“The Magnificent Seven”:  The Story of District XI’s 7 AAA State Champions:  Bobby Weaver, Jim Zenz, Rick Rodriguez, Brian Statum, Jerry Rodriguez, Mike Brown & George Atiyeh!

Notable Coaching Changes:Bill Krebs --> Ray Ferraro (Emmaus)
? --> Bob Jiorle (Palisades)
Mike Davis --> Don Schleicher (William Allen)
Ray Walters --> Malcolm Purdy (Wilson)
League Changes:Lehigh-Northampton and Lehigh Valley Leagues are eliminated; Centennial and Colonial Leagues are created.
East Penn League adds Emmaus, Parkland and Whitehall
Structural Changes:Class A and Class B are renamed as Class AAA and Class AA. Consolation bouts for 3rd-4th in PIAA State Championships are reinstated. Class AAA Districts are now held on two consecutive weekends as Sectionals are eliminated. Class AA Sectionals are reduced to two – East & West.
East Penn League Champion:Liberty (11-0)
Colonial League Champion:Saucon Valley (8-0)
Centennial League Champion:Lehighton (7-1)
Centennial League Tourney:Pocono Mountain
District Champion:
Class AAA:Liberty (4 Champions)
Class AA:Lehighton (2 Champions)
Class AAA:District XI – 9 Total Champs – Saucon Valley & Liberty (3 Champs each)
Class AA:District XI – 10 Total Champs – Notre Dame (2 Champions)
PIAA States:
Class AAA:Saucon Valley wins 1st official team state title with three champions and 54.5 points. Liberty is 2nd with 1 champ and 51.5 points. Easton is 5th.
Individual State Champions:
Class AAA:Bob Weaver, 98, Easton; Jim Zenz, 105, Saucon Valley; Rick Rodriguez, 145, Saucon Valley; Brian Statum, 155, Liberty; Jerry Rodriguez, 167, Saucon Valley; Mike Brown, 185, Bethlehem Catholic; George Atiyeh, Hwt., Dieruff

League Realignment

1975-76 saw the end of the Lehigh-Northampton and Lehigh Valley leagues and formation of the new Colonial and Centennial Leagues as well as an expanded East Penn League.  In addition, Classes A & B gave way to AAA and AA.

During late 1973, nine of the 14 Lehigh-Northampton League teams decided to exit and form their own league, the Colonial League.  In March 1974, four of the eight Lehigh Valley League schools announced that they would be leaving the league effective July 1, 1975 to join the new Centennial League which would also potentially include East Stroudsburg (which originally was going to join the Colonial League), Pocono Mountain and Panther Valley (which subsequently voted not to join).  East Penn League member Notre Dame, Pleasant Valley and Northwestern were all admitted into the league to form a nine team league.  Original league members included East Stroudsburg, Lehighton, Northern Lehigh, Northwestern, Notre Dame, Palmerton, Pleasant Valley, Pocono Mountain and Stroudsburg.

Catasauqua and Palisades were admitted to the Colonial League while two of the original nine “breakaway teams” (East Stroudsburg and Parkland) decided not to join.  That resulted in the original Colonial League members being Bangor, Catasauqua, Nazareth, Palisades, Pen Argyl, Salisbury, Saucon Valley, Southern Lehigh and Wilson.

That left Emmaus, Northampton and Whitehall along with LNL member, Parkland, as the only teams in the Lehigh Valley League.  A short time later, these four teams opted to join the East Penn League and the “New East Penn League”.

The Morning Call sports editor John Kunda wrote “school size and location were obvious conclusions for placement.  On paper the realignment looks fine for all concerned, however, there are some exceptions.”


Mike Brown
Mike Brown , along with brother Pat, led many comeback victories for the Hawks (Photo Courtesy of Bethlehem Catholic HS Yearbook)

Opening night, had Saucon Valley wrestling against Bethlehem Catholic, who was the only team to defeat the Panthers the year before.  The Golden Hawks trailed with only two bouts to go, but got falls from Mike and Pat Brown to knock off the Panthers 26-23.

The same night, Whitehall clipped Southern Lehigh 39-11; Palisades pounded Quakertown 42-10; and Notre Dame toppled Salisbury 36-15.

A few nights later, the Panthers and Golden Hawks were back on the mats.  Saucon Valley took an early 9-0 lead against Freedom, but saw the Patriots come back to narrow the gap to 12-9 before the Saucon upperweights pulled away for a 31-11 victory.  Notre Dame won their 2nd straight match by topping Wilson 33-15.  Chris Wentz’s 15 second pin was one of four falls for Northwestern as they clipped Catasauqua 33-23.  Bethlehem Catholic crushed Archbishop Carroll 53-7.  Two legends, Charlie Bartolet and Tony Iasiello achieved milestones the same evening – Bartolet with win #150 and Iasiello with win #100!

Liberty had edged Easton 21-15 to win the East Penn League title and deal the Rovers their only loss of the ’74-‘75 season.  The schedule makers wasted no time in getting to a premiere match early on as the Rovers traveled to Bethlehem to face the Hurricanes on December 11th.  Easton’s strong lightweights, paced by a Bobby Weaver fall, opened up a 15-6 lead before Liberty’s Bernie Fritz, Tom Jones and Brian Statum pulled Liberty ahead 16-15.  After swapping decisions at 167 and 185, Jim Patelllis’ victory in the final bout gave Coach Frank Gutierrez an early, but extremely important 22-18 win.

