“The Hawks & Tigers Are Golden”

Coaching Changes:E Bechtel to John Toggas (East Stroudsburg)
Bob Jiorle to Darwin Brodt (Palisades)
Brown to Robert Lombardo (Pius X)
Ron Sadler to Mike Free (Slatington)
Malcom Purdy to Joe Nolasco (Wilson)
Structural Changes:No major changes.
League Champions:
East PennEaston (10-1)
CentennialNotre Dame (8-0)
ColonialSaucon Valley (8-0)
Colonial League Tourney:Saucon Valley (5 Champions)
Centennial League Tourney:Notre Dame (1 Champion)
District Champion:
Class AAA:Bethlehem Catholic (2 Champions)
Class AA:Notre Dame (4 Champions)
Class AAA:District XI – 9 Total Champs – Nazareth (4 Champions)
Class AA:District XI – 9 Total Champs – Notre Dame & Northwestern (2 Champions each)
PIAA States:
Class AAA:Bethlehem Catholic 1st with two champions
Class AA:Northwestern 1st with two champions
Individual State Champions:
Class AAA:Doug Billig, 98, Parkland
Rich Santoro, 112, Bethlehem Catholic
Tom Bold, 138, Bethlehem Catholic
Class AA:Greg Stewart, 112, Northwestern
Scott Fenstermacher, 132, Northwestern

A bit of a disappointing post season had followed a very exciting dual meet season during the prior year.  The ’78-’79 season would see teams continuing to wrestle a high quantity and quality of dual meets, including ongoing expansion of the geographic footprint of competition beyond the Lehigh Valley.  In the East Penn Conference, the clear pre-season favorite was Bethlehem Catholic with nine returning starters. Easton entered the year with a 43-match unbeaten streak but due to losses to graduation and was expected to battle Phillipsburg for the #2 slot. 

The Colonial League was again expected to be a battle between Nazareth with six highly touted returning starters and Saucon Valley with no stars, but great balance.  Wilson had nine starters back and was hoping to break through.

In the Centennial League, last year’s co-champ Notre Dame was loaded with eleven regulars returning.  The other co-champ Stroudsburg returned nine starters, but the pre-season poll expected Northwestern with great lower weight talent to challenge for the title. 

The season would feature another very competitive league battles in all three local leagues with many duals decided by just a few points.  

November / December

The season opened on November 30th with favored Bethlehem Catholic falling behind Saucon Valley 9-0 after freshman Bill Hershey scored a fall and ken Stauffer won by decision.  The Hawks battled back with three straight wins including Rich Santoro’s 7-3 decision over Jay Zenz at 119.  The Panthers again pulled ahead 16-9 before the Hawks got falls from Tom Bold (145) and Ozzie Breiner (Hwt), two decisions and a draw to top the Panthers 28-18.  The same night Allen won five of the first six bouts to top Wilson 32-19 and Notre Dame downed Salisbury 34-17.

Two days later, Saucon Valley rallied past Freedom 25-21 with wins in the final three weights by Doug Laube, Jim LaPorta and Randy Israel.

On December 7th, defending EPC champ Easton opened their season against Freedom and extended their unbeaten streak to 44 matches.  The Rovers and Patriots were deadlocked at 14-14 after six bouts, but Easton won five of the final six bouts including pins from Bob Clause (145) and Dan Kasperkoski (Hwt) to triumph 34-20.  Bethlehem Catholic got falls from Tom Bold and Bernie Brown to beat a tough Parkland squad 29-19.  At 112, Tom Mascavege and Rich Shoemaker battled to a 3-3 draw. 

In the Centennial League, a loaded Notre Dame team crushed defending co-champion Stroudsburg 48-6.  The Crusaders only lost one bout! 

On December 9th, Bethlehem Catholic and Notre Dame faced off.  The Crusaders led 9-7 after Doug Collina upset state champ Rich Santoro 10-7.  After four straight draws, Notre Dame led 15-13, but the Hawks upperweights again rallied winning all but one bout including falls by Tom Bold and Bernie Brown to win 33-17.  Saucon Valley trailed Allen 16-14 with only three bouts to go, but again rallied with wins in the final three bouts for a 27-16 victory.  Parkland defeated Northwestern 34-15 with Rich Shoemaker defeating state runner-up Vince Stravino 8-4 at 112.

