-1 to break the momentum.  The Blue Eagles followed by winning 5 of the final 6 bouts to win 38-23.  Liberty defeated crosstown rival Freedom 63-9.

The same evening in Colonial League action, Wilson routed Saucon Valley 56-12; Catasauqua handled Salisbury 58-15; Notre Dame downed Southern Lehigh 46-24; and Northern Lehigh was too much for Bangor 47-19.  In a key MVC match, Stroudsburg had 5 falls to defeat Lehighton 45-26, and Pleasant Valley defeated East Stroudsburg South 40-18.

Easton Won the RTOC Crown; Seth Ciasulli 1 of 3 Champs (Photo Courtesy of Easton HS Yearbook)

In the Reno Tournament of Champions, Easton won their 2nd straight title handily over Poway CA.  Seth Ciasulli, Mike Rogers and Mike Lear all won titles for the Rovers.  Alex Krom was 2nd while Bryan Hart and Sean Richmond were both 3rd in a strong performance.

In the Beast of the East, Northampton had two wrestlers in the finals Jeff Ecklof and Jon Oplinger but both dropped close decisions. Ecklof lost to Blair’s Ryan Davis 4-2 at 145 while Oplinger lost to St. Ed’s Matt Koz 5-3 in OT at 215.  Josh Haines took 3rd and four other Kids placed as Northampton took 5th in the team standings.  Wilson had a three placers to finish 15th.  Nazareth was 20th and Whitehall’s Jay Morrison was 3rd at 130. 

In the Times-Leader Invitational, three District 11 teams finished in the top 6 as Blue Mountain was 3rd, Pen Argyl was 5th and Bangor was 6th.  At 130 and 135, Pen Argyl’s Jeff Santo edged W. Scranton’s Dave Morgan 12-9, and Lake Lehman’s Matt Dragon nipped Blue Mt.’s Chris Renninger 4-2.

On December 23rd, Parkland defeated Governor Mifflin 42-22

Parkland Trojans (Photo Courtesy of Parkland HS Yearbook)

 Holiday Tournaments

Steve Mytych Won the 103-Pound Title (Photo Courtesy of PV HS Yearbook)

Northampton claimed the team title in the Bethlehem Holiday Classic as they outpointed Blair Academy 232-221.5.  The Kids’ Billy Stenack (112), Josh Haines (189) and Jon Oplinger (215) won titles and they had 10 total placers.  Blair Academy was slightly undermanned with several starters not making the trip but they finished 2nd with two champs.  In the feature match up of the night and rematch of the Beast of the East final, Jeff Ecklof led Ryan Davis 4-2, but Davis hit “an opposite side high crotch and dump” and scored a fall with two seconds left.  Nazareth was 3rd with Joe Carmanica winning at 125 while Pleasant Valley was 4th as Steve Mytych (103) and Ian McGoldrick (140) finished 1st.

Emmaus and West Scranton were tied for the lead after Day 1 action in the Christmas City Tournament.  In the finals, the Hornets crowned Tom Funari (152) and Bryan Reiss (215) as champions.  West Scranton and East Stroudsburg South finished close behind.  Quakertown had the most champs with three – Nat Nauroth (112), Nick Nauroth (119) & Mark Deardon (145) – to finish 4th Bangor’s Scott Heckman repeated at 140 and was named OW.

Manheim Champ Bryan Hart; Rovers Win 4th Straight Title (Photo Courtesy of Easton HS Yearbook)

Easton won their 4th straight Manheim Tourney title with 4 champions and 5 runner-ups.  Seth Ciasulli (103), Alex Krom (112), Brian Hart (130), and Mike Rogers (140) all won titles.

Wyalusing took the crown in the Tunkhannock Tournament for the 8th straight year.  Pocono Mountain East and West were 14th and 16th, respectively.

Lehighton finished 4.5 points ahead of William Tennant to win the Jim Thorpe tourney.

Parkland clipped Blue Mountain 42-25 in a competitive non-league dual.


Action resumed on January 4th with the Easton Duals Invitational, Zephyr Duals and Cedar Cliff Duals.  Easton topped Kittatinny NJ 49-24 and Pleasant Valley 42-20.  Pleasant Valley won the final two bouts to top Phillipsburg 33-28. Wilson and Pleasant Valley also defeated Kittatinny while Phillipsburg edged Wilson 34-29.

Northampton easily won three duals including 58-15 in the finals over Boyertown to win the Cedar Cliff Duals.  In the Zephyr Duals, Northern Lehigh had four falls to defeat defending champion, Wyalusing, 41-28.  Emmaus defeated Whitehall 35-29 to take 3rd place while Reading beat Blue Mountain 40-31 to take 5th.  Upper Perkiomen was 2nd to Connelsville in the New Oxford Duals.

