Carson: the 80s top wrestlers
Last week, I wrote about the best wrestlers I’ve seen since I became a sportswriter almost 30 years ago. This week, we look at my top five wrestlers of the eighties.
1. Jack Cuvo, Easton
Cuvo was a takedown machine. He still holds the national high school record for most takedowns in a career with 848.
He won three PIAA titles, going 140-2 for the Red Rovers. Cuvo was a big reason the technical fall came to be. He once beat a guy 43-1 and no one wants to get embarrassed like that. He won two NCAA championships at East Stroudsburg, finishing his collegiate career with a 164-7 record.
2. Jim Martin, Danville
Smooth, calm and slick. Plenty of adjectives describe ‘Doc’ Martin but the most accurate one is a winner. And win he did, to the tune of a 158-2 career mark with three state titles for the Ironmen.
The baby-face wrestler with the killer mentality, Martin made Danville history before moving on to college where he won an NCAA title for Penn State in 1988. He finished his Nittany Lion career with a record of 155-9-4 and a four-time All-American.
The 155-wins are the most in Penn State history.
3. Joey Wildasin, So. Western
The ‘Wildabeast’ earned his nickname wrestling as if his hair was on fire with non-stop aggression and forward motion. Like Conan the Barbarian, Wildasin left a trail of carnage on the mat.
Wildasin finished his Mustang career with a 132-1 mark. His only loss coming to Dan Finacchio (North Penn) in the PIAA finals his freshman season in 1987.
He had all the tools. Wildasin was slick on his feet and when he got you on the mat, lookout. He was one of the best from the top this state has ever seen.
Injuries cut his collegiate career short at Oklahoma State, but he remains one of the all-time greats in Pennsylvania wrestling history.
4. Carlton Haselrig, Johnstown
One of the greatest athletes period, no matter what the sport.
Despite having only 10 career matches in high school. Haselrig makes the list. His performance in the 1984 postseason is one for the history books.
The Trojans had no team, so Haselrig didn’t wrestle a single dual or tournament during the ’84 season. He entered the postseason as a one-man gang for Johnstown and went 10-0 with six falls, winning the PIAA Class 3A heavyweight championship.
Haselrig went to Pitt-Johnstown and became the first and only wrestler to win six NCAA championships. The NCAA allowed Division II finalists to compete in the Division I tournament at the time.
At UPJ, Haselrig finished his career with a record of 143-2-1, including a then record 122-consecutive match winning streak.
He was the 1985 Junior Greco-Roman World Champion and the 1986 Junior Freestyle World Champion competing for the United States in the heavyweight division.
His athleticism was unparalleled. Despite never playing organized football. Haselrig tried out for the Steelers, made the team, became a starter at offensive guard, and reached the Pro Bowl in 1992.
5. Ty Moore, North Allegheny and Chris Kwortnik, North Penn
A tie here at number five between the late Moore and Kwortnik.
Moore was a four-time state champ with a 146-1 career mark. His only loss coming to Jeff Stepanic of Connellsville his junior season. He was the first wrestler in PIAA history to win his first 100 matches and set a state record for career pins with 113.
His senior year, Moore was a member of Gus D’Augustino’s 1990 state championship squad, the best team I have ever seen. North Allegheny had four state champions and three state placers and won the Class 3A team title by a whopping 68.5 points!
Tragically, Moore passed away in 2014 at the age of 43.
Kwortnik won three state titles for the Knights and finished his career with a 141-1 record. His only loss coming at the hands of Scott Henry (Manheim Central), 7-4, in the first round of the 1986 PIAA tournament. (There were no complete wrestle-backs in those days. If you lost in the first round, you were done).
He would win 109-consecutive matches after the loss and leave a lasting mark in PA wrestling.
Kwortnik was a three-time all-American at North Carolina State.
Mifflin County Wrestling Notes
The Huskies celebrated Senior Night against Cumberland Valley honoring Derek Burk, Ethan Kauffman, Jacob Krepps, Haydn Crum, and Blaine Davis, along with managers Sophie Underhill and Lizzie Stewart.
Mifflin County will have a whiteout on Wednesday, January 22, against Central Dauphin in a match that should decide the Mid-Penn Commonwealth title.
On Wednesday, January 29, the Huskies wrestle Altoona and want everyone to wear gold to support the Four Diamonds Fund for MC’s Mini-Thon.
Penn State and the Transfer Portal
Adam Busiello and Greg Kerkvliet officially joined the Penn State team this week after going through the transfer portal.
Busiello can wrestle immediately, but Nittany Lion coach Cael Sanderson said he weighs around 157 and wants him down to 149, a more natural weight for the five-time New York state champion.
Kerkvliet transferred from another Big Ten school (Ohio State) and has to sit out until January 2021 according to league rules. Sanderson said they are petitioning the Big Ten to allow Kerkvliet to be eligible to start the season in November of this year.
No great surprise but Brody Teske left PSU and joined the Northern Iowa squad. Teske went 5-2 in his short career, making him the third 125-pounder to leave Penn State, joining Nick Suriano and Gavin Teasdale, since 2016.
How good is Pennsylvania wrestling? Look no further than Brandon Meredith. The Nittany Lion sophomore finished no higher than fourth in the state at Spring-Ford, yet Teske, a four-time Iowa high school champion with one career loss, couldn’t beat him.