On December 14th, in the Centennial League, Northwestern got falls from Vince Stravino (112), Greg Stewart (119), Scott Fenstermacher (132) and Jeff Stewart (145) to defeat Pocono Mountain 34-21.  Saucon Valley and Wilson battled back and forth in a key Colonial League bout in a match that was tied four times at 6-6, 9-9, 18-18 and the final score of 24-24 to end in a tie. 

Doug Collina
Doug Collina Defeated Rich Santoro in an Early Season Bout (Photo Courtesy of Notre Dame HS Yearbook)

In the EPC, Easton beat Parkland 32-11 and Bethlehem Catholic downed Freedom 29-14 in a match that saw 4 draws and three one-point decisions.  Stroudsburg got a fall from John Vito in the final bout to nip Lehighton 28-27 in the Centennial League. 

On December 16th, Easton and Nazareth locked up in their annual match, and the Rovers only dropped only two bouts as they romped 40-12.  In other non-league action, Whitehall defeated Wilson 30-26 and Pen Argyl defeated Stroudsburg 32-18.

Four days later, Bethlehem Catholic fell behind Liberty 13-9 after Lou Capuano nipped Tony Wittic 5-4 at 132.  Dave Fradeneck and Tom Bold (145) both scored falls and Drew Karabin won by decision to open up a 24-13 lead for the Hawks.  In a marquee bout, Matt Reiss defeated Bernie Brown 6-3 at 167.  The Hawks won the final two bouts and won 33-16.

On December 21st, there was plenty of league action.  In the EPC, Phillipsburg flexed their muscles by downing Parkland 27-17 and Dieruff trailed Emmaus 31-6, but rallied for a 31-31 tie.  Pocono Mountain, Notre Dame, Lehighton and Northwestern all won in the Centennial League.  Wilson nipped Pen Argyl 27-25 in the Colonial League.

Holiday Tournaments

Easton dominated its only holiday tournament with four champions – (John Cuvo, Jeff Lang, Chuck Liederman and Dan Kasperkoski) to easily outdistance Wilkes-Barre Meyers.  Other local champs included Scott Fernstermacher (132) and Abe Atiyeh (185).  Phillipsburg won their tourney with six champions (Rob Rutt, Jim Smith, Frank Stillo, Pat Cummings, Dan Brousseau and Gene Oberly).  East Stroudsburg dominated the Wallenpaupack Tournament with four champions (Dan Stoudt, Rich Jacobs, John Fetherman and Lindsay Koberlein). 

Easton Wrestling
Easton Ran Away with Their Own Holiday Tourney (Photo Courtesy of Easton HS Yearbook)

Rich Santoro won the Christmas’ City tournament’s toughest weight class by avenging his dual loss to Notre Dame’s Doug Collina in the semi’s and then beating Freedom’s Rick Negrete 3-2 in the finals.  Tom Bold and Bernie Brown also won titles as the Hawks outpaced Port Jervis to win the team title.  Parkland had three champs – Doug Billig, Rich Shoemaker and Russ Hall – but could only manage 5th in the team race.

Liberty won the Top Hat Tourney as Rich Cabrera, Lou Capuano and Matt Reiss were champions.  Jim Thatcher won for Saucon Valley at 138.

Lou Capuano
Lou Capuano Was 1 of 3 Liberty Champs as the Hurricanes Won the Top Hat Tourney (Photo Courtesy of Liberty HS Yearbok)


Right after the holidays, Notre Dame and Northwestern faced off in a dual that would decide the Centennial League title.  The Hawks got falls from Kurt Wentz (98), Vince Stravino (112) and Scott Fenstermacher (132) and led the Crusaders 23-12.  Notre Dame roared back to sweep the final five bouts including falls by Bill Siebold (145), John Williams (185) and Karl Warfel (Hwt) to triumph 36-23.  At 119, Doug Collina and Greg Stewart battled to a 4-4 draw.

In the EPC, Phillipsburg had Becahi on the ropes as they led 24-11 with only three bouts to go.  Bernie Brown (167) and Ozzie Breiner (Hwt) scored falls and Tom Slowey won by decision at 185 as the Hawks passed a key test and won 26-24.  Easton downed Liberty 26-18.  Matt Reiss moved up to heavyweight, gave away 85 pounds, but tied Dan Kasperkoski 6-6 in a match between District champions. 