Northern Lehigh Won the Zephyr Duals (Photo Courtesy of Northern Lehigh HS Yearbook)

On January 8th, there was plenty of league action back on tap in all three local leagues.  In the Lehigh Valley Conference, Northampton bumped Jon Oplinger up to 275 start the match against Nazareth, and he delivered with a fall.  The Kids won 3 of the next 4 bouts including a fall by Billy Stenack at 112.  At 125, the Kids’ Dave Gilio nipped Joe Caramanica 2-1 in OT while Joe Provini edged Joey Ecklof 3-1 in OT at 130.  Northampton led 19-6.  Nazareth’s Dave Gentile and Derek Deutsch both scored decisions to narrow the gap to 19-12.  The Kids won 5 of the final 6 bouts including falls by Jeff Ecklof (145), Josh Haines (189) and Matt Snyder (215); the final score was 43-15. In other LVC action, Parkland downed Whitehall 47-13; Liberty beat Emmaus 38-13; Easton cruised past Freedom 68-4; and Allen defeated Dieruff 66-4.

Parkland Trojans Wait to be Introduced Pre-Match (Photo Courtesy of Parkland HS Yearbook)

In the Colonial League, Wilson had 8 bonus-point wins to defeat Pen Argyl 54-13.  Northern Lehigh stayed unbeaten by defeating Salisbury 48-22.  Catasauqua rallied to defeat Southern Lehigh 39-23.  In a key MVC match, Lehighton clipped East Stroudsburg North 52-18.

In the Virginia Duals, Nazareth and Liberty were both back in the National bracket but dropped their 1st round matches to Parkersburg South and Great Bridge, respectively.  The Blue Eagles won five bouts in a row, including gaining revenge over Parkerburg South, to take 3rd place.  Liberty won 3 matches before dropping one.  Great Bridge defeated State College 37-18 to win the title.  In the American division, Freedom was 3-2 and did not place.

In the Parkland duals, Northampton Downingtown, West Scranton, Pleasant Valley (53-13) and Germantown Academy while Connellsville defeated Parkland (41-19), Wyoming Valley West, Pennridge and Whitehall (53-15) to advance to the finals.  In the Northampton-West Scranton dual, the Kids’ Joey Ecklof battled state placer Dave Morgan and dropped a 14-10 decision.  Pleasant Valley beat Germantown, Downingtown and West Scranton while Parkland was 2-2 and Whitehall was 1-3.  In the finals, Connelsville led Northampton 21-19 with only 4 bouts remaining bout Billy Haydt, Ryan Nowicki, Josh Haines and Jon Oplinger all scored falls as the Kids pulled away 43-21.  Pennridge defeated Pleasant Valley 43-21 for 3rd; Downingtown beat Parkland 43-18; and Whitehall topped West Scranton 45-32 for 7th

Josh Haines Had Many Bonus Point Wins During the Season (Photo Courtesy of Northampton HS Yearbook)

The same weekend, Notre Dame won three duals to win the Octara Duals.  Wilson whipped Catasauqua 46-15 in a Colonial League dual.

Jeff Ecklof Helped Lead the Kids Over P-Burg (Photo Courtesy of Northampton HS Yearbook)

On January 15th, the P-Burg vs. Northampton match started at 140 with the Liners wining the 1st bout, but the Kids won 3 of the next 4 bouts including three of the more competitive match-ups – Jeff Ecklof 11-6 over Justin Koeller at 145, Billy Haydt 12-9 over Jared Duffy at 152 and Ryan Nowicki 6-4 over Mike Fania.  In between, Dave Post scored a fall at 160.  The score was tied 9-9 after five bouts, but the Kids then simply pulled away as Josh Haines, Matt Snyder and Jon Oplinger all scored six-point wins to open a 27-9 lead.  Northampton triumphed 43-17. 

In two key Colonial League bouts, Northern Lehigh got falls from Joey Puskas (125), Ryan Hluschak (152-tech) and Jason Henritzy (171) to defeat Catasauqua 36-25 while Wilson lower weights dominated as they beat Bangor 42-27.  In the MVC, East Stroudsburg South nipped Lehighton 34-33.  In non-league action, Stroudsburg topped Freedom 40-30.

In mid-January, Easton, Northampton and Liberty were unbeaten in the LVC while Wilson, Northern Lehigh and Notre Dame were unbeaten in the Colonial League.

Mike Rogers Helped Easton Go 2-1 in the Final Four Event (Photo Courtesy of Easton HS Yearbook)

Easton was in action in the NHSCA Final Four event as they faced Edmond North OK, Great Bridge VA and Blair Academy.   The Rovers topped Edmond North 46-23.  Against Great Bridge, Easton led 6-3 with the match starting at 140 and Mike Rogers & Sean Richmond putting up wins. Great Bridge scored falls in two of the next three bouts to open an 18-6 lead before the Rovers countered with three straight wins to lead 20-18, Great Bridge swept all but one of the final five bouts to win 33-23.  It was much the same against Blair Academy as Easton was competitive early with Rogers, Richmond, Marcus Millen and Jason Groller again scoring wins to trail only 21-15.  Blair Academy was able to pull away by winning all but two of the remaining bouts for a final score of 37-21.

