Holiday Classic: more meaning
Something happened on the way to Liberty's wrestling tournament at Penn Manor two weeks ago that prompted a slight change to this weekend's Bethlehem Holiday Wrestling Classic plans. Following the tragic events that transpired at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn. on December 14, Liberty's wrestling team had other things on their mind as they geared up for a wrestling tournament.
"Driving to the tournament that Saturday, it really bothered all of us," said head coach Jody Karam about the 26 people killed, including 20 children, by a lone gunman in the small Connecticut town. "We brought all the guys together and decided that we wanted to do something to help the families and victims."
So, as this year's holiday classic enters its 19th season, a fundraiser will take place during the tournament to help the victims of the tragedy. Charity work is something that Karam believes in and hopes his wrestlers and everyone that attends the two-day wrestling event can fully support.
"I think it's important that our guys have an understanding for charity work," Karam said. "We did a 5K run in November for breast cancer with about 20 of our guys. It really helps put things in perspective, especially for kids who need to understand there's more to life than just sports."
This year's holiday tournament will feature a major addition as well, as Central Dauphin enters the 29-team competition.
The Rams have won the District 3 title five years in a row, went 25-1 last season en route to taking third place in the PIAA 3A team championships. They also finished in second place at the PIAA 3A individual state tournament.
With Blair Academy not competing in the tournament since 2009, Karam was happy to land one of Pennsylvania's top programs to supplant Blair's place for big name teams.
"It was important to get a team like Central Dauphin to come," Karam said. "This tournament is ranked ninth in the country and a team like Central Dauphin only adds to the quality of competition."
Wyoming Seminary took home the team crown last season with 250.5 points to distance themselves from second place Nazareth (138). Camden Catholic came in third with 132 points. Pen Argyl brought home the most gold medals from local participants, as Mike Racciato (145) and Dylan Evans (182) won titles. Stroudsburg's Guesseppe Rea also won the 113-pound championship to round out local championship ties.
This year's slate of teams includes: Big Spring; Boyertown; Camden Catholic (NJ); Central Dauphin; Council Rock South; Delaware Valley; Freedom; Hazleton; Honesdale; Lehighton; Liberty; Milton; Nazareth; North Penn; Northampton; Northern Lehigh; Northern; Northwestern Lehigh; Pen Argyl; Pennridge; Phillipsburg (NJ); Quakertown; St. Mark's (NJ); Saucon Valley; Stroudsburg; Tri Valley; Warwick; Wyoming Seminary and Wyoming Valley West.
Friday's wrestling slate starts at 9 a.m. with the second session officially set for 6 p.m. Saturday's semifinals kickoff at 10:30 a.m. with consolation finals at 5 p.m. Championship finals start approximately at 7 p.m.