Program Started (Coach):Whitehall (Carl Case)
Added to LVL:Emmaus, Whitehall, Wilson
LVL League Champion:Allentown (8-0-1)
District Champion:Bethlehem (4 Champions, 1 Runner-up)
Regionals:Allentown & Bethlehem (2 Champions Each)
Individual State Champion:Al Rushatz, 154, Allentown

With the two-time defending champion Canaries graduating two state champs, a state runner-up and a district runner-up, there was cause for hope that one of the Big 3 would be able to break through and wrestle the title away from Allentown.  In addition, several of Coach Glen Smith’s top prospects would not be wrestling during the 57-58 season:  Dick Bear (out for the season due to an auto accident), Dick Rushatz and Jim Hoats (academically ineligible) and Hwt. Bill Bronstein (football injury).  But the cupboard certainly was not bare with five starters including state runner-up Al Rushatz returning.

Meanwhile, Northampton returned six starters including Regional Champ Fred Heffelfinger and District runners-up Joe Recker and Gordon Bartholomew; Bethlehem returned eight letterman including District Champ Stan Carreras and three District runners-up (William Rinker, Bart Mosser and Bill Werst); and Easton returned four starters including District Champ Ted Sulkin.

Whitehall began their wrestling program, and there were big changes in the Lehigh Valley League.  The league expanded from seven to ten schools.  With the expansion, the schedule was revised.  No longer would the season be broken into halves with each team wrestling each other team twice.  In the new format, each team would wrestle each league opponent once for a total of nine league bouts.

Regular Season Highlights

Non-league bouts highlighted the beginning of the season.  On December 7th, Northampton traveled to Pottstown to wrestle perennial Prep school powerhouse, Hill School.  Hill School swept the last three bouts to hand Coach Wall a 22-16 defeat.  Allentown defeated Norristown 37-17.

The league schedule then opened up with Allentown, Easton and P-Burg welcoming newcomers Whitehall, Emmaus and Wilson, respectively to the league, and downing them by 52-9, 50-0 and 39-8 scores.  The most intriguing league opener matched the returning #2 and #3 squads as Coach Harry Wall’s Kids met Coach Jim Harkins’ Hurricanes at Memorial Gym.  Northampton jumped out to a 10-0 lead thanks to pins in the first two bouts but then suffered two upsets.  Harry Hollinger downed defending regional champ Fred Heffelfinger 4-1, and Bill Rinker shut out tough Joe Recker 3-0.  After the teams traded decisions, the score stood at 13-9 Kids.   That’s when Northampton ran off four straight wins including two falls to give Coach Harry Wall a great birthday gift and the win.  Veterans Charlie Kuntzelman and Bill Werst wrested to a 7-7 draw to end the meet.  This competitive bout would be a foreshadowing of a decisive bout the District XI tourney later in the year.

In the 3rd week of league action, Allentown and Bethlehem faced off in a key league match-up.  The Canaries jumped out to a 11-0 lead before Bill Rinker won by fall and Dick Greenleaf and Bart Mosser drew.  After another Allentown win, defending District Champ Bob Sommons took to the mat against Van Fillipos.  Sommers landed off the mat on his left elbow suffering an injury and causing him to default narrowing the lead to 16-13.  The AHS matmen were able to win the next three bouts to clinch the bout before Bill Werst pinned Bill Bronstein, who was taking the mats for the first time after a football injury.  The Canaries won the battle 30-18 to win their 30th consecutive victory, but the win proved costly as Sommers would be lost for the year.  The same night, Easton quietly won their 6th bout in a row and 3rd in the league by crushing Whitehall 56-0.

A relatively new concept was being tried in the form of holiday tournaments over the Christmas break.  Allentown traveled to University Park to participate in the first annual State College H.S. Invitational Wrestling Tournament.  AHS would take 4th in the tourney to host State College who easily won the title.

Easton traveled to Shamokin for a non-league bout on January 11th before resuming their league scheduled.  Shamokin ran off four straight decisions to win 25-14 and deal Coach John Maitland’s squad their first loss of the year.  Five nights later, Easton would travel to Northampton for a battle of league unbeatens.  In a back and forth bout, Easton struck first as Malcolm Purdy decisioned  Larry Suranofsky 9-2 and Ted Sulkin won by fall over Joe Knopf who was subbing for injured Fred Heffelfinger.  Easton led 9-0 but the Kids ripped off three straight wins by Ken Nikisher, Joe Recker and Milan Billy to tie the match at 9-9.  Easton led 18-15 heading into the final bout.  Charley Kuntzleman scored an 11-6 win over Easton’s Bob Renner, almost converting a potential fall, and the teams settled for an 18-18 draw.  The same night Allentown whipped P-Burg 33-8 to claim sole possession of first place in the LVL at 4-0.