The same day, Nazareth traveled to The Pit to face Phillipsburg.  The match started at 160 and Dave Post, Mike Fania and Bryan Kopesky all scored bonus points to give the ‘Liners a 14-0 lead.  Nazareth Rocky Schoenberger (275) got a tech fall and Andrew Flegler (103) had a major decision to cut the lead to 14-9.  Robert Au had a major at 112 for P-Burg, but Kevin Vinh got a key 4-3 win over Brandon Stillo at 119.  Nazareth’s Joe Provini and Joe Caramanica both followed with falls, and the Blue Eagles added two more decisions for a 30-18 lead.  P-Burg again countered with a major decision by Justin Koehler (145) and fall by Jared Duffy (152) to make the score 30-28, but Doug Bernaski’s fall at 160 clinched it for Coach Rex Lutz’s squad 36-28.

Notre Dame and Northern Lehigh both stayed unbeaten in the Colonial League by beating Palisades 42-28 and Saucon Valley 40-20, respectively.  East Stroudsburg South defeated Freedom 42-25 and Pleasant Valley edged Blue Mountain 35-29 in non-league action.

A few days later, Easton and Phillipsburg faced off in their annual match up at Lafayette’s Kirby Sports Center.  The match kicked off at 112 where Alex Krom won a 10-0 major decision over Robert Au to win the Brad Weaver Memorial Award.  A few bouts later, Bryan Hart scored a fall to win the most aggressive performer.  The Rovers won 11 of 14 bouts to win 52-15.  In the Colonial League, Notre Dame had five bonus-point wins to top Bangor 35-28.

Two nights later and more featured Colonial League action was on tap.  Wilson’s lower weights were again dominant.  Russ Souders and Rob Struenig started things off by both scoring falls.  Five more wins followed including Joe Kushnerick’s 4-3 win over Joey Puskas at 125 and another fall by A.J. Wheeler at 140.  The Warriors pleased the home crowd as they led 31-0.  After Chris Hosford’s decision at 145, Northern Lehigh got successive falls from Ryan Hluschak and Jack Gill.  Jason Hernritzy nipped Eric Donaldson 3-2 at 171 to narrow the gap to 31-18.  The Warriors scored three more falls – Dave Iobst, Ken Wickham and Maurice Cook – to wrap up a 49-18 win.

John Paukovits Had a Big Win Over Ricci Bass in NH_Liberty Bout (Photo Courtesy of Northampton HS Yearbook)

In the LVC, undefeated Northampton had four falls – Joey Ecklof, Jeff Ecklof, Matt Snyder and Jon Oplinger – to top Liberty 42-17.  The lower weights featured some very competitive bouts with Liberty winning the first two and the Kids winning the second two.  Willy Horwath rallied from a 3-0 deficit to top Tim Dogmanits 10-5 in OT; Mike Pena nipped Billy Stenack 4-3 in OT; John Paukovits beat Ricci Bass 6-3; and Dave Gilio edged Jesus Pena 5-3.  In other key LVC matches Easton defeated Parkland 51-10, and Nazareth moved past Emmaus 46-14. 

In the MVC, Pleasant Valley got falls from Steve Mytych (103) and George Kauffers (160) along with tech falls from the McGoldricks – Tim and Ian – to top Lehighton 38-24.  Stroudsburg routed East Stroudsburg North 61-12.

As things moved towards the end of January, Easton-Northampton, Wilson-Notre Dame and Pleasant Valley-Stroudsburg matches loomed large in the LVC, Colonial and MVC leagues.  Notre Dame would first have to get past Northern Lehigh a few days later, but the Bulldogs had other ideas.  Northern Lehigh’s upper weights won 6 of 7 bouts and scored bonus points in four of them with falls from Ryan Hluschak and Jason Henritzy.  The Bulldogs won 39-25 and kept their hopes alive for a tie for the Colonial League crown if Notre Dame could accomplish the huge task of upsetting Wilson.  In other league action, Catasauqua clipped Bangor 48-15.

Ryan Nowicki’s Fall Was a Big Part of the Kids’ Comeback Win (Photo Courtesy of Northampton HS Yearbook)

The big match on January 25th, saw Easton and Northampton battle at Liberty’s Memorial Gym.  The Rovers got off to a quick start as they won four of the first five bouts.  Seth Ciasulli majored Tim Dogmanits 11-0 at 103, and Alex Krom nipped Billy Stenack 4-2 at 112.  John Paukovits scored a tech fall over Brad Gentzle at 119 to interrupt the momentum, but Joe Creazzo edged Dave Gilio 6-5 and Bryan Hart scored a tech fall at 130.  Easton led 15-5, but the Kids would bounce back.  The Ecklof brothers bookended Mike Rogers tech fall at 140 as Joey scored a major decision and Jeff scored a fall to narrow the lead to 20-15.  Sean Richmond pinned Dan Vance at 152 and the lead was expanded to 11.  Billy Haydt downed Charles Rute 7-3 at 160, and Ryan Nowicki pinned Kyle Dailey at 171 to pull the Kids within three points (26-24).  Matt Snyder dropped to 189 and lost to Zach Pizarro 9-4, but Northampton had two of their big guns bumping up a weight to face two of the Rovers’ top wrestlers.  Marcus Millen got the first takedown at 215, but Josh Haines countered for a 14-3 major decision to narrow the score to 29-28.  Jon Oplinger and Jason Groller were tied 2-2 entering the third period, but an Oplinger takedown and near fall had the Kids’ fans on their feet.  Oplinger won 10-3, and the Kids had a 31-29 victory, the first over Easton in Coach Terry Daubert’s head coaching career.  After the match Coach Daubert said “It feels great…they’re the top dog until somebody knocks them off.  We did it tonight.  Unfortunately, we have to do it again next week…”  Easton Coach Steve Powell noted “The easy thing will motivate us to work tomorrow…There’s no way you can walk away upset.”

