Programs Started (Coach):Hellertown (Charles Bartolet, Jr.)
Added to LVL:Parkland
LVL League Champion:Bethlehem Liberty (12-0)
District Champion:Bethlehem Liberty (5 Champions, 2 Runners-up)
Regionals:Easton (3 Champions) & Bethlehem (2 Champions)
Individual State Champion:John Eckenrode, 138, Bethlehem
First Hellertown Wrestling Team (Photo Courtesy of Hellertown H.S. Yearbook)
First Hellertown Wrestling Team (Photo Courtesy of Hellertown H.S. Yearbook)

With one addition in Parkland, the Lehigh Valley League ranks swelled to a baker’s dozen, thirteen teams.  This would be the last season of the format of wrestling a league dual against every other team.  In addition, Hellertown officially joined the ranks of competing teams with Charles Bartolet Jr., son of the former Easton coach of the same name, taking the coaching duties.

Allen's Coach Glenn Smith (Photo Courtesy of William Allen H.S. Yearbook)
Allen’s Coach Glenn Smith (Photo Courtesy of William Allen H.S. Yearbook)

Defending league champ, Bethlehem Liberty lost State Champ, Doug Koch, to graduation, but returned talented Bernie Hart, John Eckenrode and Joe Mucka and held a 14 match unbeaten streak.  Defending District Champ, Allen, was described as ‘Green’ by The Morning Call.  Coach Glenn Smith did return regional champ, Tom Schleicher (who was starting the season recovering from a broken foot), district runner-up Bob Ziegler and several other lettermen.  Easton and Northampton again looked to challenge.  The Rovers returned Jim Blasco, Dick DeWalt and Malcom Purdy among others, and Northamptpon lost all of their district finalists but returned a number of lettermen.   Phillipsburg, Dieruff, Wilson, Emmaus and Southern Lehigh lined up as the second tier looking to challenge the dominance of the top four teams, who had a strangehold on the top four spots for the past seven years.

Regular Season Highlights

Bethlehem thoroughly dominated Allen in the opening week of the season.  Bernie Hart won by forfeit at 95, and Bobby Taylor upset Tom Schleicher 5-3.  The Hurricanes never looked back.  Nothing went the Canaries way as district runner-up Bob Ziegler was also upset by Bob Slotter 9-4.  Coach Jim Harkins’ team won 9 of the 12 bouts including three by fall in a 35-12 rout.  Emmaus and Dieruff battled to a 23-23 tie.  Per The Morning Call “Emmaus chased Dieruff throughout the match last night and finally caught the Huskies in the final two weight classes.”  Dieruff had three falls, but Emmaus got decisions from Brooks March (1-0) and Ron Christofaro 6-2 to earn the tie.

Dieruff and Easton traveled to Bucks County for non-league matches with the Huskies defeating Neshaminy 37-26 and Easton downing Pennsbury 33-22.  Pennsbury had three District 1 champions in their line-up.  The win was costly however as 103 pounder Jim Blasco had to default after sufferiong an ankle injury.

A week later, Bethlehem Liberty traveled to Northampton.  The Hurricanes won the first four bouts to build a 15-0 lead.  Bernie Hart, Ron Szabo and Hugh Temos won by decision while Bob Taylor scored a fall at 103.  Every time the Kids tried to mount a comeback, Liberty quickly answered.  District Champs, John Eckenrode and Joe Mucka both won by fall to pace the visiting team to another easier than expected 35-13 win over a top contender.

The same night, Easton continued their dominance over P-Burg downing the Stateliners 35-8, and Wilson got a pin from Frank Zingone to spoil Southern Lehigh’s comeback and triumph 34-24.  Notre Dame gave Parkland a not so friendly welcome to the LVL by defeating the Trojans 34-19.

Northampton and Dieruff squared off the next.  Dave Wall, Coach Harry Wall’s son, got the Kids off to a solid start with a 10-0 win at 95.  The Huskies would get a decision at 103 and then fall by Jerry Rizzetto at 112 to lead 9-3.  The teams alternated wins over the next four bouts, but Dieruff’s wins were by falls.  Dave Micio beat tough John Rushatz at 130 by a 6-0 count.  Dieruff led 19-9, but Northampton would go 2-1-1 in the next four bouts, and the Huskies clung to a 24-19 lead.  Ron Gogle took the mat needing a fall to pull out the win for the Kids, and he delivered in the first period to complete the comeback 25-24.