In other East Penn League action, the Allen Canaries made it a happy debut for new head coach, Don Schleicher, with three falls as they whipped Whitehall 34-18.  Dieruff returned eight starters and gave Northampton a rude welcome into the EPL by registering four falls as they hammered the Kids 45-10. Parkland’s EPL debut was a 63-0 shut out over Allentown Central Catholic.

On December 11th, the new Colonial and Centennial Leagues made their debuts on the wrestling mats.  In the Centennial League, Notre Dame roared out to a 16-0 lead on their way to a 37-9 win over Stroudsburg.  Northwestern had four falls as they defeated Slatington 38-19, and East Stroudsburg had five falls as they downed Pleasant Valley 42-20.  Pocono Mountain trailed Palmerton 28-13, but registered two falls and a win by default in the final three bouts to win 31-28.

In the Colonial League, Nazareth, Pen Argyl and Southern Lehigh had successful debuts.  Nazareth’s Tripp brothers both had falls as the Blue Eagles topped Salisbury 43-11.  Southern Lehigh’s Jim Hofstetter had a 10-0 win in the final bout to clinch a 32-26 victory over Bangor, and Pen Argyl beat Palisades 37-21.

Parkland, in their first EPL season, upset Phillipsburg 29-19 on December 13th.  The Trojans had jumped out to an early lead and were clinging to a 20-16 lead with three bouts to go.  Mike Polgar nipped Ed Allen 9-8 at 167, and Joe Atiyeh had a huge fall at 185 to clinch the victory. Easton shut out Allentown Central Catholic 60-0 with six pins and two forfeit wins.

Dave Tripp
Dave Tripp’s Fall Helped the Blue Eagles Win (Photo Courtesy of Nazareth HS Yearbook)

The rest of the schedule had a number of interesting non-league match ups.  Nazareth built an early lead against Lehighton on falls by Jeff and Dave Tripp and Gross; the Blue Eagles held on for a 30-23 win.  Saucon Valley had falls from Dave Polack (98), Rick Rodriguez and Jerry Rodriguez as they dominated Allen 41-5.  Dieruff trailed Wilkes-Barre Meyers 20-11, but Mike Marcks, Cedric Sutton and George Atiyeh strung together consecutive wins as the Huskies triumphed 25-20.  Pen Argyl topped Northwestern 39-27.

The EPL was in full swing on December 18th.  In the most competitive match, Freedom and Dieruff faced off at the Patriots’ home gym.  Freedom’s Jimmy Rodriguez (98) and Keith Kauffman (126) scored falls as the Pats built a 19-6 lead.  Paul Dauscher, Mike Mugavaro and Billy Williams strung together three wins from 138-155 as Freedom triumphed 28-21.  The balance of the league slate was not nearly as competitive.  Liberty shut out Allentown Central Catholic 66-0; Bethlehem Catholic beat Northampton 40-12; Parkland whipped Whitehall 48-8; Phillipsburg pounded Allen 37-10; and Easton easily handled Emmaus 43-9.

In the Colonial League, Mike Hammershock’s decision and Jeff Paller’s pin in the final two bouts broke Bangor’s momentum and helped Salisbury to a 30-19 victory.  Saucon Valley shut out Wilson; Nazareth defeated Palisades 44-3; and Pen Argyl clipped Catasauqua 39-12

Northwestern and Pocono Mountain had battled for the LNL South title and now faced off in a key early Centennial league match.  Dwight and Brian Billig and Chris Wentz led the Tigers to an early 15-3 lead.  Pocono Mountain won three of the next four bouts to cut the margin to 18-17.  Mark and Dan Blose and Ed Zucal won three of the final four bouts and Northwestern triumphed 30-20.  East Stroudsburg trailed Palmerton 25-0, but won all but one of the remaining seven bouts to earn a 28-28 tie.  Lehighton beat Stroudsburg 41-12, and Notre Dame defeated Pleasant Valley 54-3.

Two nights later, Liberty faced another early challenge from Phillipsburg.  The Hurricanes won four of the first five bouts to lead 13-6, but Gus Rutledge knocked off Bernie Fritz 6-5 at 132.  Following a draw, Steve Levisay decisioned Tom Jones to narrow Liberty’s lead to 15-14.  State champ Brian Statum scored a fall and Vince Polentes had a major to give the Hurricanes a close 25-20 win.  Freedom won all but three bouts as they cruised past Whitehall 33-9.

In non-league action, Easton and Nazareth wrestled a match that featured no bonus point wins and one draw.  The Rovers won the first three and never trailed as the triumphed 26-11.  Lehighton scored four falls as the topped Allen 36-21; Salisbury shut out Allentown Central Catholic; Parkland beat Southern Lehigh 48-8; and Northampton doubled up Catasauqua 36-18.

Salisbury was too much for Emmaus as they defeated the Hornets 29-22, and Bangor led 24-0 and then held on to top East Stroudsburg 30-20.

Holiday Tournaments

Local teams did well in the annual holiday tournaments.  In a pre-Christmas start, Dieruff had three champions (Dave Pizarro, Clarence Riddick and George Atiyeh) and three runner-ups in winning the Wall Invitational.  Liberty and Saucon Valley finished 1-2 in the Millionaire Top Hat Tourney.  Brian Statum and Rick Rodriguez battled in a marquee match up that helped to decide the team title with Statum edging Rodriguez 5-4 at 155.  Jerry Rodriguez won a title at 167 by defeating defending Class B champion Rick Snyder of Mountoursville 12-2 after beating the Class B runner-up in the semi-finals.  Saucon Valley’s Jim Zenz and Liberty’s Bernie Fritz also won titles.