Jon Oplinger (Shown Here Against Freedom) Won the Deciding Match for the Kids (Photo Courtesy of Northampton HS Yearbook)

In other action, Liberty swept the light weights to defeat Parkland 36-20.

On January 27th, Catasauqua dealt Notre Dame its 2nd straight league loss as they won nine bouts for a 37-27 victory.

At the end of January, Bethlehem Catholic coach and icon, Tony Iasiello Sr., announced that he was retiring after 38 years at the helm of the Golden Hawks.  Ted Martz and Tom Ortwein coached the Hawks as they were beginning to bring wrestling into the school.  That’s when Moravian College senior, Tony Iasiello, arrived to help Tom Ortwein in 1964.  The next year, Becahi established a varsity program with TI as the head coach. 

The Hawks won five straight PCIAA state titles and were Catholic National champs in 1969.  In 1973, Bethlehem Catholic moved into the PIAA, and Pat Sculley won the Hawks’ first state title.  Tony Iasiello coached 10 more state champs including his son, Tony Iasiello Jr., who became his Dad’s final state champ.  In 1979, Bethlehem Catholic was undefeated going 18-0 and sweeping post-season honors, including the AAA state team title.  The Hawks won the EPC four times. 

Beyond coaching at Bethlehem Catholic, TI was instrumental at the District 11 level – serving as President of the Wrestling Coaches Association for 25+ years and establishing the District 11 Hall of Fame, the annual Scholarship Awards, the junior high tourney and the JV tournament.  He was also active at the state and national level.  Indeed, Bethlehem Catholic and District 11 would miss TI’s mat side presence, but he would continue to be very active supporting wrestlers and the sport until he passed away in 2015.

Two nights later, Easton bounced back to defeat Nazareth 39-17.  The match began at 112, and Alex Krom scored a tech fall to get Easton off to a good start. Kevin Vinh and Joe Caramanica both scored decisions to lead 7-5, but Bryan Hart defeated Joe Provini 10-1 to put Easton back in the lead.  Derek Deustch and Matt Janisch scored decisions around Mike Rogers tech to narrow the score to 15-14.  Easton’s upper weights delivered by winning four of the final five bouts as Sean Richmond, Zach Pizarro, Marcus Millen and Jason Groller won.  Millen defeated Rocky Schoeneberger 8-2 in a featured match.

In the MVC, Lehighton defeated Pocono Mountain West 53-20, and Stroudsburg beat East Stroudsburg South 49-21.


District Duals

Northampton, on the strength of their recent dual win over Easton, and Wilson were the top seeds for the AAA and AA District Duals, respectively.  In AAA, #1 Northampton had seven falls/tech falls in defeating East Stroudsburg South 54-12; #2 Easton matched the Kids with falls and techs as they topped Stroudsburg 52-18; and #3 Liberty survived a tough match with Blue Mountain 38-27.  In the #4-#5 match, Nazareth faced a tough Pleasant Valley team.  The Bears led 14-13, but the Blue Eagles scored two falls and two one-point decisions from 152-189 to retake the lead 31-14.  Pleasant Valley need three wins all by fall to win the match.  They got the three wins but fell 31-26.

In AA, the top three seeds all won their matches easily.  Wilson defeated Mahoney Area 63-12; #2 North Lehigh downed Tri-Valley 49-18; and #3 Catasauqua won all but two bouts in beating North Schulykill 59-9.  #5 Notre Dame won its first District Dual match by upsetting #4 Lehighton 35-33.  The Crusaders led 29-9 after the 152-pound bout, but Lehighton rallied with three falls and a decision to lead 30-29.  Jack Foley’s fall at 275 gave Notre Dame the 35-33 victory.

