LVL League Champion:Bethlehem Liberty (10-0)
District Champion:Bethlehem Liberty (3 Champions, 3 Runners-up)
Regionals:District XI 5 champs almost matching 3 prior years combined
Individual State Champion:Harold Wilson, 120, Nazareth

After two years out of the top spot, Coach Charles Bartolet’s Easton squad was looking to regain the top spot from Bethlehem who had won or shared the league title each of the past two years.  Northampton was hit hard by graduation losing 7 starters including 4 district champs.  Bethlehem lost three district finalists, but still returned a strong core.

Regular Season Highlights

On December 10, 1953, the Rovers got their chance to knock off the Hurricanes on the Easton High School mats.  Easton won six of eleven bouts, but the Bethlehem grapplers of Jerry Symons (103), Terry Iasiello (120), Bill Deibler (133) and Bob Thompson (138) recorded four falls.  Thompson’s fall put the Hurricanes ahead 21-9, but Easton rallied for three straight wins from 145-165 including their only fall by Jim Smerezymaky at 165 to close the gap to 21-20 entering the 185 pound match.  Parker Jacoby iced the win with a 7-1 decision over Joe Mamanan to make the final tally 24-20.

Northampton still entered the season with high hopes despite their graduation losses.  The Kids trounced Nazareth in the season’s first league bout in between two non-league wins over Bethlehem Catholic, yes – Becahi.  It seems that the Golden Hawks had an early attempt at establishing wrestling in the 1950’s before Tony Iasiello arrived in 1966.

On December 17th, the Orange & Black faced off against the Easton Red Rovers.  Easton downed Northampton 23-21 to stay in the hunt for the league title.   The same night Bethlehem downed Allentown 32-14.  However, in a huge upset freshman Russ Rohrbach edged district champion and co-captain, Jerry Symons, 8-6 at 103.

After a long holiday break, Bethlehem outpaced Northampton 29-10 on January 8th.  In a battle of team captains, Jerry Symons easily beat Henry Fujita 8-0 at 103.  Bob Meyers pinned Jim Ehret with a headlock at 112.  After Pierce Knauss edged Don Santo 5-2, Steve Micio pinned Terry Iasiello, and the Kids held a 10-9 lead.  The Hurricanes would run the table by winning the remaining six bouts.  An improving Allentown squad gave Nazareth all they could handle, winning the final three bouts, to pull within one point to lose 28-27.

After the first half, the standings stood at Bethlehem 5-0, Easton 4-1, Northampton 3-2, Nazareth 2-3, Allentown 1-4 and Phillipsburg 0-5.  The second half would kick off on January 28th with Easton visiting Bethlehem before the largest crowd of the season per The Morning Call.  The Rovers led on three different occasions only to lose the lead each time.  Tom and Larry Gaines had decisions sandwiched around Jerry Symons pin at 103 over Chuck Collina resulting in a tie score of 6-6 after three bouts.  Easton would take the lead on Nido Collina’s fall at 127  only to again fall behind as Bill Deibler won a 7-0 decision at 133.  Charles Dentith had a big win over Bob Thompson 5-2 at 138 and John DiVietro downed Ron Sziraky 10-0 to help Easton cling to a 17-15 lead heading into the final two bouts.  At 165, Eugene Roberts won by an 8-4 decision over Jim Smereczynsky, and at 185 undefeated Parker Jacoby again provided the decisive win with a third period fall to make the final score 23-17 Bethlehem.

Another tight bout with Northampton followed for the Rovers on February 4th with Easton prevailing 22-17.  One week later, Northampton matched up with Bethlehem in what the Northampton Amptennian called “the best match of the year.”  Trailing 13-0, Northampton rallied to take a 19-17 lead, but once again the Hurricanes rallied in the last two bouts to win 23-19.

As the season entered its final league match in a sign of things to come, Coach Glen Smith’s Canaries gave Easton all they could handle in the Little Palestra before falling 23-17.  In a key match-up Larry Gaines downed a young Russ Rohrbach 13-6.  With the 4th Lehigh Valley League season in the books, Bethlehem had won their third straight title and sported a 28-1-1 league record during that time.  The final standings showed:

Compiled LVL Standings 1953-54PlaceW-L

District XI Tournament

On February 26th the District championships kicked off at Nazareth High School.   Allentown High exceeded their point total for the past three years combined by advancing 4 wrestlers into the following afternoon’s semi-final round.  In the semis, at 120, Nazareth’s defending District champ, Harold Wilson, advanced by pinning returning District runner-up Terry Iasiello.  At 126, Easton’s Nido Collina downed two-time District finalist Billy Daney from Nazareth 10-6.  Bethlehem led all teams with 7 finalists while Easton had 6, Northampton 4 and Nazareth 2.  After a three year drought of no wrestlers advancing to the finals, Allentown had three!