During the holidays, Easton again competed in the Boiling Spring Tourney.  Easton edged Bellfonte 61 to 59 with a pin in the final championship bout by Larry Collair to win the Unlimited and team title.  Also capturing titles for Easton were Malcolm Purdy (120), Dick DeWalt (127) and John Mamana (154).  Alton Bowyer took a 2nd at 95.

Northampton and Allen tangled during the first week of January.  The match featured 5 falls in the first eight bouts.  Northampton got pins from Dave Wall (95), Don Micio (120) and Dave Micio (133) while Allen countered with pins from Don Bower (112) and Bob Ziegler (145).  The Kids clung to a 20-18 with 4 bouts to go and then got pins in 3 of those matches from George Reenock, Brian Brownmiller and Bill Gogle to register a final of 35-21.  Bethlehem and Easton continued to win by big margins while Wilson downed P-Burg 32-17 led by Bob Guzzo’s pin at 126.

Around the same time the Allentown Junior High Wrestling League opened its inagaural wrestling season.  The league consisted of the four Allentown junior highs – Harrison Morton, Raub, South Mountain and Trexler.  Included in the initial box score for Harrison Morton at 95 pounds was future state champion Dave Halulko winning by fall at 95 pounds.

(Photo Courtesy of Wilson H.S. Yearbook)

Entering the fifth week of league competition, Bethlehem Liberty, Easton and Wilson remained unbeaten.  A week later on January 19th, Wilson visited Easton.  The Rovers strong lightweights gave them an early lead, but Bob Guzzo’s 2-1 win over Dick DeWalt kept the Warriors in the match trailing 12-6.  From there Easton pulled away winning decisions in 4 of the next five bouts to extend their lead to 24-9.  Larry Collair wrapped up the win with a pin and Easton remained unbeaten with a 30-12 win.

Allen and upstart Notre Dame faced off in a bout of teams with 2-2 league records.  Canaries’ heavyweight Ron Van Buskirk’s pin preserved a 33-24 win, but the win proved costly.  Allen lost Mike Kauffman (broken arm) at 105 and Lou Bauer (dislocated shoulder) at 127 for the remainder of the season.

Parkland earned their first league win by coming from behind to nip Southern Lehigh 25-24.Trailing 24-16 with two bouts to go, the Trojans got a decision from Bob Swartz at 180, and then Gary Miller scored a first period fall to pull off the comeback for Coach Bill Young.  Northampton continued their winning ways after their early season loss to Bethlehem Liberty; the Kids rolled over P-Burg 28-17 as Dave Wall and Dave Micio stayed unbeaten.  Hellertown, wrestling a non-league schedule, downed Slatington 27-24 and held a 5-2 record.

On January 25th, Allen got a boost as Tom Schleicher returned to the lineup to face Easton.  Unfortunately, Schleicher dropped a tight 8-7 decision to Jim Blasco.  Easton would win 5 of the first six bouts to build a 23-5 lead.  Allen would win 4 of the next five bouts including two by fall but still trailed 28-21.  With the match out of reach, Larry Collair put the icing on the cake by pinning Ron Van Buskirk.  Easton remained unbeaten at 7-0 and tied for 1st place with Bethlehem who trounced Parkland 46-8.

Wilson easily beat Dieruff 33-14 to move into a tie for 3rd place with Northampton.  Could Wilson at 6-1 break the grip of the top 4 teams?  Easton and Bethlehem both continued routing their opponents winning 39-6 over Emmaus and 42-5 over Southern Lehigh, respectively.  Bethlehem was now unbeaten in 22 matches in a row and would face Wilson next.  Easton had lost one match in its last 32 bouts.