Easton-Northampton Pre-Dual (Photo Courtesy of Northampton HS Yearbook)

In the AAA semi-finals, Northampton and Easton each won 10 of 13 bouts to defeat Nazareth 45-15 and Liberty 44-10, respectively.  Jon Oplinger and Jason Groller had battled in the deciding bout of the teams’ dual just one week earlier, but this time the big guys would lead off the District Duals final.  The result was unchanged as Oplinger again edged Groller 3-2.  Easton roared back eight straight bouts.   At 119, Brad Gentzle defeated John Paukovits 7-5 reversing a tech fall in the dual.  Joey Ecklof dropped to 130 but Bryan Hart was able to defeat him 3-1, and then Anthony Innarella majored Andy Heist 13-4 at 135. Mike Rogers’ fall and Sal Crivellaro’s OT win gave the Rovers a 31-3 lead.  The Kids won four of the final five bouts, but Easton triumphed 34-23 to win their 3rd straight District Duals’ title and give Coach Steve Powell his 300th career win.

Coach Steve Powell, aside long-time Asst. Coach Barry Snydder, Won His 300th Dual as the Rovers Won the District Dual Title (Photo Courtesy of Easton HS Yearbook)

In AA, Wilson defeated Notre Dame 53-18 while Northern Lehigh won a competitive 34-22 match over Catasauqua in the semi-finals. In the finals, Tony Curto won the opener 8-5 over Joey Puskas at 125  as Wilson opened up a 12-0 lead.  Northern Lehigh battled back and the match was tied 21-21 after the 275-pound bout.  With three bouts remaining and the Warriors Russell Souders, Rob Struenig and Joe Kushnerick all scored falls to close out the match 39-21.  Wilson matched Easton in winning their third straight District Duals’ championship. 

PIAA Team Dual Championships

In the AAA quarterfinals, Easton won all but two bouts to defeat Clearfield 60-7. The Rovers were too much for District 3 Champ, Cumberland Valley, 44-13 in the semi-finals.  In the finals, Easton started quickly by winning the first four bouts including Sean Richmond’s 9 second fall to lead Kiski Area 19-0.  Kiski would win the next three bouts to narrow the gap to 19-12 but could not manage another win against the Rovers.  Easton swept the rest of the bouts to win their 3rd straight AAA state dual title 43-12.

PIAA AAA Dual Champs (Photo Courtesy of Easton HS Yearbook)

The AA quarterfinals, Wilson faced off against unbeaten Forest Hills but was edged 31-30. 

Other February Duals

On February 3rd, Easton wrestled Absegami NJ in a non-league bout and led 22-13, but saw Absegami rally for a 29-28 win.

On February 5th, Wilson defeated Notre Dame 50-21 to wrap up the Colonial League title.  Catasauqua defeated Northwestern 36-27 to wrap up a 3rd place finish in the league.  Salisbury edged Southern Lehigh 36-33 to finish 5-6 in the Colonial League and showing great improvement after finishing 0-17 the prior year.  In the MVC, Pleasant Valley and Stroudsburg faced off for the league title.  The Bears got falls from Steve Mytych, Tim McGoldrick, Ian McGoldrick, Mike Ferrera and Mike Economy to defeat the Mounties 39-23.

2003 MVC Champs (Photo Courtesy of Pleasant Valley HS Yearbook)

On February 9th, in non-league action, Northampton wrestled some very competitive bouts against Blair Academy, but the Bucs had too much firepower and won 35-24.  A few nights later in some final LVC matches, Northampton bounced back to pound Parkland 51-7.  Liberty and Nazareth battled in a match to decide the 3rd best team in the LVC after the Rovers and Kids.  The match started at 215, and the Hurricanes won the first two bouts to lead 7-0.  Nazareth won 3 of the next 4 bouts including Kevin Vinh’s fall over Ricci Bass at 119 to take a 12-11 lead.  Brian Ellis trailed Joe Caramanica 5-0 late in the 3rd period, but he scored a reversal and took Caramanica to his back for a huge fall.  Dan Horwath (135) and Todd Israel (160) each won one-point decisions.  After the Blue Eagles Jake Abel scored a fall at 171, Liberty led 26-24

Final league standings were as follows:

Northern Lehigh210-1
Notre Dame48-3
Saucon Valley84-7
Southern Lehigh93-8
Pen Argyl102-9
Lehigh Valley Conference
William Allen7T3-4
Allentown Central Catholic10T1-6
Bethlehem Catholic10T1-6
Mountain Valley
Pleasant Valley16-0
East Stroudsburg South34-2
East Stroudsburg North52-4
Pocono Mountain West61-5
Pocono Mountain East70-6

League champions overall records were:  Wilson (15-4), Northampton (21-2) and Pleasant Valley (11-4).  Other teams with very good records were Northern Lehigh (16-2), Notre Dame (23-4), Easton (20-4), Nazareth (18-4), Emmaus (9-4), Catasauqua (25-5), Liberty (14-5), East Stroudsburg South (13-5), Lehighton (13-5) and Stroudsburg (11-5).

District Tournaments

As the District AAA tourney was set to begin, Northampton (6) and Easton (5) had #1 seeds in 11 of 14 weight classes.    Not surprisingly, Easton and Northampton were locked in a battle and only separated by ½ point after the first day’s competition.  The Rovers advanced 9 wrestlers to the semi’s and had 102.5 points while Northampton advanced 10 while Nazareth was in 3rd.  Easton did take a hit when Allen’s Zeke Lane upset #1 seed Matt Lear 9-2 in the quarters. 

