Notable Coaching Change:Ken Wildonger --> Glenn Smith (Allentown)
LVL League Champion:Bethlehem Liberty and Northampton Tie (9-1)
District Champion:Northampton (5 Champions, 3 Runners-up)

Only four of eleven District champions returned for the 1952-53 season, but the cupboards were certainly not bare.  Nazareth returned 2 champs (John Alich & Billy Daney) and 3 runners-up (Charles Noversel, Richard Hooper & Dean Rismiller); Bethlehem returned one champ (Ron Flemming) and 2 runners-up (Jerry Symons & Bill Deibler).   Meanwhile Northampton returned all their 1952 finalists consisting of 1 champion (Robert Zimmerman) and 5 runners-up (Jim Lawrence, John Lawrence, Paul Kulp, Paul Billy and Dave Laury).

Regular Season Highlights

1953 Bethlehem Wrestling Squad (Photo Courtesy of Bethlehem H.S. Yearbook)
1953 Bethlehem Wrestling Squad (Photo Courtesy of Bethlehem H.S. Yearbook)

Bethlehem opened up the season by winning 8 of 11 bouts and giving new Allentown Coach Glenn Smith a rude welcome to the LVL.  Dennis Patton (95), Bill Kramm (112), James McIntyre (133), Frank Gutierrez (154) and Ron Flemming (165) all scored falls as the Hurricanes won in a rout 42-8.  The same night, Nazareth upset Easton 33-20.  After an Easton forfeit win at 95, John Alich, Harold Wilson and Billy Daney all scored falls for the Blue Eagles.  Charles Noversel, Jones and Dean Rismiller also won by pin.  Easton was only able to win three bouts in addition to the forfeit win.

Things didn’t go any easier for the Rovers the next week as the hosted Bethlehem.  After a close 8-6 win by Smith over Dennis Patton at 95, the Rovers would not win again until the 133 pound bout.  Pierce Knauss won by fall at 103 followed by three wins by decision. Charles Dentith finally broke the string by downing Jim McIntyre 12-10 in a high-scoring bout.  The Hurricanes’ Jack Hazen pinned DiVietro at 138 for a 21-6 team score, and the bout was basically over. The teams would split the last four bouts, but the damage was done, and Bethlehem doubled the Rovers 28-14.  Northampton hammered Allentown 40-6 while Nazareth downed Phillipsburg 33-15.

After downing both Allentown and Easton handily, Bethlehem matched up with Northampton on January 8, 1953 on the Liberty High School mats.  The Hurricanes won 8 of 11 matches in route to a 29-15 win while the Kids won all three of their bouts by fall.  The Kids rolled out to a 10-6 lead as Henry Fujita (95) and John Lawrence (112) scored falls, but Northampton wouldn’t lead again.  In marquis match-ups, three of Northampton’s returning District runners-up fell.  Terry Iasello downed  Jim Lawrence 6-3 at 120.  Frank Guiterrez decisioned Dave Laury 2-1 at 154 while Ron Flemming defeated Paul Billy 7-3 at 165.  The same week, Easton got their first win moving past Phillipsburg 25-9.

Nazareth's Wilson Brothers - Harold & John (Photo Courtesy of Nazareth H.S. Yearbook)
Nazareth’s Wilson Brothers – Harold & John (Photo Courtesy of Nazareth H.S. Yearbook)

One week later, Bethlehem and Nazareth matched up in a battle of unbeaten.  The Morning Call cited a capacity crowd on hand for this match.  In a back forth match, Nazareth jumped out to a 8-0 lead on a John Alich decision and Harold Wilson fall over Pierce Knauss.  The teams would split the next four matches as the Blue Eagles continue to hold the lead at 16-9.  Billy Daney nipped Terry Iasiello 4-3 at 120 and John Wilson won by fall at 133.  Bethlehem would rally to win 3 of the next 4 bouts including Ron Flemming winning by fall over Richard Hopper at 154. Dean Rismiller edged Frank Gutierrez 5-3 and the Blue Eagles were within one point at 20-19 heading into the last bout.  Parker Jacoby clinching the win at 185 by a 4-2 decision to make the final count 23-19 Bethlehem.

The same night Northampton won a surprising easy 30-14 win over Easton.  The Kids got big wins from Joh Lawrence (4-0 over Nido Collina at 112), Jim Hankee (6-4 over Henry Fleck at 126) and Paul Kulp (by fall over Charles Dentith at 138).  Alfred Bartholemew and Joe Piscitello would battle to a 6-6 draw in a preview of the district finals at 145.

Competitive bouts between the league’s top 4 teams were the norm during the 1952-53 as Bethlehem, Northampton, Easton and Nazareth continued to battle.  Northampton wrapped up the first half of the season by defeating Nazareth 25-22 at home.  John Lawrence decisioned District champion John Alich 8-6 at 112 followed by Steve Micio tieing District champ Billy Daney 7-7.  After James Hankee’s 4-1 win at 126, the Kids led 14-8.  John Wilson downed Gene Laury 8-4, and Frantz pinned Paul Kulp to give Nazareth a 16-14 lead.  Paul Billy scored a 10-5 decision over Jones, and Dave Laury tallied a fall over Richard Hooper at 165 to gain the Kids a big win.

Easton dealt a knockout blow to the Blue Eagles title hopes by defeating them 34-16 for their 3rd loss.

A week later Easton extended Bethlehem in their toughest bout of the season before dropping a 24-21 decision.  Easton had four pins in the process including Larry Gaines (105), Joe Piscitello (145) and Bill Schaeffer, who pinned Parker Jacoby with a chancery and body press for Jacoby’s first loss of the year.  Ron Flemming scored a fall at 154 to help pace the Hurricanes.

