There was much talk recently about holding sporting events without spectators. Such an event would not be a first for Washington County. In today’s “When Sports Were Played” we go back to Dec. 17. 1980, when the WPIAL ordered a local wrestling match be held without fans in the gymnasium.
HOUSTON – Even in the early days – when Roc O’Connell sent his Canonsburg High School teams against college freshmen just for the competition and Doc Harris taught the sport in Washington out of an open book – there were always people in the stands.
Plenty of people.
They packed the old College Gym at Canonsburg to the rafters; filled the Wash High gym to beyond capacity; made it necessary for Trinity to raze its band box and build a 2,200-seat facility.
That’s what made yesterday afternoon’s wrestling match here between Trinity High School and Chartiers-Houston, a lopsided 40-5 victory by the Bucs, so unique.
There was nobody there.
The WPIAL Board of Control, responding to an unfortunate incident involving a handful of overzealous fans at last year’s match between these two schools, had decreed the rematch would be played out behind closed doors. Only the wrestling teams, two officials from each school, a sportswriter and a photographer and a radio broadcast team – plus four Chartiers Township policemen – were permitted inside the gym.
The silence was deafening.
But the noise level was entirely in keeping with the match which was, at best, unexciting as neither team seemed at its best for the match, that when held in view of a full house and full-voiced crowd, is annually among the 10 best sports events in the county.
“We didn’t look sharp this afternoon,” said first-year coach Tim Mousetis, whose team presented him with his fifth straight victory. “It was probably because there were no people here. … it might have had some effect on them.
“Usually, we’re more aggressive.”
Trinity coach John Abajace resigned himself to what undoubtedly will be a long season, though his mostly underclass team did well in spite of the scrimmage-like atmosphere.
“At least we held it under 50 points,” Abajace said. “I don’t want to take anything away from them, they (the Bucs) are a nice wrestling team. But we’re so young and inexperienced and we came here without five of our regulars.
“We have a tournament this weekend (at North Allegheny) and next week we wrestle Seneca valley, and then we have a break until January 7.”
The Bucs, who defeated Trinity by a 30-19 score in the match that triggered some weeks of controversy and caused this year’s match to go underground, won 10 bouts and tied an 11th. There was only one fall, Brian Bell’s 3:01 win at 155 over Scott Staso; two major decisions, an 18-7 win by Phillip Mary over Kevin Ferrari at 105 and Phil Renko’s 13-3 win over Randy VanKirk at 126; and a forfeit win at 185 by Frank Vulcano.
The other bouts were fairly even and competitive, if a little dull as Don Clendaniel (98) beat Stan Shook 8-3; Bob Ammon (119) edged Sam Romano 1-0; Mark Provenzano (132) got past Rick Lobozzo 7-4; Kurt Kesneck (145) blanked Jeff Lucatorto 5-0; Bob Castelli (167) outpointed Don Brookman 8-4, and heavyweight Bill Woods survived a comeback by Kevin Holley to win 11-6.
Tim Gump, a sophomore who moved up from 98 for this match, battled Trinity’s Mike Namie to a 3-3 draw at 112.
Trinity scored on Bob VanKirk’s 7-6 win over Randy Lesso at 138 when Mousetis told Lesso to give up an escape in the third with a minute remaining in the match in order to go for a takedown to win.
“That was my fault,” said Mousetis, “but Randy is good on his feet and he had a minute to go. I thought he had it won with back points earlier that he didn’t get credit for.”
The Hiller lineup included six sophomores, four juniors and one senior; the Bucs started four sophomores, six juniors and two seniors.
“That doesn’t make any difference,” Mousetis said. “When the boys go out there on the mat, they don’t ask each other what grade they are in before they start to wrestle.
“I think we can win our section (Section 6-AAA) in spite of it (their youth). All of our guys are wrestlers.”
The WPIAL will no doubt get a good report about the conduct of both teams and no sanctions should be placed on next year’s match.
According to Chartiers-Houston athletic director George White, the loss of revenue Wednesday is in the neighborhood of $1,500.
“That’s a high price to pay,” said White.