Allentown matched up against a tough Kingston team on January 18th in a non-league meet.  Three Canaries – Carl “Half” Nelson, Bob “Peanuts” O’Donnell and Al Rushatz remained unbeaten as AHS dominated the Huskies 34-13.

After four league bouts, Allentown (4-0), Northampton (3-0-1) and Easton (3-0-1) were undefeated while a surprising Nazareth squad (3-1) had only one loss.  Upstart Wilson challenged Allentown and had pulled within 18-15 after the 145 pound bout.  Wilson’s Joe Ackerman and Allentown’s Jeff Moyer were locked in a 5-5 battle when Ackerman caught Moyer in a headlock and arm and pinned him.  AHS rallied to win the next three bouts to score a 33-15 win.  The same night Easton brought Nazareth back to reality with a 49-4 trouncing as Bill Badger (95), Bill Kelley (133) and Phil Richards (138) stayed unbeaten.  Northampton set a new Lehigh Valley League scoring record by crushing Southern Lehigh 61-0.

1958 Konkrete Kids Tied the Canaries (Photo Courtesy of Northampton H.S. Yearbook)
1958 Konkrete Kids Tied the Canaries (Photo Courtesy of Northampton H.S. Yearbook)

A week later, Allentown and Northampton matched up in a key match that featured six unbeaten wrestlers, many close bouts and several lead changes.  AHS’ Carl Nelson and Bob O’Donnell both won decisions to help Allentown jump out to a 6-0.  Coach Harry Wall’s grapplers won the next three bouts as Kenny Nickersher, Joe Recker and Milan Billy all won as the Kids led 9-6.  Nikisher scored an escape and takedown in the second period to win a key 3-2 win over Henry Raines.  Allentown answered back and tied the match on Dick Greenleaf’s decision.  They then moved ahead on Joe Gareffa’s 3rd period takedown resulting in a 7-6 win over Mike Gontar.  After a drew at 145 between Jeff Moyer and John Spanitz, Gordon Bartholomew won by decision at 154 tieing the team score at 14.  Al Rushatz nearly pinned Tom Chuss but had to settle for a 7-0 decision.  With that Chalrey Kuntzelman took the mat and downed Jim Winterhalt 2-1 on riding time.  Northampton earned a 17-17 tie and the Canaries winning streak was broken at 33.  The Canaries did extend their unbeaten streak to 34 in front of a crowd of 1,000 at the Little Palestra.

Easton stayed in title contention pitching their third shut out of the year in defeating Southern Lehigh 52-0 pulling into a tie with Allentown in the league standings.  Easton then ran into unbeaten Hill School who walloped the Rovers 34-11.  The highlight for Coach John Maitland’s squad was unbeaten Bill Kelley nipping National Prep school champ Hiram Nersereau 7-6.

Easton faced Bethlehem and needed a win to set up a showdown with Allentown for the league title.  Easton had leads of 9-0, 12-11, 14-13 and 19-16.  Malcolm Purdy (95) and Bill Kelley (133) had falls for the Rovers while Bill Rinker (120) registered a fall for the Hurricanes.  At 165, Easton looked to move ahead 22-16 as Charles Chidsey led 5-3 over Ron Bednar.  The match was now tied 19-19.  Bill Werst ended the Rover’s title hopes downing Bob Renner 8-3, and Bethlehem had the upset a 22-19 in front of the Rover’s home crowd.

Hill School continued its dominance over the Lehigh Valley teams by beating Bethlehem 27-13.  In an anti-climatic match, the Canaries crushed Easton 35-6.  All three of Easton’s unbeaten wrestlers were defeated:  Ted Sulkin (103) lost to Bob O’Donnell 5-1, Bill Kelley (133) was pinned by Dick Greenleaf and Phil Richards (138) was edged by Joe Gareffa.

The regular season league schedule closed out with Easton defeating P-Burg 31-16 and extending their unbeaten streak over the Stateliners to 10 years. Allentown had their third straight league title and entered districts with momentum.  The teams added in the past two years struggled to gain wins against the established teams.  Wilson registered a respectable 4-5 league record.

