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Issue Home December 31, 2002 Site Home

Local Sports Scene

Local Sports Scene
By Tom J. Robinson

Wrestlers Dealing With Many Changes

Pennsylvania high school wrestling teams are adjusting to a series of changes this season, but one thing has not changed – the Mountain View Eagles are off to a strong start.

Mountain View defeated Elk Lake in the only Lackawanna League wrestling match conducted before Christmas.

Last season, the Eagles shared the lead in Division 2 of the Lackawanna League until the final day of the regular season and had the best finish by a county school in the District 2 Class AA tournament. Susquehanna had the only other winning league record among county schools, while Blue Ridge was the second-best county school in districts after competing in Division I all season.

Stricter weight controls, an additional weight class and a new dual-meet format are all in place in wrestling this season.

For the first time, wrestlers must weigh-in at a weight class at least half of the time during the season in order to be eligible for that weight class in the post-season. The move wisely curtails drastic fluctuations in weight by some high school wrestlers, but will also restrict lineup juggling and therefore may at times keep some quality wrestlers out of the lineup.

A new weight class has been added at 215 pounds. While the weight class gives an additional class for bigger athletes between the existing 189 and 275 pounds, it increases the number of classes to 14 at a time when many state schools are already struggling to fill their lineup.

The other move involves a random draw that determines which weight class will be the first to be wrestled. Bouts are wrestled from that class up through 275 pounds, then from 103 to the remainder of the bouts.

In the past, all bouts went in order from 103 through 275 pounds. That meant heavyweights often wrestled after the team victory had been decided but were always the ones on the spot when a match went to the final bout.

Mountain View is led by the return of Josh Panasevich, the Outstanding Wrestler in the District 2 Class AA tournament. The Eagles add Matt Panasevich, who won national junior titles during the summer. They are the sons of coach Mike Panasevich.

Because of its past success, Blue Ridge remains as the only county school in Division 1 where it competes against Abington Heights, Honesdale, Lackawanna Trail, Scranton, Valley View, West Scranton and Western Wayne.

The Raiders return state qualifier Chris Lewis as well as Justin Herbert and Nick Pease, who joined Lewis in reaching the district finals last season.

Susquehanna and Montrose return their top individuals from last season’s district tournament. The Sabers bring back Nathan Huyck while the Meteors return Jeff Snyder.

Mountain View, Susquehanna, Montrose and Elk Lake all compete in Division 2 with Bishop O’Hara, Delaware Valley, Scranton Prep and Wallenpaupack.

Based on early season tournament results, Delaware Valley appears to be the division favorite.


Mountain View freshman Matt Panasevich was the top county finisher in the 25th annual Tunkhannock Kiwanis Wrestling Tournament.

Panasevich finished third at 160 pounds as the Eagles placed 15th in the strong 20-team event with 50 points. Montrose was 19th with 18 points and Elk Lake was last with four points.

Wyalusing won its eighth straight team title. The Rams, who had 194.5 points, were followed by: Lake-Lehman, 176; Towanda, 174; Delaware Valley, 133.5; and Honesdale, 131.5.

Panasevich and Montrose 112-pounder Jeff Snyder were the only county wrestlers to win two matches Friday and reach Saturday morning’s semifinals.

Panasevich beat Honesdale’s Jason Barnes, 10-3, in the consolation final.

Snyder lost, 6-2, to Lake-Lehman’s Kelby Morgan in the semifinals and eventually finished fourth.

Jake Panasevich was sixth at 171, Dan Schoonover was seventh at heavyweight and Ken Decker was eighth at 189 for Mountain View.

Montrose’s Dennis Moore took fifth at 152.

Blue Ridge and Montrose used exciting finishes Friday night to reach boys’ basketball tournament finals.

Keith Geisenhof hit two late free throws to clinch a 64-62 Blue Ridge victory over Candor, NY in the Newfield (NY) Tournament.

Wes Parks led the Raiders with 18 points while Geisenhof added 14.

Kyle Lattner scored 13 of his 15 points, including the game-winning, 3-pointer to beat the buzzer and lift Montrose to a 57-54 victory over Honesdale in the Honesdale Jaycees Tournament.

Maxey led Montrose with 21 points.

Montrose then lost to Wallenpaupack, 61-39, in the final despite 19 points by Matt Hornak.

Elk Lake was unable to make it an all-Susquehanna County final at Honesdale when the Lackawanna League Division 2 North-leading Warriors fell to Wallenpaupack, 53-47.

The Warriors (5-4) finished the week on a three-game losing streak after also falling to Honesdale in the consolation game.

Forest City beat Mountain View in the first round but lost to Western Wayne in the championship game to take second in its own Rotary Tournament. Mountain View finished fourth.