In the semi-finals, both Easton and Northampton were able to advance six wrestlers each to the finals. The Rovers again did well in the consolations as they had three wrestlers finish 3rd and three more finish 5th-6th.  This proved to be the difference in the team race as they finished 17 points ahead of the Kids.  Liberty surpassed Nazareth for 3rd place in the team race.

Alex Krom (112) Won His 2nd District Title (Photo Courtesy of Easton HS Yearbook)

Easton wrestlers won titles in the first two weights as Seth Ciasulli decisioned Blue Mountain’s Jeremy Cresswell 7-0 while at 112 Alex Krom won his 2nd title with a fall over Liberty’s Mikey Pena.   Freedom’s Reinaldo Merced defeated Northampton’s John Paukovits 6-4 at 119.  Nazareth’s Joe Provini, Whitehall’s Jay Morrison and Blue Mountain’s Chris Renninger won titles at the next three weights.

Bangor’s Scott Heckman had defeated Easton’s Mike Rogers in last year’s District and Regional finals, but this year it was Rogers who triumphed 8-1 at 140.  Northampton won titles at the next two weights as Jeff Ecklof won his 4th district title 4-3 over Pleasant Valley’s Mike Ferrara while Billy Haydt topped Easton’s Sean Richmond 3-1 in OT.  Allen’s Zeke Lane continued beating higher seeded wrestlers as he decisioned Parkland’s Mike Heist 9-3.

Zeke Lane Battles Mike Heist in Dual; Lane Defeated Heist in the Rematch to Win the District Title (Photo Courtesy of Parkland HS Yearbook)

Northampton wrestlers won at the next three weights as Ryan Nowicki (who beat defending champ Nick Guida of Parkland), Josh Haines and Jon Oplinger all triumphed.  Freedom claimed its 2nd title as Josh Kelly won at 275.

Whitehall’s Morrison was named OW while Liberty’s Jody Karam was named Coach of the Year.

Jay Morrison Was Named AAA OW (Photo Courtesy of Whitehall HS Yearbook)

In AA, Wilson built a solid Day 1 lead as they moved seven wrestlers to the semi’s.  Northern Lehigh, Catasauqua and Lehighton were locked in a tight battle for 2nd.  Two #2 seeds were upended in the quarters as Pius X’s Mike Goffredo pinned Catty’s Casey Farcus at 119 and at 171 Tri-Valley’s Kurt Kline decisioned Mahoney Area’s John Cambra 5-3. 

The Warriors dominated the final day of the AA tournament as they advanced 6 wrestlers to the finals and qualified 10 wrestlers for the Southeast Regional.  In the finals, Wilson swept through the first four weights.  Freshman Russ Souders scored a technical fall in the finals and won both the OW and Pinner awards. At 112, Rob Struenig defeated Saucon Valley’s Eric Grida 6-2, and Joe Kushnerick had a fall at 119.  At 125, Tony Curto won his 3rd District title by edging Notre Dame’s Jared Casciole 3-1.  Pen Argyl’s Jeff Santo had two silver medals in his trophy case.  This year he was able build a big lead and avoid a fall at the end of the bout to win 9-8 against Saucon Valley’s Matt Gorkos.  Jake DeBoer was able to win Pen Argyl’s second title with a decision at 145. 

Northern Lehigh and Lehighton each had two champions.  Ryan Hluschak and Jack Gill won back-to-back titles at 152 and 160 for the Bulldogs.  Josh Strausser nipped Northern Lehigh’s Jason Henritzy 6-4 in OT at 171 while Joe Tartar won by an identical score at 215 to give Lehighton their two champs.  in the first period at 119 to repeat his district title and win the OW award.  Dave Iobst (189) scored a fall to give Coach Dave Crowell, who was also name coach of the year, his 5th titlist of the night.  Notre Dame’s Mike Parisi (135), Saucon Valley’s Billy Matecjcek (140) and Pine Grove’s J.R. Herring (275) were the other winners.

Regional Tournaments

District 11 had a solid Friday night as they claimed 44 of 56 semi-final slots in the AAA Northeast Regional tourney.  Easton led all teams with nine semi-finalists, including Joe Creazzo who upset Nazareth District champ, Joe Provini, 4-2 at 125.    Northampton advanced eight wrestlers to the semi’s to stay within reach of the Rovers.   

Regional Champ Jason Groller (Photo Courtesy of Easton HS Yearbook)

Easton’s surprise-package Joe Creazzo continued his upsetting ways by defeating West Scranton’s Dave Morgan 11-8 at 125.  Creazzo was one of six Easton champions as the Rovers easily won the team title.  Easton also crowned champs in the first two weights as Seth Ciasulli edged Pleasant Valley’s Steve Mytych 2-0 at 103, and Alex Krom downed Liberty’s Mikey Pena 3-0 at 112.  At 140 Mike Rogers repeated the prior week’s win over Bangor’s Scott Heckman 6-0 at 135 while Sean Richmond reversed the prior week’s result as he nipped Northampton’s Billy Haydt 3-2 at 152.  Jason Groller (275) was the final Easton champ as he decisioned Pottsville’s Josh Evans 4-3.