Dave Laury and Frank Gutierrez Battle (Photo Courtesy of Northampton H.S. Yearbook)
Dave Laury and Frank Gutierrez Battle (Photo Courtesy of Northampton H.S. Yearbook)

This set up a Hurricane rematch with Northampton on February 11th on the Kids’ home mats.  After Jerry Symons clipped Henry Fujita in the first bout, the Orange and Black ran off 7 wins in a row to take an insurmountable 27-3 lead.  The seven bout run included John Lawrence downing Terry Iasiello 1-0, and James Hankee handing Bill Deibler his first loss of the season 3-2.  In marquis match-ups in the upper weights, the teams traded decisions with future Muhlenberg teammates Billy and Gutierrez coming out on the wrong end of the decisions.  Ron Flemming decisioned Paul Billy 7-3 while Dave Laury downed Frank Gutierrez 3-0.  With the final score 30-9, Northampton had their first “W” over the Hurricanes in six years.  The two teams were tied at 7-1 atop the league standings.

Bethlehem was able to repeat their earlier close win over Nazareth.  Each time Nazareth would score a win, the Hurricanes would answer back.  Bill Deibler and Ron Flemming both scored falls, and Frank Gutierrez scored the clinching 6-0 win over Dick Laubach at 165.  Rich Hooper was able to knock off  Parker Jacoby 7-1  to pull Nazareth within 25-17.

The same night, Northampton continued to grow more powerful as they crushed Easton 31-13.  The teams traded falls at the first two weights with Henry Fujita and Larry Gaines coming out on top.  Jim Lawrence and Nido Collina had a 7-7 draw and the team score was tied at 7-7.  The Kids then went on to win four bouts in a row.  Steve Micio (120) and Gene Laury (133) each scored falls to pace Coach Wall’s team to a 23-7 lead.  At 154, in a battle of unbeatens, Joe Piscitello defeated Alfred Bartholomew 4-0.  Dave Laury added another fall at 165.

Bethlehem crushed Phillipsburg 37-3 while Northampton still had to get past Nazareth in order to achieve a tie for the league title.  Steve Micio, Jim Hankee, Alfred Bartholomew and Paul Billy all scored falls to lead the Kids to at 28-20 in the season’s final week to end at a tie with Bethlehem in the final standings at 9-1.

Compiled LVL Standings 1952-53PlaceW-L

District XI Tournament

1953 K-Kids District Champs (Photo Courtesy of Northampton H.S. Yearbook)
1953 K-Kids District Champs (Photo Courtesy of Northampton H.S. Yearbook)

On February 27th and 28th, the five District XI teams hit the mats in Northampton’s gym.  The semi-finals featured some challenging moments for Nazareth’s returning district placers, two of whom were pinned.  Both John Alich at 112 and Dean Rismiller at 165 lost by fall to Northampton’s John Lawrence and Bethlehem’s Frank Gutierrez, respectively.  Billy Daney won by referee’s decision after battling Easton’s Pat Corpora to a 12-12 stalemate.  In addition, two Easton wrestlers gained big victories.  At 127, Henry Fleck decisioned Bill Deibler 6-3, and at 185 Bill Schaffer defeated tough Parker Jacoby from Bethlehem 4-0.  At 138, the Kids’ Paul Kulp avenged his earlier loss by fall to Nazareth’s Allen Frantz by 0-0 referee’s decision.  When all was done, Northampton was in the lead and sent 8 men to the finals.  Bethlehem and Nazareth each had 5 finalists while Easton had 4 and Allentown none.

In the finals, the Kids went 5 for 8.  John Lawrence (112) , Paul Kulp and Dave Laury all took a step up on the podium.  Steve Micio (120) won his first of 3 titles, and James Hankee (127) had the only fall of the finals.  Bethlehem’s Ron Flemming (154) was the only one of four returning champions to repeat again defeating Paul Billy – this time by a 7-0 score.  Northampton had their first district title in dominant fashion.

Team Scores:
1953 District XI Wrestling Champs
1953 District XI Wrestling Champs (Photo Courtesy of The Morning Call)
Coach Harry Wall and Northampton Squad Celebrate (Photo Courtesy of Northampton H.S. Yearbook)
Coach Harry Wall and Northampton Squad Celebrate (Photo Courtesy of Northampton H.S. Yearbook)

Northeast Regional Tournament

The Regionals were held at Wilkes College, and the District XI grapplers had an outstanding semi-final round by winning 8 of 11 bouts.  The finals did not go nearly so well with only Bethlehem’s Ron Flemming advancing to states at 154 via a 1-1 referee’s decision. Jerry Symons, Harold Wilson, Steve Micio, John Wilson, Joe Piscitello, Dave Laury and Bill Schaffer all lost their finals bouts.  Harold Wilson and Piscitello both lost by referee’s decision while John Wilson and Laury lost by one and two points, respectively.  District XI’s regional performance did not measure up to either District 4’s or 2’s as they had six and four champions, respectively.

PIAA State Championships

At States, Flemming lost to the eventual champion in the semi’s 11-6 and the District XI season was officially over.  Bellefonte claimed the unofficial team title with two champions.  District XI had now gone four straight state tournaments without a champion and had only pushed two men into the finals during all that time, but that was about to change.

Above Photos Courtesy of Tom Elling from PIAA Program & Bob Hower’s Memory Lane

Phillipsburg Post Season

For Phillipsburg, Neal Lesher (154) and Jim Bronco (165) claimed district titles.  Lesher placed 3rd in the state tourney.