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The Rivalry

Nazareth vs. Northampton

In 1982 Don Rohn was hired as the head coach of Northampton. In 1997 Ray Nunamaker retired as Nazareth's head coach. During those 15 seasons of wrestling the Nazareth vs. Northampton rivalry of the cement towns became one of the great rivalries in all of sport and catapulted the programs onto the national scene, while raising the heights of high school wrestling in the Lehigh Valley to unprecedented levels.

(Don Rohn, left and Ray Nunamaker, right)

The Morning Call's Ted Meixell wrote about the start of the rivalry in this article about Coach Nunamaker on March 1, 1993.

But, while the Eagles began beating its league rivals like a drum in 1980-81, they were still having their troubles in matches with other area powerhouses like Easton and Liberty. That, Nunamaker recalled, began turning around about three years later.

It was about the time Rohn, whom Nunamaker describes as "a great rival and a very good friend," arrived in Northampton. Nazareth's true era of dominance may have been born at a little incident neither Rohn nor Nunamaker has ever forgotten.

"Ray brought his team over here," Rohn remembers, "and we had a little weightlifting competition together. Ray and I got together and we sort of made a pact. We said, `Let's try to make the two cement towns the two wrestling powers around here.'"

History says that's a fait accompli. Said Nunamaker, "Yes, I remember that day vividly. Rocky Chunko was my assistant then. Don had a weight program going after school, and we took our kids over to compete with them. Don said, `Let's take it away from Easton and P'burg.'

(l. to r. Rich Israel, Brent Mertz, Ray Nunamaker, and Rocky Chunko)

And so it happened.

An Overview of the Rivalry

Ray and Don both grew up in steel towns/cities and coached in cement towns.

Ray had been coaching for close to a decade in Nazareth when Don won his first two state titles for Hellertown in 1970 and 1971.

Hellertown was a dominant force in District XI in the 1970s.

According to Scott Barr's Wrestling Country, which unfortunately ends in the 1994-95 season this is how the landscape shifted:

In the 1960s, Hellertown had 5 District champions, Nazareth had 9 and Northampton 11.

In the 1970s, Hellertown had 23, second only to Easton and ahead of 7 other teams before Nazareth's 7 and 9 other teams before Northampton's 2.

In the 1980s, Saucon Valley (the former Hellertown) had 8, Northampton 14, and Nazareth 9.

From 1990 to 1995 Northampton had 19, Nazareth 19 and the next closest AAA school was Easton with 8, followed by Parkland with 6.

The Morning Call's Ted Meixell from the March 1, 1993 article:

"I definitely consider Donny a friend," Nunamaker said. "We get along really well. I'm older than him, but I believe if we'd grown up together we'd have been very close friends. I think we have the same mentality. I think he's a gentleman; I've never heard him whine.

"He's an outstanding coach, and he's very humble. I've never seen him gloat in victory. Our rivalry has become very intense, but I believe it's been good for both of us. Neither of us wants the other to get the upper hand."

In extended discussions with the two coaches, it was amazing to discover how similar they are.

Their philosophies are strikingly similar. So are the factors they consider of paramount importance in building a powerful program. So, too, is their unflagging confidence that, if they were so inclined (which neither is) to leave their present positions, they could move to another school with a struggling wrestling program and turn it into a power within a few years

Coach Nunamaker attracted many former Nazareth wrestlers to his program. Joe Drust started the youth wrestling program and Lon Werner from his first team long ran the program. Lynn Morris, Rob Albert, Rusty Amato, Adam Columbo and many others became assistant coaches from Nazareth at Nazareth through all levels of the program.

In the 1980s, though, several former Hellertown wrestlers joined Coach Nunamaker's staff: Rich Israel, Rocky Chunko, and John Rodriguez. Rocky and Don Rohn were teammates and as noted above, likely was the impetus for this rivalry starting in the first place.

Accomplishments

District XI AAA Coach of the Year (1983 - 1997)

  • Nazareth, Ray Nunamaker > 1987, 1989, 1990, 1992, 1995, 1997 
  • Northampton, Don Rohn > 1988, 1993, 1994

District XI AAA Champions (1983 - 1997)

  • 1983 - 1989 > Nazareth 8, Northampton 12
  • 1990 - 1997 > Nazareth 27, Northampton 24 (over these 8 seasons 49% of all District AAA champions were from either Nazareth or Northampton)

Northeast Regional AAA Champions (1983 - 1997)

  • 1983 - 1989 > Nazareth 9, Northampton 7
  • 1990 - 1997 > Nazareth 21, Northampton 19 (over these 8 seasons 39% of all Regional AAA champions were from either Nazareth or Northampton)

PIAA AAA State Placewinners (non-finalists - 1983 - 1997)

  • 1983 - 1989 > Nazareth 4, Northampton 11
  • 1990 - 1997 > Nazareth 13, Northampton 19 

PIAA AAA State Runners-Up (1983 - 1997)