Easton won their holiday tournament for the 4th year in a row.  Bobby Weaver defended his title and also won the Most Outstanding and Most Aggressive Wrestler awards.  Henry Callie (105), George Santos (145) and Tim Divietro (155) also won titles for the Rovers.

Bethlehem Catholic had not won the Christmas City Tourney for two years (that honor went to Nazareth).  The host Hawks trailed Parkland by two points but had 8 men advancing to the semi-finals versus the seven for the Trojans.  The Hawks came back to clip Parkland as they crowned five champions – Gene Waas (98), Mike Bold (126), Joe Brugger (138), Pat Lawler (167) and Mike Brown (185).  Parkland had four runner-ups while Freedom, Nazareth and Northampton each crowned one champion.

Jim Thorpe Wrestling
Jim Thorpe Won Their Own Holiday Tourney (Photo Courtesy of Jim Thorpe HS Yearbook)

Host Jim Thorpe won the 5th annual Christmas wrestling tournament for the first time with six champions.  In several holiday duals, Stroudsburg beat Emmaus 35-20, and in a match that went down to the final bout, Salisbury edged Pocono Mountain 29-23.


The new year began with a full slate of Centennial League matches and some non-league matches, as well.  In the Centennial League, Notre Dame continued their winning ways by pulling away from Palmerton 47-12; Lehighton crushed Pleasant Valley 58-3; Northwestern clipped East Stroudsburg 38-18 on early falls from Dwight and Brian Billig and Chris Wentz; and Pocono Mountain cruised by Slatington 35-14.

Non-league action saw Dieruff again rally from behind.  The Huskies trailed Neshaminy 17-14, but won four of the final five bouts to win 30-23.  Saucon Valley easily beat Northampton 39-9.  Jim Zenz, Rick Rodriguez, Jerry Rodriguez and Trini Solis all scored falls.

January 8th saw a limited schedule due to poor weather.  Bethlehem Catholic and Freedom were locked in an 18-18 tie and then Pat Lawler, Mike Brown and Pat Brown won the final three bouts to triumph 30-18.  In another EPL bout, Freedom easily defeated Allentown Central Catholic 48-8.  In the Colonial League, Nazareth had too much fire power for Wilson in a 44-7 rout while Lehighton stayed unbeaten in the Centennial League by topping Palmerton 45-11.

Easton Wrestlilng
Easton’s Bobby Weaver & Henry Callie Often Paced the Rovers to Early Leads (Photo Courtesy of Easton HS Yearbook)

On January 10th, Easton opened up a 21-10 lead before its home crowd in the annual showdown against Phillipsburg.  The Stateliners rallied with a close decision by Mike Kennedy, a fall by Ed Allen at 185 and a final bout win by George Philip to pull out a 22-21 win.  Parkland roared out of the gates by winning five of the first six bouts against Allen as they won 36-14.  Joe Atiyeh had a fall over Tom Hersh in a key match up at 185.

East Stroudsburg won a Centennial League bout over Slatington 29-18 as Greg Beck (132) and Randy Litts (185) posted their 7th straight wins.  Notre Dame won their 7th bout of the season by topping Palisades 37-12 in non-league action; Northwestern beat Southern Lehigh 36-20;  Pen Argyl whipped Palmerton 45-20; and Stroudsburg beat Bangor 39-17.

Nazareth led Freedom 13-12 after 138 in a non-league bout.  Mike Mugavaro put the Patriots back ahead with a decision at 145 and then Billy Williams battled back from a 5-0 deficit to beat Gary Rader 9-6.  Brian Feeley and Tom Holland also both won decisions as Freedom won 25-19.

On January 12th, Liberty whipped Whitehall in an EPL bout 51-3, and Catasauqua trailed Bangor 12-0 then won four bouts in a row and also won the final three bouts by fall (Bill Dugan, Mark Moats and Steve Nederostek) to top Bangor 32-19 in a Colonial League match.

A new league but the same fierce rivalry would see Saucon Valley and Nazareth match up in a mid-January match.  The Panthers won many of the close matches and began to pull away when John Masiado scored a fall at 126.  Rick and Jerry Rodriguez would add identical 15-0 decisions at 155 and 167 as Saucon Valley romped over their rival 32-13.  Southern Lehigh’s Randy Brown and Jim Hosteteer won the final two bouts as the Spartans topped Catasauqua 30-24.  Wilson won nine of twelve bouts as they defeated Bangor 33-13.

In the Centennial League, Northwestern dropped the first bout but won five of the next six to lead Lehighton 21-8.  Mark and Dan Blose had key wins in the upper weights as the Tigers held off Lehighton 32-23.  Pocono Mountain’s Dan Odom (138) and Bill Slutter (145) had back-to-back falls in a 28-16 win over East Stroudsburg.  Notre Dame easily beat Slatington 43-3, and Stroudsburg won the final seven bouts to beat Palmerton 39-13.