Saucon Valley Wrestling
Saucon Valley Defeated Rival Nazareth to Claim the Colonial League Title (Photo Courtesy of Saucon Valley HS Yearbook)

Nazareth had three tough duals right after the holidays.  First, the Blue Eagles scored four falls to defeat Wilson 36-19 in a league match, and then got a fall from Steve Getz in the final bout to top Freedom 25-18.  Then on January 11th, they hosted Saucon Valley and were looking to claim their 3rd Colonial League title in a row.  The Panthers got early falls from Bill Hershey (98) and Jay Zenz (119) but led by only 22-19 with three bouts to go.  Larry Mostek (by fall), Jim LaPorta and Randy Israel won the final three bouts, and the Panthers pulled off the upset 34-19 putting them a big step closer to the Colonial League title.

On January 13th, Pocono Mountain scored a fall and two decisions in the final three bouts to upend Wilson 24-23.

Dave Crowell
Easton’s Coach Dave Crowell’s Rovers Were Riding a 50-Bout Unbeaten EPC Streak Before Losing to Bethlehem Catholic (Photo Courtesy of Easton HS Yearbook)

Easton had a 30 meet overall win streak and 50 bout unbeaten streak in the EPC when they visited Bethlehem Catholic on January 18th.  The match was tied 11-11 at the halfway point, but as they had many times before the Hawks’ upperweights rallied.  Becahi won the next five bouts including two falls – Tom Bold and Bernie Brown – and two one point wins to wrap up the match.  Dan Kasperkoski nipped Ozzie Breiner 2-0, but the final score was 32-14 in Becahi’s favor.  Phillipsburg topped Freedom by a healthy 35-13 score while Northampton tripped up Allen 27-22 and Liberty edged Parkland 24-21 in other EPC bouts.

Notre Dame easily defeated Pocono Mountain 32-8 to pretty much wrap up the Centennial League crown.

On January 25th, Southern Lehigh was the surprise undefeated leader in the Colonial League as they hosted Saucon Valley.  Coach Charlie Bartolet’s squad dominated the previously unbeaten Spartans 32-10 to all but clinch the league title.  In EPC action, Parkland trailed Freedom 21-17, but won the final two bouts to collect a 26-21 victory.

Southern Lehigh Was Undefeated Until Meeting the Panthers (Photo Courtesy of Southern Lehigh HS Yearbook)

Liberty topped Nazareth 34-14 in a non-league match on January 27th.  Notre Dame, who dominated the Centennial League action, lost 28-16 to Council Rock in a non-league match. 


In the unpredictable and competitive EPC, upstart Northampton jumped out to a 12-0 lead then trailed 21-15, but won three of the final four bouts to upend Freedom 25-24.  The same evening, Pocono Mountain clipped Stroudsburg 24-22 in the Centennial League.

On February 2rd, the Hurricanes had another tough non-league match-up.  Matt Reiss bumped up to 185 and defeated Jim LaPorta 19-8 as the Liberty triumphed 22-20 over Saucon Valley.  Parkland won the first four bouts and eight of twelve in total as they downed Nazareth 33-15.

On February 8th, Nazareth downed Southern Lehigh 32-19 to clinch 2nd place, and Saucon Valley hammered Palisades 46-6 to win the Colonial League crown. 

Two days later, Phillipsburg raced out to a huge lead and defeated Liberty 32-18.  Nazareth defeated Northampton 28-23. 

Phillipsburg Wrestling
Phillipsburg Had a Very Competitive Squad (Photo Courtesy of Phillipsburg HS Yearbook)

On Valentine’s Day, 2,000 fans packed “The Pit” for the annual Phillipsburg-Easton showdown, which also served as a likely battle for 2nd place in the EPC.  The Rovers, on the strength of falls by Randy Ascani (112), Brian Liska (126) and Dan Kasperkoski (Hwt) triumphed 31-22.  In intercity rivalry action, Allen beat Dieruff 43-15 and Liberty topped Freedom 25-15.