Allen continued their climb back from a .500 league record using pins by Bob Volpe and Ron Van Buskirk in the last two bouts to defeat Southern Lehigh 34-21.  Wilson came to Memorial Gym with high hopes that were dashed by the Hurricanes.  Only Bob Guzzo was able to walk out a winner 7-0 over Stuart Gross.  Six Hurricanes remained unbeaten:  Bernie Hart, Bob Taylor, John Eckenrode, Barry Slatter and Mike Givens at 9-0 and Dave Clery at 8-0-1.  The Hurricanes won 8 decisions and 3 falls to crush the Warriors 40-3.

Allen and Dieruff matched up in front of 500 fans at the East Side Gym.  The Canaries again dominated the action, winning 9 bouts on their way to an easy 29-13 win.  The highlights for the Huskies came in the form of two pins – Jerry Rizzetto over Tom Schleicher with a bar arm and head chancery at 103, and John Rushatz over Will Rogers by cradle at 127.

Wilson had dominated all the mid and lower tier teams, but was now struggling to break through against the top tier teams.  Next up for the Warriors was Northampton.  The Kids won 8 bouts and tied another on the way to a 32-11 win over Wilson to hold down 3rd place in the standings.

LVL League Champions (Photo Courtesy of Bethlehem Liberty H.S. Yearbook)
LVL League Champions (Photo Courtesy of Bethlehem Liberty H.S. Yearbook)

A week later Easton would visit Memorial Gymnasium to face Bethlehem Liberty in a match to decide the league title.  The Hurricanes won the first three bouts to jump out to an early 11-0 lead.  Bernie Hart defeated Alton Bowyer 4-0 and Bob Taylor edged Jim Blasco 2-0.  Ron Szabo followed with a late fall at 112.  Easton would answer back as Malcolm Purdy and Dick DeWalt scored back-to-back decisions to cut the lead to 11-6.  After trading decisions in the next two weights including Easton’s Jesse Sobel dealing John Eckenrode his first loss 5-3 at 138.  But Liberty did not look back from there, winning three and drawing another in the next four bouts to open up an insurmountable 27-11 lead.  Unbeaten Larry Collair won by fall, but Liberty had won 27-17 and was in position to win its second league title in a row.

In a battle for 2nd place, Easton and Northampton took to the mats.  Alton Bowyer and Dave Wall battled to a 2-2 draw at 95.  The Rovers then reeled off four decisions in a row by Jim Blasco, Larry Kline, Malcolm Purdy and Dick DeWalt to give Easton a 12-3 lead.  Dave Micio answered back for the Kids at 133 with a 7-1 decision, but the Rovers immediately regained the momentum with a fall and decision.  Every time Northampton tried to mount a rally, Easton would respond with a win of their own.  When the match ended, the Rovers had only lost three bouts on the evening and had a 35-13 victory.

Bethlehem Liberty continued their dominance by traveling to Pottstown and defeating tough Hill School 29-15.  Hill School only won three bouts, and the Hurricanes had win #12 on the year.  Later the same week, Liberty shut out Notre Dame 55-0.  They won the league with a 12-0 record and finished the year 13-0.  The Hurricanes now sported a 26 match unbeaten streak!  Coach Jim Harkins team had a truly dominant year with an average margin of victory of 31 points and only 1 win by fewer than 10 points (30-21 over Emmaus).

Jim Purdy was a Solid Performer Throughout the Year (Photo Courtesy of Wilson H.S. Yearbook)

In a face off for fourth place, Allen traveled to Wilson.  Wilson jumped out to a quick 6-0 lead.  Don Bauer won by fall at 112 before Jim Purdy and Bob Guzzo won decisions to open up a 12-6 Warrior lead.  The Canaries’ middleweights came through with Jim Hunter, Bill Schantz and Bob Ziegler moving Allen ahead for the first time 17-12.  The teams would split the final four bouts Hwt. Ron Van Buskirk winning the deciding match 6-0 to give the Canaries a 23-18 victory.  Allen finished in 4th place at 9-3 while Wilson improved to a very respectable 5th place at 8-4.