Bobby Weaver
Bobby Weaver Went Undefeated in His Junior Year (Photo Courtesy of Easton HS Yearbook)

Easton and Bethlehem Catholic battled to a 26-26 tie.  The Rovers led early as Bob Weaver and Henry Callie topped Gene Waas and Tom Bold.  Becahi would fight back with a middleweight rally winning four of five bouts from 119 to 145 but Easton still led 18-15 thanks to Bill Bryson’s fall at 132.  The Rovers would extend their lead on a fall by Tim DiVietro.  Fred Matyiku and Pat Lawler had a 2-2 draw, and then the Brown Brothers, Mike and Pat, won the final two bouts to gain the draw.

Phillipsburg and Freedom were locked in another very competitive bout.  John Hammersmith’s fall at 119 put Freedom ahead 9-6.  Phillipsburg won three of the next four bouts to lead 16-13, but Billy Williams superior decision put the Patriots back ahead 18-16.  After a draw, Tom Holland’s decision extended Freedom’s lead to 23-18, but George Phillip’s first period fall gave the Stateliners a 24-23 victory.  Liberty stayed unbeaten by easily defeating Parkland 36-10; Allen trailed early but won the final eight bouts to defeat Northampton 32-14; and Dieruff crushed Allentown Central Catholic 57-6.

Freedom won five bouts by less than two points, and Mike Mugavaro won a superior decision at 145 to pace the Patriot to a 20-13 lead over Parkland.  Joe Atiyeh’s first period fall at 185 cut the lead to 22-21.  Freedom’s Tom Holland had a draw at heavyweight to preserve a 24-23 win.  Bethlehem Catholic won the first five bouts against Dieruff, and Mike Brown interrupted the Huskies’ late rally by pinning Mark McCants as the Hawks triumphed 32-16.  Easton cruised to a 37-12 win over Whitehall; Liberty crushed Northampton 52-4; and Allen downed Allentown Central Catholic 55-6 in EPL action.

Palisades clipped Southern Lehigh 32-21 in a Colonial League match.  Northwestern nipped Hamburg 22-20, and Stroudsburg rallied by winning the final three bouts to upend Wilson 24-19.

January 19th saw another key Centennial League match.  Notre Dame’s strong middle weights helped them to improve to 9-0 and 5-0 in the league as they topped Northwestern 33-25.  The Crusaders hopes for an unbeaten season were upended by Pocono Mountain.  The Crusaders led 21-12, but Pocono Mountain won the final three bouts to pull into a tie for the league lead 25-21.  Slatington had three falls and one forfeit win as they topped Palmerton 34-19.  Stroudsburg had five falls and two forfeit wins as they pounded Pleasant Valley 54-6.

On January 21st Bethlehem Catholic’s Brown brothers both scored falls to punctuate the Hawks first win ever over Phillipsburg 32-11 in an EPL bout.  Gene Haas, Tom Bold, Tom Dieter and Mike Bold all won close bouts to open the match with a 12-0 lead for the Hawks.  Whitehall’s Tim Thibault (105) and Harold Bushspies (119) had falls as Whitehall opened an 18-0 lead over Dieruff.  Rick Phillipi’s fall at 126 helped the Huskies close to 25-13 entering the final three bouts.  That’s when the Huskies’ big men – Mike Marcks, Mark McCants and George Atiyeh – scored a major decision and two falls to give Coach Art Schaeffer an exciting 29-25 win. Parkland only lost two bouts as they beat rival Emmaus 42-14; Freedom had four falls in downing Northampton 49-3; and Liberty easily beat Allen 43-8.

The same night Stroudsburg upset Northwestern 28-26, and Pocono Mountain beat Notre Dame 25-21 in two key Centennial League matches.  The Tigers’ Brian Billig and Chris Wentz had paced Northwestern to an early 12-6 lead, but Stroudsburg won four straight bouts from 126-145 to open a 21-14 lead.  Northwestern’s Blose brothers – Mark and Dan – helped the Tigers close to 26-24, but Al Camaerei earned a draw in the final match to give Stroudsburg the big upset.  Notre Dame led Pocono Mountain 21-12 with three bouts to go.  Warren Madden defeated previously unbeaten Charlie Powell 3-2 at 167.  Kent Werkheiser won by default at 185, and Bill Grumbine clinched the match with a 9-0 victory at heavyweight.  Palmerton won its first Centennial League bout 42-27, and Lehighton won ten bouts in slamming Slatington 40-6.

The Colonial League saw favorites Nazareth and Saucon Valley winning 45-6 and 42-9 over Pen Argyl and Bangor, respectively.  Wilson’s Jeff Bartholomew had a fall at heavyweight to end Southern Lehigh’s comeback as the Warriors triumphed 32-20, and Salisbury clipped Catasauqua 42-18.

Saturday January 24th saw mostly independent action with Dieruff coming back to beat Lehighton 30-15; Pen Argyl tripped Stoudsburg 33-15; Easton defeated rival Wilson 42-14; and Notre Dame shut out Allentown Central Catholic 58-0.  In EPL action, Freedom had falls from John Hammersmith (119), Mike Mugavaro (138) and Billy Williams (155) to down Emmaus 38-15.  Phillipsburg won the battle of New Jersey powerhouses by winning six of the final seven bouts as they defeated Delaware Valley Regional 32-15.