Susquehanna finished last in the three-team Tubby Crane Tournament in New York State.

In the only division game of the week, Montrose lost a Lackawanna Division 2 North game to Delaware Valley, 76-53, Dec. 23. Dylan Maxey scored 14 points and Matt Hornak added 11 in the loss.

County boys’ teams went 0-6 on the day, with the other five losing to Lackawanna Division 2 South opponents in crossover play.

In those crossover games: Old Forge stopped Susquehanna, 52-35; Bishop O’Hara defeated Forest City, 73-47; Riverside ripped Blue Ridge, 51-29; Dunmore dumped Elk Lake, 62-54, and Lakeland edged Mountain View, 56-54.

Kevin Lee started a strong week by scoring more than half of Susquehanna’s points in the loss, hitting three 3-pointers while scoring 18.

In girls’ basketball, Mountain View took sole possession of the Lackawanna Division II North lead by winning a makeup game over Blue Ridge, 62-36.

Montrose advanced to the Jan. 17 title game of the 16th annual Taylor Lions Tournament by defeating Scranton, 48-38, Saturday.

The tournament schedule has been altered because of weather.

Erika Brown scored 11 of her 12 points in the first half as the Lady Meteors jumped out to a 32-17 lead. Coleen Walsh finished with 13 points and 13 rebounds while Chelsey Parvin added 10 points and 10 rebounds.

Elk Lake finished last in the Marywood University Tournament when it fell to Wilkes-Barre Meyers, 61-36. Heather Shadduck scored 17 points in the loss.

Friday was a tough night on county teams.

Forest City suffered its first loss, 47-44, in the Honesdale Jaycees Tournament. West Scranton beat Elk Lake, 43-30, in the Marywood University Tournament. Scranton Prep edged Mountain View, 48-45, and Susquehanna Valley, NY nipped Blue Ridge, 38-37, in non-league games.


The top four teams in Lackawanna League Division 2 North girls’ basketball get together when league play resumes Thursday.

Mountain View (4-0) is at Forest City (3-0) in a match-up of two of the three teams with unbeaten records in the division.

Montrose (2-1) can get right back into the middle of the race with a home game Thursday against Carbondale (3-0) followed by a game at Mountain View Saturday.

The Zurn-Bush Wrestling Tournament at Elk Lake is scheduled for Saturday.

Elk Lake will put its unbeaten division record in boys’ basketball on the line at Forest City Friday.


Blue Ridge graduate Jim Lewis is seeing part-time duty in the lineup for King’s College, one of the nation’s top National Collegiate Athletic Association Division III wrestling teams.

Lewis, a sophomore 141-pounder, is 2-1 this season after going 8-9 as a freshman.

King’s went 24-2 last season and opened this season ranked 10th in the country. The Monarchs have won all three tournaments they entered, the eight-team Messiah Tournament and 12-team Monarch Invitational in November and the 10-team Scranton Invitational in December.

The Monarchs return to action Saturday when they host the Pennsylvania/New York Duals.

TOM ROBINSON writes a weekly local sports column for the Susquehanna County Transcript. He can be reached on-line at

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NEVER BE UGLY TO A CHILD – Hero was a word I heard often growing up. Even as a young child I knew what it meant. My early heroes were Gene Autry, Hopalong Cassidy, and Tom Mix. I believe the first time I heard it used was in reference to an Irvington, Alabama man that was killed while fighting in the Pacific Campaign during World War II.

On Christmas morning, I received a call from a living hero, Gene Tapia.

"Hello, sir," said Tapia. "I just wanted to tell you that your present was the first one I opened, and I certainly do love it."

Gene Tapia

The gift he was referring to was a Sam Colt presentation knife in a nice box. It was one of those real fancy knives that are to be looked at, and not used. But in spite of the beauty of it, I know my friend, Gene Tapia is not going to leave it on the shelf when he goes deer hunting.

I will always remember that knife.

I had purchased it at a shopping mall late one evening, two weeks before Christmas. After returning home from shopping, I hit the play button on the answering machine.

"Gerald, come quick, Gene has fallen and hurt himself real bad," exclaimed the voice on the other end of the line.

The caller was Francine Tapia, Gene's wife of 61-years.

The call was over an hour old, and for a brief moment, it made me sad that I was out shopping and not available to respond. There was no answer at their home, so I began calling all area hospitals. Finally, I located the one that he was enroute to by ambulance.

Arriving at the hospital I was greeted by his daughter, Shaaron and friend, Doug Parker. Francine was in the Emergency Room with Gene and the doctors.

They said he had fallen in the living room while bringing in some firewood.