Second place Northampton had four champions.  The Ecklof brothers won at 135 & 145.  Joe defeated Blue Mountain’s Chris Renninger 5-3 while Jeff won his 4th regional title by downing Pleasant Valley’s Mike Ferrara 5-3.  Josh Haines and Jon Oplinger won back-to-back titles at 189 and 215, respectively.  Whitehall’s Jay Morrison got his 100th career win by edging Easton’s Bryan Hart 5-4 at 130. 

Joe Ecklof Won the 135-Pound Regional Title (Photo Courtesy of Northampton HS Yearbook)

At 160, Allen’s Zeke Lane continued his winning ways by defeating Parkland’s Mike Heist 8-4 at 160.  Heist’s teammate, Nick Guida won the 171-pound title.  Shikellamy’s Mike Sees was the only non-District 11 titlist at 119.

(Photo Courtesy of Tom Elling)

With 10 state qualifiers, Juniata was able to surpass Wilson to win the team title in the AA Southeast Regionals.   The Warriors advanced six wrestlers to the state tournament, including two champions.  Tony Curto repeated with a 5-2 win over Northern Lehigh’s Joey Puskas at 125 while Dave Iobst scored a fall for the 2nd straight week to win the 189-pound title.  Pen Argyl’s Jeff Santo (130) and Notre Dame’s Mike Parisi (135) won major decisions.  Ryan Hluschak won at 152 to lead Northern Lehigh to a 4th place finish while Pine Grove’s J.R. Herring (275) won the final title for the District 11 grapplers. 

(Photo Courtesy of Tom Elling)

PIAA State Championships

Easton again led the local squads with seven winners advancing to the quarterfinals while Northampton had five first round winners.  Seven other District 11 wrestlers advanced including Allen’s Zeke Lane who won despite battling bronchitis.  Northampton went 4 for 5 in the quarterfinals as Joey Ecklof, Jeff Ecklof, Josh Haines and Jon Oplinger all won decisions.  Easton had a more challenging quarterfinal round as they advanced 2 of 7 wrestlers – Seth Ciasulli (103) and Mike Rogers (140) – but they still held a 6.5-point lead over the K-Kids.   Whitehall’s Jay Morrison (135) and Bangor’s Scott Heckman (140) also won their bouts.

Northampton State Qualifiers (Photo Courtesy of Northampton HS Yerabook)
Seth Ciasulli Advanced to the Finals (Photo Courtesy of Easton HS Yearbook)

In the semi-finals, Seth Ciasulli got the locals off to a great start as he scored a 2nd period fall to advance to the finals.  Whitehall’s Jay Morrison lost a 3-0 decision at 130, and both Scott Heckman and Mike Rogers lost heartbreaking bouts at 140.  Heckman dropped a 4-3 decision to State College’s Matt Kocher, who Rogers had defeated in last year’s semi’s.  Defending champ Rogers suffered an even tougher loss.  In a back-and-forth bout with Downingtown’s Jake Rathfon, Rogers hit a cement job to take an 8-6 lead in the 3rd period but saw two stalling points awarded to his opponent in the final 13 seconds to tie the match. Rathfon’s OT takedown completed the 10-8 upset. 

The Northampton quartet fared much better as they went 4-for-4 in the semi’s.  Joey Ecklof scored a major decision over Reading’s Junior Ortiz while brother Jeff reached his 3rd state final with a 9-3 victory.  Josh Haines battled Harrisburg’s Phil Davis at 189 and emerged with a 9-7 OT win.  Jon Oplinger punched his ticket for a return trip to the finals with a major decision. 

In the finals, Seth Ciasulli lost 4-1 in the opening bout.  The K-Kids were able to register a clean sweep and crowned all four of their finalists as champions!  Soph Joey Ecklof was behind Penn Trafford’s Tom Picarsic early but battled back to force OT and then scored the winning takedown 13 seconds into OT to win 5-3.  Jeff Ecklof won his 2nd state title with a 3-2 decision over McGuffey’s Kirk Main.  Josh Haines won a tight 2-0 bout over Warwick’s Kyle Narkiewicz, and Jon Oplinger won 3-2 on a late penalty point over Susquenhannock’s Adam LoPiccolo.  With four state champions and a 5th place finisher (John Paukovits 8th at 119), Northampton won the team title 98-80.5 over Easton.  “It’s a perfect night,” said Champ Josh Haines while Coach Terry Daubert added “Times like this come once in a lifetime.  I’m glad it happened with this group of kids.”