As January wound down, Lehighton downed Pocono Mountain 36-15 on the strength of pins by Dave Semmel (105), Al Fronheiser (126), Charlie Bachert (185) and Rich Koch (Hwt).  Notre Dame clipped East Stroudsburg 30-17; Northwestern hammered Pleasant Valley 58-2; and Stroudsburg defeated Slatington 40-14.  The Centennial League was a five team battle with Notre Dame and Lehighton having one loss and Northwestern, Pocono Mountain and Stroudsburg with two losses.

Saucon Valley had all but wrapped up the Colonial League thanks to their earlier win over Nazareth and shut out Southern Lehigh 58-0; Catasauqua clipped Palisades 34-21; and Pen Argyl beat Bangor 37-11.  Wilson’s Jim Nolasco (126), John Bray (132) and Russ McIntyre (185) had falls to lead the Warriors to a 28-20 win over Salisbury.

Liberty led the way in the EPL at 8-0 after beating Emmaus 45-5 while Bethlehem Catholic was 5-0-1 after topping Whitehall 45-3 with a February 12th showdown looming.  Freedom tripped Allen 34-6; Phillipsburg dominated Allentown Central Catholic 57-6; and Easton crushed Northampton 57-2.  Parkland had early fall’s from Russ Shoemaker (105) and Greg Oswald (119) and then had Joe Atiyeh score a first period fall over Mark McCants to clinch a 30-22 win over Dieruff.

January 31st saw some very interesting non-league action.  Liberty and Nazareth faced off at Memorial Gymnasium.  The Hurricanes strung together seven straight decisions from 119 to 167 as they walked away with a 29-18 win to remain unbeaten.  Easton faced District 3 power, Lower Dauphin, and won five of the first six bouts, including a fall by Bobby Weaver, as they triumphed 27-18.  Freedom’s Bob Kern and Billy Williams scored falls as they defeated Lehighton 33-19.  Allen tripped Hill School 34-12; Saucon Valley downed Cumberland Valley 34-11; and Phillipsburg defeated Randolph 32-15.  In EPL action, Bethlehem Catholic easily beat Emmaus 39-5.  Lastly, Catasauqua came back to top Palmerton 34-30.


Liberty and Bethlehem Catholic both kept winning as the Hurricanes had falls from Tom Tarboro (98), Doug Heimbach (105) and Greg Sweigard (126) plus two default wins as they romped over Dieruff 45-12.  Bethlehem Catholic topped a tough Parkland team 31-16.  Easton jumped out to a 15-3 lead over Freedom and then saw the Patriots win five of the next six bouts to lead 21-19.  John Donnelly defeated Chip Jablonski 7-1 in the heavyweight bout to give the Rovers a 22-21 win.  Emmaus and Allen battled in a back and forth match.  Allen’s Tom Hersh had a fall at 185 to move the Canaries ahead but Bill Holvey pinned Rich Garner to give the Hornets a 24-22 victory.  Northampton easily handled Allentown Central Catholic 42-3, and Phillipsburg tripped Whitehall 43-5.

Saucon Valley whipped Salisbury 46-9; Nazareth beat Bangor 34-11; and Wilson’s Jeff Bartholomew had a fall in the final bout as the Warriors edged Palisades 31-27.

In the Centennial League, both Lehighton and Northwestern stayed in the title mix as they beat East Stroudsburg 46-8 and Palmerton 42-15, respectively.

On February 7th, Saucon Valley (9-1) visited Liberty (10-0) for the annual battle between two of the area’s most competitive teams. Saucon Valley trailed 24-8  as Liberty had won six of the first eight bouts.  Rick Rodriguez took the mat to face Brian Statum and knocked off the unbeaten Hurricane grappler 9-4.  Jerry Rodriguez followed with a fall and the Panthers were within range 24-17.  Draws in the final two bouts made the final score 28-21, and Coach Frank Gutierrez’s Hurricanes had triumphed.

Eventual State Champs Rick Rodriguez and Brian Statum Battled with Rodriguez Winning 9-4 (Photo from Bethlehem Globe Times courtesy of Cathy Leibensperger)

The same evening, the deciding match in an exciting Centennial League season was on tap as Lehighton traveled to Green Pond to challenge Notre Dame.  Lehighton led 19-6 but the Crusaders roared back with three decisions and a fall by Charlie Powell to lead 22-19.  Charles Bachert’s pin at 185 decided the match as Notre Dame forfeited the final bout.  Lehighton had won the match 29-22 and the first Centennial League title!

Easton again relied on their lightweights as they roared out to a 22-4 lead over Parkland; they held on for a 27-18 win.  Emmaus clipped Northampton 33-15, and Bethlehem Catholic crushed Allen 53-5. Phillipsburg was too much for Dieruff 30-14, and Whitehall whipped Allentown Central Catholic 52-3.

On February 9th, Phillipsburg won their sixth match in a row by topping Northampton 46-10.  Stroudsburg beat rival East Stroudsburg 29-21.  Pocono Mountain beat Pleasant Valley 66 to -1 in a Centennial League match.  Parkland led Northwestern 17-12 in  a non-league bout and then Brian Bobbin (145), Mike Polgar (167) and Joe Atiyeh (185) add falls as the Trojans triumphed 38-17.