In a season where more teams were competitive, the top 4 teams remained at the top of the heap.   Wilson, Phillipsburg, Emmaus, Nazareth and Notre Dame all improved their records from the prior year.  The final standings were:

Compiled LVL Standings 1960-61PlaceW-L-D
Bethlehem Liberty112-0
William Allen49-3
Notre Dame94-8
Southern Lehigh122-10

District XI Tournament

The district tournament was expanded to three days to accommodate the 156 wrestlers from thirteen teams entered in the tourney.  Competition began with the preliminary round on Wednesday night followed by the quarterfinals on Friday and semi-finals and finals on Saturday.  Four champions returned to seek repeat titles – Easton’s Malcolm Purdy (120), Wilson’s Bob Guzzo (127), Bethlehem Liberty’s John Eckenrode (138) and Bethlehem’s Joe Mucka (185).

The top three wrestlers at each weight receiving first round byes as the tournament kicked off at Dieruff High School.  Hellertown was the surprising leader after the first round earning 8 wins.  The Hurricanes had 7 seeded wrestlers and won five first round bouts to have a full complement of twelve wrestlers in the quarterfinal round.  Defending champion Allen had nine wrestlers in the quarters.

Emmaus’ Kratzer Battles Opponent (Photo Courtesy of Emmaus H.S. Yearbook)

Friday night’s quarterfinals resulted in the top four teams claiming the top spots and putting on what The Morning Call dubbed “a show of power”.  Easton led a close race with 17 points and 8 semi-finalists followed by Liberty (16 and 9), Allen (14 and 7) and Northampton (11 and 6).  After a strong start, Hellertown was shut out in day two of competition.    Top seeded Ron Kratzer from Emmaus at 138 and Barry Slotter from Liberty at 145 were both pressed into overtime before advancing:  Kratzer 2-1 over Sobel from Easton and Slotter 4-2 over Parsons from Hellertown.

The semi-finals featured some excellent matches right from the start of the afternoon’s session.  At 95, Northampton’s Dave Wall edged Easton’s Alton Bowyer 1-0.  At 112, top-seeded Lou Bauer of Allen just got by Liberty’s Ron Szabo 4-3.  Easton’s Dick DeWalt and Dieruff’s John Rushatz locked up at 127 with DeWalt coming out on top 3-1.  Allen’s Bob Ziegler won by fall at 145 with what The Morning Call described as a “reverse split.”  John Mamana of Easton pulled an upset at 154 by downing #1 seed Bill Evans of Parkland 8-6.  The upsets of #1 seeds continued at 165 with Allen’s Ron Bushner pinning Mike Givens of Liberty.   The Hurricanes continued to dominate moving 7 wrestlers into the finals.  Easton each had 5 finalists followed by Allen (4) and Northampton (3).  Emmaus, Nazareth, Southern Lehigh, Whitehall and Wilson each had one finalist.

Whitehall Wrestlilng
Rollin Ronemus Won Whitehall’s First District Title (Photo Courtesy of The Morning Call)

Coach Jim Harkins’ team did not have to wait long to get rolling in the finals.  Bernie Hart and Bob Taylor both won decisions over tough opponents in the Kids’ Dave Wall (4-0) and the Rovers’ Jim Blasco (6-1).  At 112, Whitehall had a district champion for the 2nd year in a row as Rollin Ronemus pinned Lou Bauer.  Easton’s Malcom Purdy became a four time finalist and three time champion by decisioning Bethlehem’s Hugh Temos 5-3.  Dick DeWalt made it two champions in a row for Easton by defeating defending champ Bob Guzzo from Wilson in overtime 3-1.  Liberty won the next two bouts on close decisions with Dave Clery edging Northampton’s Dave Micio 3-2.  At 138 John Eckenrode avenged an early loss by slipping by Emmaus’ Ron Kratzer 2-0.  At 145, Bob Ziegler upset top-seeded Barry Slotter from Liberty in overtime.  The last four weights featured champions from four different schools with Brian Bronmiller-Northampton (154), unseeded Ron Bushner-Allen (165), Joe Mucha-Bethlehem (2nd title at 180) and Larry Collair-Easton (Unl).