Graphic Shows Allentown’s Incredible Improvement Under Coach Smith (Image Courtesy of Allentown H.S. Yearbook)

The final league standings stood as follows:

Compiled LVL Standings 1957-58PlaceW-L-D
Southern Lehigh100-9

District XI Tournament

Allentown was seeking its third district title in a row when the championships kicked off at Southern Lehigh.  With the addition of Whitehall, there were now nine teams competing in the tournament.  This necessitated a one bout preliminary round at each weight.  After the quarterfinals, Northampton held a slim lead with 17 points followed by Bethlehem (16), Easton (14) and Allentown (13).  Northampton won a key bout at 138 when Dan Einfelt upset top-seeded Joe Gareffa of Allentown by referee’s decision. 

After a successful semi-final round, Northampton still held the lead and also had the more finalists with six.  Allentown had a disappointing round only going 4 for 8 and largely falling out of title contention.  Finalists for other teams were Bethlehem (5), Allentown and Easton (4 each), Nazareth (2) and Wilson (1).  With four head-to-head bouts in the finals, Northampton and Bethlehem would largely be able to determine their own fate in the team race. 

The first two weights featured match-ups between Easton and Allentown before 1,200 fans in the Solehi gym.  At 95 pounds, future long-time official, Easton’s Malcom Purdy made the first of his four district final appearances downing Carl Nelson 6-2.  At 103, Allentown’s Bob “Peanuts” O’Donnell dealt defending champ, Ted Sulkin, a 6-2 defeat. 

This would set up three consecutive matches between Bethlehem and Northampton.  Coach James Harkins’ Hurricanes would sweep the trio of bouts as their three defending district runners-up, Harry Hollinger, Bill Rinker and Bart Mosser, downed Ken Nikisher, Joe Recker and Milan Billy.  While Bethlehem had the lead, Northampton still had 3 finalists remaining to Bethlehem’s 2.

Easton won titles at the next two weights – 133 and 138 – followed by Wilson’s Joe Ackerman winning his school’s first district title and helping the Kids’ title hopes in the process by edging Bethlehem’s Ed Nikles 4-2.  Northampton had finalists in the last three weights and no one expected Mike Chuss to defeat two time district champ, Al Rushatz, at 165 meaning the Kids would have to win both other matches. 

At 154, Gordon Bartholomew downed Nazareth’s Bill Kraemer 3-0.  Rushatz pinned his way through the tournament to win his third title.  Heading into the final match-up, Northampton led Bethlehem 61-60 with 10 points being awarded to the victor and 7 to the runner-up.  Bethlehem’s Bill Werst again had the Hurricane’s title hopes on his shoulders.  In 1957, Werst was pinned by Allentown’s Tim Stauffer in the deciding bout which gave the Canaries their second district title.  Would Werst be the hero or would Northampton’s Charley Kuntzelman allow the Kids to win their first title since 1953.

Regulation in the 185 bout ended with Werst and Kuntzelman deadlocked 3-3.  In overtime, Werst appeared on his way to the title with a 5-3 lead in the waning seconds of the bout.  This is where things get interesting per The Morning Call’s sub-headline  in a “Wild Finish, Disputed Victory in Final Bout Decides Tourney, Starts Rhubarb.”  Kuntzelman was awarded a reverse with six seconds remaining in overtime to tie the bout at 5.  Per The Morning Call “Northampton Coach Harry Wall claimed referee Harold Tice had signaled an escape before the reverse.”  This would have given Kuntzelman a 6-5 win and the title to the Kids by a 71-67 margin.  Tice’s call stood and after he conferred with fellow official, Archie Leigh, the referee’s decision was awarded to Werst.

rhu·barbˈro͞oˌbärb/ –

North American slang – “a heated dispute”

When the dust settled, Bethlehem had won their fourth team championship and first since 1954.

Team Scores:
Southern Lehigh0
1958 District XI Wrestling Champs
1958 District XI Wrestling Champs (Photo Courtesy of Globe Times via Bob Hower)
Bethlehem Wrestling
Bill Werst Won by Referee’s Decision to Win the District Team Title for Bethlehem (Photo Courtesy of The Morning Call)
District Team Champs - Bethlehem Hurricanes (Photo Courtesy of Bethlehem H.S. Yearbook)
District Team Champs – Bethlehem Hurricanes (Photo Courtesy of Bethlehem H.S. Yearbook)