Bethlehem Catholic Wrestling
Vince Polentes Won a Key Bout Against the Hawks (Photo Courtesy of Bethlehem Catholic HS Yearbook)

Before a crowd of 2,500 fans in Memorial Gym, Liberty defeated Bethlehem Catholic 25-16 to win the East Penn League title.  Both coaches made multiple moves in shifting wrestlers between weight classes.  It seems Coach Frank Gutierrez’s moves of bumping Bernie Fritz up to 138 to earn a draw with Joe Buggar and swapping Vince Polentes and Brian Statum at 155 and 167 were the key moves.  Polentes won a superior decision while Statum avoided a fall against Mike Brown who had dropped to 167.

Mike Brown
Mike Brown Battles with Brian Statum (Photo Courtesy of Bethlehem Catholic HS Yearbook)
Mike Brown Has Brian Statum on His Back (Photo from Bethlehem Globe Times courtesy of Cathy Leibensperger)

In other EPL action, Dieruff rallied past Emmaus 33-17; Freedom shut out Allentown Central Catholic 55-0; Easton beat Allen 41-7; and Whitehall topped Northampton 31-21.

In the Colonial League, Saucon Valley shut out Palisades 57-0; Nazareth beat Southern Lehigh 50-7; Pen Argyl clipped Palisades 35-22; and Bangor topped Jim Thorpe 39-5.

The first Centennial League tourney began on Friday February 13th.  In a very balanced tournament where the top five teams from their regular season again battled, Pocono Mountain was the surprise winner.  Pocono Mountain advanced six wrestlers to the finals with Dan Odom (132) and Andy Bloss (138) winning titles.  The Cardinals finished with 97 points and were followed closely by Lehighton (93), Stroudsburg (86), Northwestern (84) and Notre Dame (82).

In the Colonial League, Saucon Valley defeated Pen Argyl 52-6, and Wilson clipped Catasauqua 36-13.

Liberty Wrestling
Unbeaten EPL Champs – Liberty Hurricanes (Photo Courtesy of Liberty HS Yearbook)

On February 18th the EPL season wrapped up.  Unbeaten Liberty was tested mightily by cross-town rival Freedom.    In a match that featured nine bouts decided by three points or less, the Hurricanes managed to go 5-2-2 in the close matches.  Brian Statum had a key fall at 155 as Liberty won 28-16.  Allen led Dieruff 16-14 with four bouts to go but the Huskies won the final three bouts by fall to win 35-16.  Whitehall whipped Emmaus 43-13; Bethlehem Catholic shut out Allentown Central Catholic 63-0; and Parkland pounded Northampton 29-12.

Phillipsburg won their 9th and 10th matches in a row to complete their dual season by defeating Warren Hills 29-20 and Westfield 31-12.

In the final Colonial League action of the year, Nazareth defeated Catasauqua 44-12; Salisbury topped Southern Lehigh 35-19; Bangor beat Palisades 34-18; and Pen Argyl’s Jake Dietrich had a fall at 185 and Irvin Davidson defeated Jeff Bartholomew 7-1 at heavyweight as Pen Argyl nipped Wilson 29-27.  Saucon Valley won the first Colonial League championship with a 49-4 defeat of Catasauqua, and Pen Argyl won again by clipping Southern Lehigh 32-21.

Easton built a big lead against Dieruff and held on as the Husky heavyweights rallied, but John Donnelly held Mark McCants to a draw at 185, and the Rovers won 28-25.    Pocono Mountain and Stroudsburg battled to a 20-20 tie in their Centennial League finale.

As the regular season came to a close, EPL champ Liberty was the lone unbeaten in the Lehigh Valley at 13-0.  Colonial League champ Saucon Valley finished 12-2 while Centennial League champ Lehighton was 9-5.  Tri-Valley league champ, North Schuylkill was 14-0.  Other teams finishing with at least 10 wins included Bethlehem Catholic (12-1-1), Easton (11-2-1), Northwestern (10-4), Notre Dame (12-2), Parkland (10-4), Pen Argyl (12-2) and Phillipsburg (15-3).

After a very competitive season, the league standings were as follows:

Compiled Standings 1975-76PlaceW-L-D
East Penn
Bethlehem Catholic29-1-1
William Allen8T3-8
Allentown Central Catholic120-11
Saucon Valley18-0
Pen Argyl36-2
Southern Lehigh6T2-6
Notre Dame2T6-2
Pocono Mountain4T5-2-1
East Stroudsburg62-5-1
Pleasant Valley90-8

Major changes were announced to the District tournament format and seeding systems.  The seeding system would be a points-based system that would include three factors – record, caliber of competition and prestige points for prior year’s achievements.  Class AAA eliminated sectionals and chose to run with one combined bracket for the first time. The Class AA Sectionals were consolidated from 4 sectionals to 2 and realigned as follows;

BangorBishop Hafey
CatasauquaBlue Mountain
East StroudsburgJim Thorpe
Notre DameMahoney Area
Pen ArgylNorth Schuylkill
Pius XPalmerton
Pocono MountainPanther Valley
SalisburyPine Grove
SlatingtonSchuylkill Haven
Southern LehighShenandoah

District XI AAA Tournament

There were a number of undefeated wrestlers entering the 1976 District Tournament:

  • 98 – Bob Weaver, Easton (17-0)
  • 105 – Henry Callie, Easton (16-0-1) & Jim Zenz, Saucon Valley (17-0)
  • 138 – Joe Brugger, Beth. Catholic (17-0-1)
  • 167 – Jerry Rodriguez, Saucon Valley (18-0)
  • 185 – Mike Brown, Bethlehem Catholic (17-0)
  • Hwt – George Atiyeh, Dieruff (18-0)

After the first weekend, Liberty advanced eight wrestlers to the semi-finals while Bethlehem Catholic and Saucon Valley both advanced seven.  Easton and Dieruff were also in the mix.  As they had during the regular season, Liberty was at the top of the standings when the District XI AAA tourney finished on March 6th.  The Hurricanes had all but wrapped up the title before the finals started with four finalists and five 3rd place finishers.  In the finals, they went four for four to win the team title.  Carlos Rivera (112) decisioned Easton’s Jeff Kuhns 6-5, and Jose Martinez downed Parkland’s Greg Oswald 3-1.  At 132 Bernie Fritz edged Freedom’s Mike Mugavero 4-3, and defending state champ Brian Statum was dominate in beating Easton’s George Santos 9-4.

