It Takes a Community
By Bob Koehn
A Profile of Easton, PA Wrestling
The Lehigh Valley, located in eastern Pennsylvania along the New Jersey border, is generally regarded as the nation’s hotbed of amateur wrestling. Northampton, Easton, Parkland, Nazareth, Bethlehem Liberty, & Phillipsburg, NJ are perennial national
On January 8th-9th, Lafayette College in Easton, PA. was the site for the 5th annual Easton-Phillipsburg Wrestling Duals. This event is equivalent to most state tournaments in attendance and in the intensity of the crowd. Always looking for new ways to
experience wrestling, this served as the perfect opportunity to make my first trip to Easton. Additionally, I was eager to learn more about Easton Wrestling and the reasons for their incredible success during the past 50 years.
Easton is a model program. In addition to winning many state and national team championships, 1984 Olympic Gold Medalist Bobby Weaver and 2 x NCAA Champion Jack Cuvo are Easton Alunmi. Easton always fills their gym for home meets, their
booster club and the local media provide outstanding coverage.
In order to fully understand the success of the Easton Wrestling Program you have to understand the community of Easton. Easton is an extremely close knit Italian community with a population of approximately 30,000 people. Most people would be
classified as blue collar workers. The people of Easton have a passion for life that separates them from most other cities. Family is of utmost importance and the entire community is the family that makes this city function in a highly effective manner.
I have visited many wrestling communities across this nation and the people are usually polite. However, the people in Easton go way beyond polite. Being naturally shy and reserved, it usually takes a while for me to relax and feel comfortable when meeting new people. However, when I was in Easton it was a matter of minutes before I was laughing and warmly embracing the people in my presence.
In the Easton subculture, people seem to care more about the welfare of their fellow man than they do about their own well being. Titles mean nothing and money is merely a way to pay your debts. What is important to these people are the simple things in life like the unplanned meetings at Morici’s Pizza Restaurant to sample Ed Ferraro‘s homemade wine and the cheese that Sam Crivellaro produced on his dairy farm. Being good Italians they love the wine and cheese, but even more importantly they cherish the love and joy that their good friends put in to making these products. This is typical of the happiness to be found in this community and there is not a day that passes that life is not celebrated in some joyous and time honored manner.
The Easton-Phillipsburg Duals featured some truly incredible wrestling, Easton, fielding a lineup of mostly freshmen and sophomores, is in a rebuilding year. The year’s squad is also void of any superstars and will probably not have a single wrestler to place in the top 4 at the Pennsylvania State Tournament. Wrestling Blair Academy (ranked 7 in nation) and Bald Eagle Area (ranked 3rd in the nation), were to be stiff challenges for the young Easton team. Facing Blair in their first dual, Easton scored 9 points in the final two matches to record a 31-23 team victory.
Assistant Coach Ed Ferraro made the following assessment, “Wrestling Blair is pure drudgery. because we never seem to beat them. The key match today was Mark Koch at 130 lb. He normally wrestles on the JV and was called upon to wrestle varsity and scored a surprising 8-2 victory. Our wrestlers are always in great shape and today it definitely paid off.”
Later on in the afternoon, Blair beat Bald Eagle Area in an exciting match 31-25, Easton had little trouble with Pleasant Valley, PA scoring a 47-10 victory. In the final match of the evening, Easton wrestled Bald Eagle Area. The Bald Eagle squad is very solid with a lot of experience. They are deserving of their #3 ranking and should be competing with Northampton for the Pennsylvania State Championship. Easton put up a hard fight but in the end Bald Eagle Area prevailed 27-25.
Easton Head Coach Steve Powell was very pleased with the outcome of the event. “We have proved that wrestling can attract 4,000- 5,000 fans for a weekend and have a great time. The support we get from our local media is outstanding and it helps make this a great event”
For all practical purposes, Easton should not have beaten Blair and their match with Bald Eagle Area was much closer than it should have been. After considerable reflection, it became clear as to why the Easton kids wrestled way above their heads. It has to do with community. When you wrestle Easton you have to do more than whip their kids. You have to beat their grandfathers, their fathers, their cousins, their grocers, their media, and the entire community. There is nothing more motivating than a close personal relationship and that is what this community has with its wrestling program.
The lesson for all coaches is that more time and effort needs to be put in to building the community within their programs. It all starts with an attitude of taxing and love. When someone in the Easton program has a problem, everyone connected shares their pain and tries to help out. If a wrestler on the team is dejected after a loss, someone in the community is quick to console and support him. At all Easton Wrestling social functions everyone is equal. There is nothing to separate the coaching staff from the boosters. They simply work together for the good of the program in an environment based upon mutual
This sense of community is desperately needed within the sport of wrestling and in society as a whole. The people of Easton are excellent role models as to how we should live our lives and how we should support our great sport. I strongly encourage all wrestling fans to visit Easton and take in a wrestling match. And while you are there be sure to stop by Morici’s and sample Ed’s homemade wine and Sam’s home grown cheese.