Coach Harkins Leads Hurricanes to District Title (Photo Courtesy of Bethlehem H.S. Yearbook)
Coach Harkins Leads Hurricanes to District Title
(Photo Courtesy of Bethlehem H.S. Yearbook)

The finals at 103 saw Allentown freshman, Russ Rohrbach, pinning defending District champ Jerry Symons in 2:30 with a chicken wing and chancery!  Undefeated wrestlers, Harold Wilson (120) and Northampton’s Steve Micio (127) each blanked their final’s opponents.  Leading 32-29 in the team score entering the final bout, Easton had déjà vu as Bethlehem’s undefeated Parker Jacoby (185) took the mat against Northampton’s Don Christman.  Jacoby had scored the decisive win in both dual meets and came through yet again winning a 6-4 decision to deliver Bethlehem’s third team title in six years.  Bethlehem, Easton and surprising Allentown tied for the most champions with three each.

Team Scores:
1954 District Wrestling Champions
1954 District XI Wrestling Champs (Photo Courtesy of Globe Times Via Bob Hower)

Northeast Regional Tournament

The winners advanced to the Northeast Regional in Wilkes-Barre on March 6th.  District XI had a successful semi-final round and advanced 8 of its 11 entries to the finals including Bethlehem going 3 for 3.  In the finals, for the first time ever, District XI crowned the most champions with five to District 4’s four and District 2’s two.  Bethlehem’s Bob Thompson (138) was the only winner for the Hurricanes as both Bill Deibler and previously unbeaten Parker Jacoby lost.  Easton had two champions in Larry Gaines (112) and Charles Dentith (145).  Nazareth’s Harold Wilson and Steve Micio remained unbeaten .  Shamokin had the most titlists with three but saw defending regional champion, Joe Cawthern drop an 8-3 decision to Micio at 127.

Coach Harry Wall and Steve Micio (Photo Courtesy of Northampton H.S. Yearbook)
Coach Harry Wall and Steve Micio
(Photo Courtesy of Northampton H.S. Yearbook)

PIAA State Championships

State Champ Harold Wilson (Photo Courtesy of Nazareth H.S. Yearbook)

District XI arrived with its largest contingent at the state tourney since the regionals were introduced in 1951.  Harold Wilson and Steve Micio continued their winning ways by advancing to the finals, but the District’s three other qualifiers fell in the semi’s.  Wilson became Nazareth’s first state champ ever with an 8-5 win at 120 (Pictured at Left – Photo from Nazareth HS Yearbook).  Amazingly, it would take the Blue Eagles another 34 years to get their second state champion!  Steve Micio dropped his first bout of the year by 8-4 decision to cap his junior year as a state runner-up.

1954  Champs:  Kneeling,  left  to  right:  Bill  Bane  (95)  Trinity  (7);   Francis  Adams  (103)  Chartiers  Twp.  (7);   Joe  Shook  (112)   Trinity  (7);   Harold  Wilson  (120)  Nazareth  (11);   Victor  DeFelice  (127)  Canonsburg  (7)  and  Jerry  O’Gurkis  (133)  Kingston  (2).    
Standing,  left  to  right:  Nick  Petronka  (138)  Washington  (7);   Ollie  Rudeen  (145)  Philipsburg  (6);   Dave  Johnson  (154)  Lock   Haven  (6);   Dave  Einsel  (165)  Shamokin  (4)  and  Gene  Smittle  (185)  Canonsburg  (7). (Photo Courtesy of Bob Hower)
Photo Courtesy of Tom Elling from PIAA Program & Bob Hower’s Memory Lane

Phillipsburg Post Season

NJ State Champ, Jim Bronco (Photo Courtesy of Phillipsburg H.S. YearbooK)
NJ State Champ, Jim Bronco (Photo
Courtesy of Phillipsburg H.S. YearbooK)

In New Jersey, P-Burg’s Jim Bronco (165) would win his 2nd district title and also win a state title.