Saucon Valley had three champions but finished behind a very balanced Bethlehem Catholic team in the battle for 2nd place.  Bob Weaver, Jim Zenz, Jerry Rodriguez, Mike Brown and George Atiyeh all boasted undefeated records and won individual titles.  Brown was named Most Outstanding Wrestler.  Northampton’s Rick Billy wend overtime to nip Becahi’s Mike Bold at 126; Freedom’s Billy Williams dealt Becahi’s Joe Bruggar his first loss 7-3 at 138; and Saucon Valley’s Rick Rodriguez pinned Becahi’s Scott Schnalzer at 145.

Jim Zenz and Henry Callie Had a Tremendous Rivalry and Would Battle 3 Weeks in a Row (Photo from Bethlehem Globe Times courtesy of Cathy Leibensperger)

The final team standings were as follows:

Class AAA District Team Scores
Bethlehem Catholic110Whitehall15
Saucon Valley101Hazleton14
Freedom72.5West Hazleton8
Parkland56William Allen8

District XI AA Tournament

The AA field had a half dozen undefeated wrestlers, as follows:

  • 98 – Dennis Andrews, Notre Dame (17-0) & Eric Parrell, Bishop Hafey (16-0)
  • 105 – Chris Wentz, Northwestern (17-0)
  • 132 – Mike Cesare, Pen Argyl (13-0) & Perry Brenner, Tamaqua (16-0)
  • 145 – Chris Buschi, Notre Dame (17-0)

The East Sectional saw Notre Dame, Northwestern, Pen Argyl, Pocono Mountain and Salisbury all advancing four or more wrestlers to the quarterfinals.  The West Sectional was dominated by Lehighton and North Schuylkill who sent nine and eight wrestlers, respectively into the quarterfinals.  Panther Valley advanced six.

The quarterfinals would see Lehighton advance six wrestlers to the semi-finals and take the lead over Notre Dame (5 wrestlers in semi’s) and Northwestern, Stroudsburg and Pocono Mountain (3 each).  Lehighton, Notre Dame and Northwestern would each crown six champs in the finals.   Lehighton Coach Roland Alger was named Coach of the Year as Lehighton easily won the AA team title with two champions, two runner-ups and two 3rd place finishers.  Northwestern’s Chris Wentz (105) won his 3rd District title and was name co-Outstanding Wrestler along with North Schuylkill’s Mike Harris (155).

Lehighton’s inspirational Rick Kirkendall, whose father had passed away the week before, won a district title at 112 by a 5-2 decision over Palmerton’s top-seeded Tom Mertz.   The Indians second champ was heavyweight Rick Koch who pinned all his district opponents.  Northwestern’s second champ was Dan Blose (185) who also won by fall.  Notre Dame’s champs were Dennis Andrews (98) and Chris Buschi (145).  Other champs were Pocono Mountain’s Dan Odom (119), Stroudsburg’s Bob Hemhauser (126) who upended defending champ Jim Nolasco, Pen Argyl’s Mark Cesare (132), Tri-Valley’s Dan Scheib (138) and Southern Lehigh’s Randy Brown (167).

Final team standings were:

Class AA District Team Scores
Lehighton91.5Blue Mountain16
Notre Dame62.5Tamaqua16
North Schuylkill52.5Palmerton14
Stroudsburg46.5Jim Thorpe12
Northwestern46Pine Grove12
Pocono Mountain39.5East Stroudsburg9
Panther Valley30Slatington9
Pen Argyl30Minersville7
Southern Lehigh26Shenandoah Valley4
Bangor25Bishop Hafey3
Salisbury24Schuylkill Haven3
Catasauqua22Mahoney Area1
Wilson20Pius X1

AAA Northeast Regional Tournament

A new format for the regionals would see district #3 finishers and many district #2 finishers matched against champions from other districts and additional consolations added.  The opening night saw District XI win 25 of 36 matches.  Nine District XI wrestlers upset champions from other districts.

Seventeen District XI wrestlers won their semi-final bouts.  The consolation finals would see six District XI wrestlers win the match to advance to the state tournament including three from Bethlehem Catholic – Mike Bold, Pat Lawler and Pat Brown.

Overall, District XI dominated the action at King’s College in Wilkes-Barre as they claimed 23 of the 36 qualifying slots for the state tournament.  Liberty and Saucon Valley each had three champions – Carlos Rivera, Greg Sweigard and Brian Statum for the Hurricanes and Jim Zenz, Rick Rodriguez and Jerry Rodriguez for the Panthers.  Easton’s Bobby Weaver, Freedom’s Billy Williams and Bethlehem Catholic’s Mike Brown also won titles while Dieruff’s George Atiyeh dropped a 6-6, 2-2 referee’s decision to Bill Pfeiffer.  Weaver faced Wyoming Valley West freshman John Brennan and edged him 4-3.  Jim Zenz again matched up with Easton’s Henry Callie and nipped him 6-5 while Mike Brown pinned defending regional champ, Butch Snyder of Shikellamy.