Battle Between John Barna and John Cuvo (Photo from Allentown Morning Call)

The regular season wrapped up, and the following league champions were crowned:

  • East Penn League Champs – Bethlehem Catholic 11-0 (18-0 Overall)
  • Colonial League Champs – Saucon Valley 7-0-1 (15-2-1 Overall)
  • Centennial League Champs – Notre Dame 8-0 (14-2 Overall)

Final league standings were as follows:

Compiled Standings 1978-79PlaceW-L-D
East Penn
Bethlehem Catholic111-0
William Allen8T3-7-1
Central Catholic102-9
Saucon Valley17-0-1
Southern Lehigh36-2
Pen Argyl53-5
Notre Dame18-0
Pocono Mountain2T6-2
East Stroudsburg5T4-4
Pleasant Valley81-7

The following teams finished with very strong records:  Easton 16-1, Phillipsburg 14-2, Liberty 14-3, Northwestern 12-3, Nazareth 12-5 and Parkland 11-5.

Saucon Valley had five champions (Bill Hershey, Ken Stauffer, Jay Zenz, Jim Thatcher & Brian Israel) as they topped Nazareth in the Colonial League Tournament.  Notre Dame matched its Centennial League title with a league tourney title as well as they placed 10 wrestlers while Northwestern had three champions and finished 2nd.

Saucon Valley Won the Regular & Tourney Titles in the Colonial League (Photo Courtesy of Saucon Valley HS Yearbook)
Notre Dame Matched the Panthers in Winning their Regular and Tourney League Titles in the Centennial League (Photo Courtesy of Notre Dame HS Yearbook)

District Championships

The District XI AAA championships featured EIGHT returning champions.  Becahi led after the first weekend but Easton had the most semi-finalists with eight to the Hawks’ six.  The quarterfinals generated plenty of upsets as five #2 seeds, three #3 seeds and four #4 seeds were upset.  Northampton sophomore Matt Billy upset #2 seed John Cuvo from Easton 3-1 in the quarters and then downed Becahi’s Tom Vresics 8-0 in the semi’s.  In the finals, Parkland’s Doug Billig defeated him 6-2 for the 98 pound title. 

Rich Shoemaker
Parkland’s Rich Shoemaker Won His 2nd District Title (Photo Courtesy of Parkland HS Yearbook)

Bethlehem Catholic outpaced Easton to win the team title on the strength of Rich Santoro’s and Tom Bold’s wins at 112 and 138, respectively and Bernie Brown’s runner-up finish at 167.  Bold was also won the OW and Pinner awards while Tony Iasiello was Coach of the Year.  In addition to the two Hawks, Parkland’s Rich Shoemaker (105), Liberty’s Lou Capuano (138) & Matt Reiss (167), Freedom’s Rick Negrete (119)and Easton’s Dan Kasperkoski (Hwt) repeated as champions.  However, the eighth returning champ, Abe Atiyeh, was pinned by Nazareth’s Al Haberle in the semi-finals and then DQ’d in the wrestlebacks at 185.  Parkland’s Russ Hall downed Haberle 6-4 to win the Trojans’ 3rd title.  Nazareth’s Jody Werner (132) & Rob Albert (155) and Stroudsburg’s John Tomanio (145) were other first time winners.

Rick Negrete
Rick Negrete Went into OT to Defeat Northampton’s Dave Kistler (Photo Courtesy of Freedom HS Yearbook)
John Tomanio
Stroudsburg’s District Champ, John Tomanio w/ Coach Ron Spinner (Photo Courtesy of Stroudsburg HS Yearbook)
Matt Reiss
Matt Reiss Was a Clutch Performer for the Hurricanes all Year (Photo Courtesy of Liberty HS Yearbook)
District AAA Champs – Front Row (L-R) – Doug Billig (Parkland), Rich Shoemaker (Parkland), Rich Santoro (BC), Rick Negrete (Freedom), Lou Capuano (Liberty) & Jody Werner (Nazareth); Back Row (L-R) – Tom Bold (BC), John Tomanio (Stroudsburg), Robbie Albert (Nazareth), Matt Reiss (Liberty), Russ Hall (Parkland) & Dan Kasperkoski (Easton) (Photo Courtesy of Cathy Leibensperger)
Back of 1979 District Championship Photo (Photo Courtesy of Cathy Leibensperger)
District 11 112 Pound Podium – 1st – Rich Santoro & Coach Tony Iasiello; 2nd – Mark Billy & Coach Gordon Bartholemew; 3rd – Randy Ascani & Coach Dave Crowell (Photo Courtesy of Tony Iasiello Jr)
District 11 138 Pound Podium – 1st – Tom Bold & Coach Tony Iasiello; 2nd – Ed Smith & Coach Dave Crowell; 3rd – Dave Beamer & Coach Charlie Bartolet Jr. (Photo Courtesy of Tony Iasiello Jr)