Team Scores:
Bethlehem Liberty57
William Allen36
Southern Lehigh11
1961 District XI Wrestling Champs
1961 District XI Wrestling Champs (Photo Courtesy of The Morning Call)

Northeast Regional Tournament

A huge crowd of over 4,500 fans turned out at Wilkes College to watch the Northeast Regional tournament.  District XI had a great semi-final round.  Two wrestlers had byes in the semi-finals and the balance of the contingent went 8 for 10 giving District XI 10 finalists – possibly the highest total ever to date.

In the finals, Easton and Forty Foot crowned the most champions with three each.  Malcolm Purdy won his second regional title by a 6-1 score.  Dick DeWalt “came from a 4-3 deficit in the final 15 seconds with a reversal” per The Morning Call to win a 5-4 decision.   The third Easton champ was heavyweight Larry Collair also came from behind to win a 5-1 decision.

Liberty’s grapplers split their matches winning two and losing two.  Bernie Hart (95) and John Eckenrode (138) won their bouts by 5-2 decision and by fall, respectively.  The districts other winners were Whitehall’s unbeaten Rollin Ronemus, who won both of his bouts by fall, and Allen’s Bob Ziegler who triumphed by a 7-2 count.

District XI crowned seven champions which were second only to 1956’s eight titles.  District 2 had 4 champions while District 4 had one.

PIAA Wrestling Tournament

The draw at the 1961 state tournament was not favorable for many of the Lehigh Valley’s grapplers with three of the seven entrants facing defending state champions in the semi-finals, as follows:

  • Whitehall’s Rollin Ronemus (112) vs. defending 103 champ Terry Haise of Erie Strong Vincent,
  • Easton’s Malcom Purdy (120) vs. three-time, never defeated Mike Johnson of Lock Haven, and
  • Easton’s Larry Collair (Unl) vs. Jim Nance of Indiana.

Unfortunately, none of the state champs were toppled.  Ronemus came the closest, losing in overtime 0-0, 2-0.  Purdy feel to Johnson 8-1; Johnson would later become the state’s second four-time champion finishing with an 84-0 career record.  Nance downed Collair 9-2.

The district’s remaining four contestants split their semi-final results.  Liberty’s Bernie Hart (95) and John Eckenrode (138) both advanced to the finals with wins by decision.  Eastons’ Dick DeWalt (127) and Allen’s Bob Ziegler (145) both dropped decisions.

State Champ John Eckenrode Rides Opponent (Photo Courtesy of Bethlehem Liberty H.S. Yearbook)
State Champ John Eckenrode Rides Opponent (Photo Courtesy of Bethlehem Liberty H.S. Yearbook)

After winning 15-2 in the semi-finals, Eckenrode continued his dominant performance by pinning Canon-McMillan’s Frank O’Korn in the finals to win the 6th state title in Bethlehem history.   Teammate, Bernie Hart, was not as fortunate at 95 losing to Trinity’s Jerry Lattimore 4-0, but still finishing a fine season with a state silver medal.

Lock Haven dominated the action crowning four state champions to easily win the unofficial team title.

1961  State  Champs.  Kneeling,  left  to  right:   Jerry  Lattimore  (95)  Trinity  (7);   Terry  Wilson  (103)  Waynesburg  (7);   Rickey   Kelvington  (112)  Trinity  (7);   Mike  Johnson  (120)  Lock  Haven  (6);   Rod  Wentling  (127)  Greenville  (10)  and  Lee  Deitrick   (133)  Lock  Haven  (6).
Standing,  left  to  right:  John  Eckenrode  (138)  Bethlehem  (11);   John  Dussling  (145)  Springfield  (Delco)  (1);   Bob  Kopnisky  (145)   Shaler  Twp.  (7);   Gary  Cook  (165)  Lock  Haven  (6);   Jerry  Swope  (180)  Lock  Haven  (6)  and  Jim  Nance  (Unl)  Indiana  (6).  (Photo Courtesy of Bob Hower)

Phillipsburg Post Season

Phillipsburg again had one district champ at 133 in Harry Smith.

Harry Smith (Photo Courtesy of Phillipsburg H.S. Yearbook)
Harry Smith (Photo Courtesy of Phillipsburg H.S. Yearbook)