1976 Northeast Regional Wrestling
1976 Northeast Regional Champions: Front Row – Bobby Weaver (Easton), Jim Zenz (Saucon Valley), Carlos Rivera (Liberty), Jaime Burkhardt (Bishop O’Reilly), Greg Sweigard (Liberty), Bucky McCollum(Shikellamy); Back Row – Billy Williams (Freedom), Rick Rodriguez (Saucon Valley), Brian Statum (Liberty), Jerry Rodriguez (Saucon Valley), Mike Brown (Beth Catholic), Bill Pfeiffer (WB Coughlin) Photo from PIAA State Championship Program Via Tim Kuhn

AA Southeast Regional Tournament

Chris Wentz
Chris Wentz – Northwestern Pinner Extraordinaire (Photo Courtesy of Northwestern HS Yearbook)

Chris Wentz won his 3rd Regional title and collected his 51st career pin.  Wentz led 10 District XI individual champs and 22 qualifiers for the state tournament.  Notre Dame’s Dennis Andrews and Chris Buschi, Palmerton’s Todd Mertz, Pocono Mountain’s Dan Odom, Stroudsburg’s Bob Hemhauser and Al Lewis, Pen Argyl’s Mike Cesare, Tri-Valley’s Gary Scheib and Lehighton’s Rick Koch also won regional crowns.  Lehighton led the locals by advancing three wrestlers to the state tournament.

(Photo Courtesy of Tom Elling from PIAA Program)

AAA PIAA State Tournament

George Atiyeh Won the 1st of 2 State Titles (Photo from Bethlehem Globe Times courtesy of Cathy Leibensperger)

Thirteen District XI wrestlers advanced to the semi-finals including four Liberty wrestlers and all three of Saucon Valley’s entrants.  The local wrestlers had a stellar performance in the finals by crowning seven individual champions – the most ever for the district and 2nd most ever.  Easton’s Bobby Weaver (98) and Liberty’s Brian Statum (155) each won their 2nd state championship.  Saucon Valley won the team title with three champions – Jim Zenz (105), Rick Rodriguez (145) and Jerry Rodriguez (167).  Becahi’s Mike Brown (185) finished a perfect senior year at 28-0, and Dieruff’s George Atiyeh (Hwt) avenged his only loss as they completed “The Magnificent Seven.”  Liberty’s Frank Gutierrez, who had 4 semi-finalists and finished 2nd in the team race, was named Coach of the Year.   Easton, Bethlehem Catholic and Dieruff all finished in the Top 10.

Frank Gutierrez
Frank “The Silver Fox” Gutierrez – Coach of the Year (Photo Courtesy of Liberty HS Yearbook)

In the finals, Weaver again faced WVW’s tough John Brennan, but this time he was able to get three takedowns to win 9-6.  Zenz and Easton’s Henry Callie met for the 3rd straight week with Zenz again triumphing – this time 5-2.  Saucon Valley’s Rodriguez brothers both easily won their final bouts with Rick slapping a standing cradle on his opponent for a first period fall and Jerry wining 5-3.  Statum won his 2nd title by fall, and Brown won in dominating fashion 12-2.  Atiyeh again went to overtime with mammoth Bill Pfeiffer and got the referee’s decision nod to cap what was an amazing performance by District XI wrestlers!

It Did Happen! The Rodriguez Brothers Both Won State Titles (Photo from Bethlehem Globe Times courtesy of Cathy Leibensperger)


1976 State AAA Champs (Photo from Bethlehem Globe Times courtesy of Cathy Leibensperger)

AA PIAA State Tournament

It was a tough first round for the local wrestlers as only eight of 22 were able to win their opening bouts.  Four District XI AA wrestlers were able to gain the semi-finals including both Chris Wentz and Bangor’s Jay Pensyl at 105 along with Pen Argyl’s Mike Cesare and Lehighton’s Rick Koch, but only Wentz was able to reach the finals.  Wentz was on a quest to average last year’s defeat to Northern Bedford’s Jan Clark.  Clark jumped out to a 6-0 lead.  While Wentz battled back, he dropped an 8-5 decision to finish 2nd in the state for the 2nd consecutive year.

(Photo Courtesy of Ross Nunamaker from PIAA Program)

Phillipsburg Post Season

The Stateliners won another NJ District 12 team title with 8 finalists and 3 champions.  John Margeson (105), Tim Osborn (112) and Ed Allen (185) won titles while defending champs, Jack Yost (132), Mike Kennedy (167) and three other Stateliners had to settle for 2nd place.

In the New Jersey Region 3 tourney, Jack Yost gained revenge by knocking off Warren Hills’ Bob Burd 5-0.  Joe Veres was a runner-up at 98, and John Margeson and Mike Kennedy both took 4th place.

Both Veres and Yost won their opening round matches in the pre-quarterfinals; Yost then won in overtime to reach the semi-finals and then advanced to the finals where he dropped a heartbreaking overtime decision to finish as a NJ state runner-up.