LVL League Champion:Easton (10-0)
District Champion:Easton (9 Champions, 1 Runner-Up)
Other Milestones:1st Year for Regional Tournaments – Northeast Regional

The first formal league for wrestling in the Lehigh Valley was established in the winter of 1950.  Previously, Bethlehem had enjoyed success and winning records over the years, and Easton was immediately successful going 22-5 with sixteen District Champs and 12 runners-up in its first three years of completion.  However, the other four schools were still struggling to establish themselves.

The format for the inaugural year of the Lehigh Valley League was to divide the dual completion into two halves with each team wrestling all other teams once per half for a total of ten league bouts.   The clear favorites entering the first year were Easton and Bethlehem.  Easton returned five district finalists while Bethlehem returned four district champions.  Northampton lost six starters to graduation.

The inaugural Lehigh Valley League teams and coaches were:

AllentownBob Mentzell
Bethlehem LibertyJim Harkins
EastonCharles Bartolet Sr.
NazarethSteve Skuta
NorthamptonHarry Wall
PhillipsburgGeorge Butz

Regular Season Highlights

A small article in The Morning Call announced the newly formed Lehigh Valley League and first bout between Bethlehem and Allentown.  With 300 in attendance at Allentown’s Little Palestra, Bethlehem dominated 39-8 on December 20, 1950.  Coach Jim Harkins’ squad jumped out to a 26-0 lead including falls by Beidleman, William Kramm and Ernest DeBellis to start the match.  Coach Bob Mentzell’s team finally broke the ice with John Daddona pinning Gus Romero from Bethlehem.  Bethlehem would get falls from Dick Green and Ken Cox as well.  Phillipsburg edged Northampton 20-15 while Easton crushed Nazareth 53-5.

After just one league bout a long holiday break ensued.  Nazareth nipped Northampton 22-21.  Nazareth was able to open up 14-3 lead as John Alich, Allan Frantz and Kermit Roth were able to pick up wins.  Paul Billy began the Northampton comeback defeating John Frank 6-3 at 127.  The Kids won the next four bouts including falls by Robert Zimmerman (138) and Dave Laury (154) to lead 21-14 with two bouts to go.  Dean Rissmiller scored a fall over Kurtz to pull the Blue Eagles within two and then Metro Flank won it with a 3-2 win over Hoffman at heavyweight.

Easton continued rolling defeating Phillipsburg 28-8, Allentown 39-7, Bethlehem 33-11 and Northampton 42-5 to finish the first half of the league schedule 5-0.  In their bout against Bethlehem, the Rovers won eight of the first nine bouts with Gus Basso, Sam DiVietro and Oscar Dorsey all scoring falls.  Against Northampton, Dick Finelli (103), Gus Basso (120), Dan Finelli (127), Al Zarbatany (133), Sam DiVitro (138) and Art Schaffer (165) all scored falls.

Bethlehem had won their first three bouts before facing Easton including wins over Nazareth 28-12 and  Northampton 27-11.  In the Nazareth match, Ernest DeBellis (112), Louis Yob (127) and Sayer (154) all scored falls.  In a great individual match up Dick Green blanked Dean Rismmiller 3-0 at 165.  Against the Kids, Ernest DeBellis (112) and Bud Smith (120) both scored falls, and Hoffman from Northampton won a high scoring bout at heavyweight 10-8 over Ken Cox.

Allentown, Northampton and Nazareth were beating each other up in the lower half of the league standings.  The Canaries middleweights won six of seven bouts including two by default and a clinching pin by Gilbert Balado at 154 to down the Blue Eagles 26-22.  Coach Harry Wall’s squad got their only win of the first half by easily beating Allentown 29-18.

Phillipsburg had only lost to Easton and had beaten Bethlehem 22-13 in a mid-January bout and then routed Nazareth 28-9.  The bout did feature some great individual match-ups.  At 103, future two-time state champ Sid Fowler decisioned future district champ John Wilson 9-5.  At 165, in a battle of future district champs, Dean Rismissler edged Selwyn Morgan 3-2.

(Photo Courtesy of Phillipsburg HS Yearbook)

The Stateliners had a chance to finish the first half 4-1 in the league but were upset by Allentown 24-19.  The Canaries middleweights had again come through by going 5-0-1 including a fall by D. Westwood at 112 and three consecutive one point wins by C. Graboritz (3-2 at 120), R. Schoch (5-4 at 127) and T. Haring (11-10 at 133) to lead. Phillipsburg got a fall from DeGeorge (154) and decision from Selwyn Morgan (165) to tie the bout at 19.  The Canaries Marvin Cressman pinned Tom Emery to win the bout.  So they settled for 3-2 tie with Bethlehem.  Following were Allentown 2-3 and Nazareth and Northampton at 1-4.