Northeast Regional Tournament

The Northeast Regionals were gain held in Wilkes-Barre  before 2,500 spectators in the Wilkes College Field House.  In the semi-finals, Allentown’s Bob O’Donnell and defending champ Al Rushatz, Bethlehem’s Bart Mosser and Easton’s Bill Kelley received byes.  District XI winners in the semi’s were Easton’s Malcom Purdy (7-2) and Bethlehem’s Bill Werst (3-2) while Bethlehem’s Harry Hollinger (4-0) and Bill Rinker (8-6), Wilson’s Jim Ackerman (by fall) and Northampton’s Gordon Bartholomew (7-6) dropped decisions.   At 138, Allentown’s Dick Greenleaf replaced Easton’s Dick Richards “who took a U.S. Naval Academy entrance exam” per The Moring Call.

District 11 had a very successful Saturday night going 5 for 6 in final round match-ups.  Allentown and Bethlehem each claimed two titlists.  At 103, Peanuts O’Donnell won a close 8-6 bout over Shamokin’s Tom Thompson.  Al Rushatz at 165 registered another fall by cradle to win his second regional title.

The Hurricanes’ Bart Mosser (127) and Bill Werst (185) each won close decisions to also give Coach James Harkins two champions.  Easton’s Bill Kelley (133) dropped a close 3-2 decision and was the District’s only unsuccessful finals’ competitor.  District 11 had the most champions for the fifth year in a row with five plus Northampton’s Larry Suranofsky’s exhibition win at 88 pounds.  Districts 2 and 4 each had three titlists.

PIAA State Tournament

The 21st annual state tournament was postponed by one week due to a major snow storm.  On March 29th, three defending champs and three defending runners-up descended upon Penn State along with 38 other hopeful competitors.  According to The History of the PIAA State Wrestling Championships, wrestling had grown to the point where “200 high schools across the Keystone state sponsored wrestling in eleven PIAA districts” and nearly 8,000 fans would watch the finals.

District 11 won three of their five semi-final bouts with Easton, Bethlehem and Allentown each gaining one finalist.  At 95, Easton’s freshman Malcolm Purdy won in overtime 2-1 in the semi’s but dropped an 8-1 decision to Lock Haven freshman Mike Johnson (who would go on to win four state titles).  At 127, Bethlehem’s Bart Mosser won a close 3-1 decision and then followed with a 5-1 decision to become Coach Jim Harkins’ first state titlist. 

State Champ Al Rushatz (Photo Courtesy of Allentown H.S. Yearbook)
State Champ Al Rushatz (Photo Courtesy of Allentown H.S. Yearbook)

At 165, Al Rushatz continued his dominant senior season.  In the semi-finals Rushatz won a lopsided 12-1 decision and in the finals fittingly won by fall with a cradle to give Coach Glenn Smith his third state titlist at Allentown in two years (Smith also had four state champions in a previous stint at Bellefonte).

Allentown’s Bob O’Donnell (103) and Bethlehem’s Bill Werst (185) both lost to the eventual state champions in their semi-final bouts.

While Districts 6 and 7 dominated the top step of the podium with four and three champions respectively, District 3’s Manheim Central won the mythical state title with three runners-up.  District 11 continued to flex its muscles by crowning two champions for the second consecutive year.

(Photo Courtesy of Bob Hower)

1958  Champs:  on  knees,  left  to  right:  Mike  Johnson  (95)  Lock  Haven  (6);   Don  Hopkins  (103)  Trinity  (7);   Dick  Stauffer  (112) Kingston  (2);   Dick  Tressler  (120)  State  College  (6)  and  Bart  Mosser  (127)  Bethlehem  (11). Standing,  left  to  right:  Earl  Harris  (133)  Philipsburg-Osceola  (6);   John  Byard  (138)  Waynesburg  (7);   Phil  Edmunds  (145)   Forty  Fort  (2);   Ron  Pifer  (154)  Bellefonte  (6);   Al  Rushatz  (165)  Allentown  (11)  and  Ray  Bazzoli  (185)  Chartiers-Houston  (7)

Phillipsburg Post Season

In the New Jersey districts, Dave Osmun repeated as a titlest at 120 with Myron Butler (133) and future great football coach, Bob Stem (165).  All-state football player Stem won a wrestling state title as well.  Osmun would place again; this time 4th.

All-State Football Player & State Champ, Bob Stem (Photo Courtesy of Phillipsburg H.S. Yearbook)
All-State Football Player & State Champ, Bob Stem (Photo Courtesy of Phillipsburg H.S. Yearbook)