The AA Championships were broken down into an East and West Sectional.  Led by Steve Brownmiller, who knocked off the top seed after entering Districts with a 6-6-2 record, Lehighton advanced five wrestlers to the quarterfinals.  With eight winners, Blue Mountain had the most wrestlers to advance in the West while Notre Dame advanced nine in the East.  The Crusaders then went eight for nine in the quarterfinal round. 

Coach Dennis Fenton’s squad ran away with the team title and crowned four champions – Dennis Andrews (112), Doug Collina (119), Bill Seibold (145) and Mark Correll (155).  Northwestern finished 2nd with three champs – Kurt Wentz (98), Vince Stravino (105) and Scott Fenstermacher who decisioned Lehighton’s Steve Brownmiller at 138. Brownmiller, the #8 seed, had defeated Piux X #1 seeded in the quarterfinals. Pius X’s Alan Reto (126), Catasauqua’s Dave Shivone (138), Tri-Valley’s Rick Maurer, Panther Valley’s Duane Slonaker and Minersville’s Tom Balcavage (Hwt) rounded out the champions.

Regional Tournaments

Nazareth Wrestling
Keith Fairman & Robbie Albert Led a Tremendous Effort by the Blue Eagles in the NE Regionals (Photo Courtesy of Nazareth HS Yearbook)

In the AAA Northeast Regionals, Nazareth had four champions – Keith Fairman (126), Jody Werner (132), Robbie Albert (155) and Al Haberle (185) – to lead District XI to a total of nine titlists and 21 state qualifiers.  Parkland’s Doug Billig, Becahi’s Rich Santoro & Tom Bold, Liberty’s Matt Reiss and Easton’s Dan Kasperkoski were also winners from District XI.

Dan Kasperkoski
Dan Kasperkoski Won the Heavyweight Title (Photo Courtesy of Easton HS Yearbook)
1979 AAA Northeast Regional Champions
1979 AAA Northeast Regional Champions (Photo Courtesy of Tim Kuhn)
Dennis Andrews
Dennis Andrews was 1 of 2 Crusaders to Win Southeast Regional Title (Photo Courtesy of Notre Dame HS Yearbook)

District XI advanced 23 wrestlers in the AA Southeast Regional tourney and claimed nine titles.  Notre Dame and Northwestern each had two champions in Dennis Andrews & Doug Collina and Kurt Wentz & Vince Stravino, respectively while Pius X’s Alan Reto defeated defending state runner-up, Mark Kunkle, of Lehighton for the 2nd straight week.  Catasauqua’s Dave Shivone and Panther Valley’s Duane Slonaker were able to win titles for the 2nd week in a row while Panther Valley’s Tony Tessitore (145) and East Stroudsburg’s Neil Anderson (167) were able to make the top of the podium after finishing 2nd in Districts the week before.

1979 AA Southeast Regional Champs (Photo Courtesy of Tom Elling from PIAA Program)

PIAA State Tournaments

Tom Bold
Tom Bold Goes for the Fall (Photo from Allentown Morning Call)

In the States, six District XI wrestlers advanced to the semi-finals with Bethlehem Catholic and Parkland each claiming two.  Three of the six semi-finalists won their bouts to advance to the finals where all three were crowned state champions.   Doug Billig claiming Parkland’s first state championship ever at 98 with a 5-2 victory.  Bethlehem Catholic won the team title as Rich Santoro (112) repeated as state champ and Tom Bold (138) scored a fall to win the state title and OW award.  Santoro, who won his first title at 98 pounds, defeated defending 105-pound champion, Kraig Nellis of Shaler 10-6.  Bold trailed Upper Merion’s Tony Dilfer 6-3 but then set the “mouse trap” to deck Dilfer in the 3rd period to win the title.  Coach Tony Iasiello was named Coach of the Year.  All three District XI wrestlers who lost in the semi-finals were about to rebound to take 3rd place – Parkland’s Rich Shoemaker (105), Freedom’s Rick Negrete (119) and Liberty’s Matt Reiss (167). 