After World War II Gene had to have an artificial knee and hip replacement. The mechanical joints didn't work as well as the ones he was born with, but they never stopped him from doing all the things he was supposed to do, including driving a race car.

After two hours of waiting, the doctors said there were no broken bones, but his head was all skinned up and there was a little paralysis on his left side.

I had first met Gene Tapia in 1968. Even then he was a legendary supermodified race car driver. That year, he won the World 300, the world's richest and most prestigious race by a whopping nine laps.

Before being known as "King of The Supermodifieds" in the southeast, he had raced with Lee Petty, the Flock boys, Gober Sosebee, Buck Baker, and all the other early NASCAR drivers.

He left NASCAR because he had a desire to race more than once a week.

It wasn't until 1998, after his election to the Motorsports Hall of Fame in Talladega, Alabama that I became aware of his wartime record.

Before joining the Marines, he had been wounded while working as a civilian during the Japanese attack on Dutch Harbor, Alaska, June, 1942.

As a Marine Raider, he fought on Guadalcanal, was in the first day invasion of Guam, and spent 36 days of hell on Iwo Jima. After the war he was a basket case. With a messed up mind and feet and legs, it took him two years to get straightened out.

Like myself, even his closest friends didn't have an inkling of all he had been through.

Before every stock car race, when they played the National Anthem, he would stand and salute. Once a pit member, said, "It embarrasses me when you get out of your car and the rest of the drivers don't."

"Son," replied Gene, "It embarrasses me that they just sit there."

I remember the movie True Grit, in which John Wayne played Rooster Cogburn. Cogburn advised the varmint Lucky Ned Pepper that he was coming after him. Rooster put the horse's reins between his teeth, cocked his rifle with one hand, and drew his pistol with the other, and charged straight ahead.

That's true grit. John Wayne had it, and so do a lot of other unrecognized people. Tapia like Wayne and many other folks have overcome overwhelming odds. They have fought and won and fought and lost, but each time, they have soared, even though turkeys might surround them.

Perhaps the biggest fight of Tapia's life was his family's 47-year search for a baby boy that was stolen one hour after his birth from St. Joseph's hospital in Memphis, Tennessee. He spent several small fortunes trying to locate him.

I am a fortunate person, because not only have I been associated with a real life hero, I have been privileged to write a book about his experiences. It is entitled, The Gene Tapia Story.

Standing in that hospital emergency room two weeks before Christmas I suddenly realized Gene and I had an appointment to do a local radio talk show in just two nights.

"What are we going to do," I asked Francine? "He's not going to be able to go."

"Why, you'll just have to cancel it," she said.

The next morning at 7:30 a.m., which was Tuesday, my office telephone was ringing.

"Sir, I just want to tell you not to cancel our radio program, I'll be there," said the caller.

It was Gene Tapia.

Tapia and one other marine had wiped out cave after cave of Japanese soldiers on Guadalcanal, Guam, and Iwo Jima. He swam many round trip miles in the Pacific Ocean from submarines to scout enemy positions on the beaches. Once he was lost in the ocean, miles from the closest island.

This very same man, who had survived nightly Japanese banzai charges and hand-to-hand combat wasn't about to disappoint his racing fans and friends.

Gene looked terrible when he arrived at the radio station. Francine had applied makeup to the cuts and wounds on his head. He had to walk slowly, less the mechanical joints give way again, but he made it to the microphone.

Before the program hit the airwaves, the switchboard was lit up. The station operator was unable to handle all the callers. On the air, Gene answered every question and reminisced with each person.

When the one-hour show was over, the station had registered a record-setting number of telephone calls.

"I had to come," Gene told me after the show ended. "Those people are the reason. I didn't come to talk with those who bask in the sunlight, but those youngsters, old people, and fans. They are the ones that concern me. Never be ugly to a child, he won't ever forget it."

Atlanta newspaper columnist, Lewis Grizzard, once wrote, "True grit comes in many shapes and sizes, and it often turns up where you least expect it."

Gene Tapia has almost recuperated from his fall. At age 77, he has even been able to go deer hunting and recently bagged a nine-point buck with one shot after three other hunters had shot and missed him.

If you would like an autographed copy of the 304-page Gene Tapia Story, send $22.50 in check or money order to: Hodges News Services, 913 Lakeside Dr., Mobile, AL 36693.

Racing Trivia Question: At which track did Japanese driver Hideo Fukuyama make his racing debut last season?

Answer To Last Week's Question: Winston Cup driver Rusty Wallace finished seventh in the final points standings.

Gerald Hodges/the Racing Reporter is a syndicated NASCAR columnist. If you have a racing question that you would like answered send it to The Racing Reporter, P.O. Box 160711, Mobile, AL, 36616, or e-mail it to:

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