(Photo Courtesy of Tom Elling)

Other placers from District XI included Blue Mountain’s Jeremy Cresswell (103 – 7th), Pleasant Valley’s Steve Mytych (103 – 8th), Easton’s Alex Krom (112 – 4th), Liberty’s Mikey Pena (112 – 7th), Freedom’s Reinaldo Merced (119 – 7th), Easton’s Joe Creazzo (125 – 8th), Whitehall’s Kay Morrison (130 – 3rd), Easton’s Bryan Hart (130 – 8th), Blue Mountain’s Chris Renninger (135 – 3rd), Pleasant Valley’s Ian McGoldrick (135 – 7th), Bangor’s Scott Heckman (140 – 3rd), Easton’s Mike Rogers (140 – 4th), Pleasant Valley’s Mike Ferrara (145 – 3rd), Easton’s Sean Richmond (152 – 5th), Allen’s Zeke Lane (160 – 4th), Parkland’s Nick Guida (171 – 5th) and Easton’s Marcus Millen (215 – 5th).

(Photo Courtesy of Tom Elling)

Wilson led the District 11 contingent with four first round winners.  Eight additional District 11 wrestlers won their first round bouts, including Pen Argyl soph, Ryan Heard (135), who upset Southeast Regional champ, Jeff Geisler, 7-6.  Notre Dame’s Jared Casciole almost pulled off an even bigger upset against defending state champ, Joe Makara of Burell, at 125 before falling 3-1 in OT.  Seven District XI wrestlers won their quarterfinal bouts, and then in evening session, there were mixed results.  Wilson was 1 for 2 as Tony Curto was unable to advance to a 2nd straight state final, but Dave Iobst was at 189.   Pen Argyl’s Jeff Santo (130), Notre Dame’s Mike Parisi (135) and Northern Lehigh’s Ryan Hluschak (152) also advanced to the finals.  Wilson was able to clinch the team title over Reynolds heading into the final day with a strong performance in the consolations. 

In the finals, Ryan Hluschak scored a four-point move in the 3rd period to break open a tied match to won the Bulldog’s 6th state title by a 6-2 score.  The rest of the local contingent had a tougher go.  Jeff Santo had defeated Delone Catholic’s Dana Gingerich 14-13 in the regional semi’s, but dropped a 5-3 decision in the final which was the lone loss of his season.  Wilson’s Dave Iobst also dropped a two-pointer in the finals as he dropped an 11-9 decision to Nanticoke’s Jason Mitkowski on a late takedown at 189.  Notre Dame’s Mike Parisi was injured on a slam in his semi-final bout and gave it a go in the finals but was pinned at 135. 

State Champ Ryan Hluschak (Photo Courtesy of Northern Lehigh HS Yearbook)

Wilson brought six wrestlers to the tourney and they all placed as the Warrior won their 2nd straight team title with Russ Souders (103 – 5th), Rob Struenig (112 – 5th), Joe Kushnerick (119 – 4th), Tony Curto (125 – 3rd) and Ed Labatch (130 – 6th) all placed.  Additional local place winners included Notre Dame’s Jared Casciole (125 – 4th), Saucon Valley’s Matt Garkos (130 – 7th), Jim Thorpe’s Ryan Bennick (145 – 5th) and Lehighton’s Steve Rimbey (189 – 4th). 

(Photo Courtesy of Tom Elling)
(Photo Courtesy of Tom Elling)

Phillipsburg Post-Season

Phillipsburg defeated High Point 45-22 and North Huntderdon 31-28 to win the Group 4 State Duals.

Phillipsburg won its 10th straight NJ District 1 team title with 7 champions – John Todd (103), Robert Au (112), A.J. Varga (125), Kyle McRoberts (135), Justin Koeller (145), Dave Post (160) and Mike Fania (171).

In the Region 1 Championships, Justin Koeller (145) and Dave Post (160) both won titles.  In the NJ state championships, Post finished 3rd and Koeller was 4th

The Pennsylvania wrestlers lost in a rout 48-7 to the US Team.  Both Bangor’s Scott Heckman and Northampton’s Jeff Ecklof faced Ohio wrestlers.  Heckman was leading St. Edward’s Ryan Lang 10-3 but got caught and pinned while Ecklof dropped a 1-0 decision to St. Paris Graham’s C.P. Schlatter. 

In the Easton Lions Classic, the New Jersey Team defeated the Pennsylvania Team 34-23.  Scott Heckman got the PA team off to a good start with an OT win.  The PA team led 23-19 with four bouts to go, but the NJ team swept the final four bouts.  P-Burg’s Dave Post had a key fall at 170 to give NJ an insurmountable 31-23 lead.  The feature bout saw two-time state champs, Jeff Ecklof and North Hunterdon’s Ricky Frondorf face off.  Ecklof led on the strength of a 1st period takedown, but Frondorf came back with a late score to win 4-3.  Bethlehem Catholic’s retiring Coach Tony Iasiello was honored before the match with the Distinguished Service Award.

About six weeks after the season ended, there was huge news on the coaching front as Dave Crowell, after leading the Warriors to 2 straight AA team titles, moved from Wilson to Nazareth.  He coached Easton from 1978-1994 and Wilson from 1992-2003 with a combined 275-68-1 record.  As of this writing, Coach Crowell just finished Season #18 for the Blue Eagles.