Bethlehem opened up their 2nd half be repeating their win over Nazareth 34-11,  Ernest DeBellis (112), Louis Yob (127), Don Race (133) and Sayer scored falls; Dick Green was able to repeat his win over Dean Rismiller 9-3.  Bethlehem continued their good start by again handling Allentown 28 -12.

There were several reversals of first half results in the second half.  Nazareth upended Allentown 28-19.  The Blue Eagles started fast with John Alich and John Wilson both scoring falls.  D. Westwood from Allentown cradled and pinned J. Male from Nazareth.  The difference was the Blue Eagles were able to win the middleweights by going 3-2-1 including a huge fall by D. Gambon over Gilbert Balado resulting in a ten point swing in the team score.  Marvin Cressman upset previously undefeated Metro Frank 4-2.

Bethlehem would reverse their loss to Phillipsburg by upending them 26-18.

Nazareth was able to repeat their win over Northampton with another close win.  Nazareth started strong with John Alich and John Wilson both winning their bouts.  The Kids went on a tear winning four of five bouts from 127 to 154 including Dave Laury’s fall over R. Wilson, and the Kids led 18-14.  Dean Rissmiller pinned Lamar Kirk and Metro Flank pinned Huffman to give the Blue Eagles a 24-18 win.

Northampton again upended Allentown 25-19 on the strength of falls by Jim and John Lawrence and Dave Laury.  Phillipsburg again handled Nazareth 28-11.  Sid Fowler and John Wilson again matched up with Fowler winning again 7-3.  Selwyn Morgan was able to reverse the result in his bout with Dean Rismiller 5-4.

Easton crushed Nazareth and Allentown and then faced a Valentine’s Day match-up with Phillipsburg and just nipping them 20-19 to clinch the league crown.  The Rovers closed out their season repeating wins over Bethlehem 35-14 and Northampton 47-2.

Easton ended the year a perfect 10-0 in the league and 11-0 overall and riding a 19 match winning streak as they claimed the first Lehigh Valley League crown for Coach Charles Bartolet Sr.  Compiled standings are below:

Compiled LVL Standings 1950-51W-L

District XI Tournament

On Saturday, February 24, 1951, the District Championships were held in Easton, and the host Rovers did not disappoint.  Easton sent wrestlers in ten of the eleven weights into the District finals and crowned 9 champions.  Dick Finelli (103) repeated as District Champion while Dan Fanelli (127), Sam DiVietro (138) and Oscar Dorsey (154) who beat Dave Laury 7-2 all moved up one spot on the podium from 1950.  The Rovers had 5 other titlists including Jack Uhler who pinned tough John Alich at 95, Harry Cather beating Ernest DeBellis for the 3rd time at 112, Gus Basso doing the same over Bud Smith at 120, Art Cathers at 145 and future Dieruff coach, Art Schaeffer in the 185 weight class.  Their only runner-up – Al Zarbatany, future Wilson coach, at 133 lost to Bethlehem’s Don Race 10-3.  Easton registered four pins in the finals.  None of Bethlehem’s  four returning champs were able to repeat this year with only Gus Romero would make the finals at 145.  Dean Rismiller won Nazareth’s first district title in leading the Blue Eagles to third place.

1951 Easton Districts Champs (Photo Courtesy of Easton High School Yearbook)
1951 Easton Districts Champs (Photo Courtesy of Easton High School Yearbook)
1951 District XI Wrestling Champs
1951 District XI Wrestling Champs (Photo Courtesy of Easton Express Via Bob Hower)
1951 District XI Wrestling Champs
1951 District XI Wrestling Champs (Photo Courtesy of Easton Express Via Bob Hower)
Team Scores:

Northeast Regionals

The Northeast Regionals were held for the first year.  Previously District Champions moved directly to the state tournament.  Districts 2, 4 and 11 comprised the Northeast Regional while the other regionals were as follows:  Southeast (Districts 1 and 3), Northwest (Districts 5, 6, 9, 10) and Southwest (District 7).  Easton arrived at Kingston High School with 9 contestants and advanced an amazing seven to the regional finals.  But in the regional finals, Easton was only able to crown one champion, Dick Finelli who won by fall at 103.  Dean Rismiller from Nazareth was the area’s only other regional champion at 165 by a 14-9 decision.  District 4 crowned 5 champs, including 3 from Shamokin H.S. while District 2 crowned four.

State Championships

One week later, the state championships were held at War Memorial in Johnstown.  Neither local qualifier was able to win the semi-finals and advance to the state finals.  Clearfield captured the team title with one champion and three runners-up.

Phillipsburg Post-Season Results

Phillipsburg had three district champions in Sid Fowler (103), Harold Ricketts (120) and Selwyn Morgan (165).  Fowler would go on to be P-Burg’s first state champ while Ricketts and Morgan both finished third.

Phillipsburg’s First State Champ – Sid Fowler (Photo Courtesy of Phillipsburg HS Yearbook)