Doug Billig
Parkland’s 1st State Champ, Doug Billig (Photo Courtesy of Parkland HS Yearbook)
Tom Bold
Shortly after Bethlehem Catholic’s Tom Bold stunned the crowd and pinned Tony Differ of Upper Merion (in the photo to the left in the State Finals). Bold’s pin won him the state title and OW and clinched the state team title for the Golden Hawks (Photo Courtesy of Vince Stravino).
Bethlehem Catholic 1979 AAA Team Champions (Photo Courtesy of Tony Iasiello Jr)

1979 – AAA  Champs.
First  row,  left  to  right:  Doug  Billig  (98)  Parkland  (11);   Kevin  Darkus  (105)  Erie  Prep  (10);  Rich  Santoro  (112)  Bethlehem Catholic  (11);   Jay  Patterson  (119)  Wilkes-Barre  Meyers  (2);   Jon  Moser  (126)  Methacton  (1)  and  Bob  Siar  (132) Shaler  (7).; Standing,  left  to  right:  Tom  Bold  (138)  Bethlehem  Catholic  (11);   Nate  Carr  (145)  Erie  Tech  (10);   Bob  Harr  (155)  Central Dauphin  (3);   John  Reich  (167)  Neshaminy  (Maple  Point)  (1);   Steve  Sefter  (185)  Cedar  Cliff  (3)  and  Jack  Parry  (Unl) Mechanicsburg  (3).

Notre Dame had been one step ahead of Northwestern all year, but the Tigers were on top the final weekend of the wrestling season in the AA State Tourney.  Greg Stewart (112) and Scott Fenstermacher (132) won titles while Vince Stravino (105) finished as runner-up for the 2nd straight year to Chief Logan’s Joe Heller.  The Tigers easily won the team title Notre Dame had to settle for one placewinner in Mark Correll’s 3rd place at 155 after an otherwise outstanding season.  Pius X’s Alan Reto (126) also took 3rd while Panther Valley’s Duane Slonaker was 4th.

Northwestern Wrestling
State Champ Northwestern Tigers (Photo Courtesy of Northwestern HS Yearbook)
Northwestern Wrestling

The Victory Celebration for the Northwestern Tigers Who Won the State AA Team Title; Coached by Dave Hawk, Kent Donaldson and Coach Hough (Photo Courtesy of Vince Stravino).

1979 – AA  Champs.
First  row,  left  to  right:  Dave  Irwin  (98)  Curwensville  (9);   Joe  Heller  (105)  Chief  Logan  (6);   Greg  Stewart  (112)  Northwestern (Lehigh)  (11);   Scott  Lynch  (119)  Mifflinburg  (4);   John  Manotti  (126)  Mifflinburg  (4)  and  Scott  Fenstermacher  (132) Northwestern  (Lehigh)  (11).; Standing,  left  to  right:  Eric  Childs  (138)  Sayre  (4);   Brett  Snyder  (145)  Montoursville  (4);   Randy  McKinney  (155)  Fairview  (10);
              Dwayne  Brewer  (167)  Susquehanna  Twp.  (3);   Kevin  Klasic  (185)  Reynolds  (10)  and  Tony  Elhajj  (Unl)  Steelton-Highspire  (3).

Both Rich Santoro and Tom Bold were named to the PA team for the Pittsburgh Press Classic dual against the US Team.  While Santoro had to scratch, Bold scored a fall to help lead the PA team to a 30-18 victory.

Phillipsburg Post-Season

John Margeson
John Margeson Had a Great Year for the ‘Liners (Photo Courtesy of Phillipsburg HS Yearbook)

Led by John Margeson, who won his 4th District title, Phillipsburg won the District 16 team title.  Other winners for Coach Jan Dutt were Kevin Happel (105), John Rutledge (119), Kelly Happel (126), Jim Clauss (138) and Dave Chandler (Hwt).

John Rutledge and John Margeson went on to win Regional titles and at states took 4th and 3rd place, respectively.