  • 1983 - 1989 > Nazareth 4, Northampton 1
  • 1990 - 1997 > Nazareth 9, Northampton 5

PIAA AAA State Champions (1983 - 1997)

  • 1983 - 1989 > Nazareth 2, Northampton 1
  • 1990 - 1997 > Nazareth 8, Northampton 4

District XI Individual Tournament Team (1983 - 1997)

Nazareth

  • 1st: 1987, 1989, 1990, 1991, 1992, 1995, 1997 (post period: 2006, 2007, 2014)
  • 2nd: 1984, 1985, 1988, 1993, 1994, 1996 (post period: 2010, 2011, 2016, 2017)

Northampton

  • 1st 1988, 1993, 1994 (post period: 1998, 1999, 2000, 2004, 2008, 2009)
  • 2nd 1987, 1989, 1990, 1991, 1992, 1995 (post period: 2001, 2002, 2003, 2005)

Northeast Regionals Individual Tournament (1983 - 1997)

Nazareth

  • 1st: 1988, 2006, 2007
  • 2nd: 1987, 1990, 1991, 1992, 1993, 1996, 1997

Northampton

  • 1st 1993, 1994
  • 2nd 1989

PIAA AAA State Individual Tournament (1983 - 1997)

Nazareth

  • 2nd: 1989, 1990, 1991, 1992, 1995, 1996, 1997

Northampton 

  • 1st 1993, 1994, 1995, (1998, 2000, 2003, 2004)


Team Dual Honors

State Duals

Nazareth

  • By Vote: 1990, 1996, 1997

Northampton

  • By Vote: 1993, 1994

Districts Duals (begun 1989-90 season)

  • 1st Place: 1990, 1991, 1996, 1997, (2006, 2014)
  • 2nd Place: 1992, 1993, 1995, (2005, 2007, 2008)

Misc.

Nazareth

  • PA Wrestling News: best fan support 1997
  • 1992-1997 nationally ranked
  • League champions from 1981-1996 (Colonial & MVC)

The Rivalry Dual Meets

1982-83 Season: Nazareth 39 - Northampton 16 (1-0 rivalry period; 19-20 all time)

1983-84 Season: Nazareth 27 - Northampton 24 (2-0 rivalry period; 20-20 all time)

1984-85 Season: Nazareth 24 - Northampton 36 (2-1 rivalry period; 20-21 all time)

1985-86 Season: Nazareth 25 - Northampton 34 (2-2 rivalry period; 20-22 all time)

1986-87 Season: Nazareth 15 - Northampton 32 (2-3 rivalry period; 20-23 all time)

1987-88 Season: Nazareth 32 - Northampton 20 (3-3 rivarly period; 21-23 all time)

1988-89 Season: Nazareth 28 - Northampton 22 (4-3 rivalry period; 22-23 all time)

1989-90 Season: Nazareth 32 - Northampton 16 (5-3 rivalry period; 23-23 all time) 

1989-90 Inaugural District Duals finals: Nazareth 31: Northampton 19 (6-3 rivalry period; 24-23 all time)

1990-91 Season: Nazareth 26 - Northampton 30 (6-4 rivalry period 24-24; all time)

1990-91 Duals finals: Nazareth 31 - Northampton 26 (7-4 rivalry period; 25-24 all time)

1991-92 Season: Nazareth 25 - Northampton 33 (7-5 rivalry period; 25-25 all time)

1991-92 Duals semi-finals: Nazareth 34 - Northampton 20 (8-5 rivalry period; 26-25 all time)

1992-93 Season: Nazareth 23 - Northampton 26 (8-6 rivalry period; 26-26 all time)

1992-93 Duals finals: Nazareth 19 - Northampton 32 (8-7 rivalry period; 26-27 all time)

1993-94 Season: Nazareth 18 - Northampton 22 (8-8 rivalry period; 26-28 all time)

1994-95 Season: Nazareth 28 - Northampton 23 (9-8 rivalry period; 27-28 all time)

1995-96 Season: Nazareth 34 - Northampton 15 (10-8 rivalry period; 28-28 all time)

1995-96 Duals semi-finals: Nazareth 36 - Northampton 6 (11-8 rivalry period; 29-28 all time)

1996-97 Season: Nazareth 22 - Northampton 23 (11-9 rivalry period; 29-29 all time)

1996-97 Duals semi-finals: Nazareth 50 - Northampton 13 (12-9 rivalry period; 30-29 all time)

The 1996-97 season Nazareth's upset loss to Northampton resulted in Nazareth not winning a league championships for the first time since the 1979-80 season.

Cross Over

Nazareth's captain in Coach Nunamaker's 2nd season, Tom Konya, took over Northampton's Moore Township youth wrestling program in its 3rd year. His son Jarrid wrestled for Northampton, but served as an assistant at Nazareth after Nunamaker's retirement. Read an article about Tom Konya here.

Northampton assistant coach John Davis wrestled, played football and track at Nazareth.