Voorhees High School Wrestling

On a cold December evening in 1975, a despondent Voorhees Wresting Team was on its way back from a brutal beating at the hands of Delaware Valley.  The bus was silent, for it was the first wrestling match in Voorhees history and nobody was pleased with the outcome.   Immediately after parking the bus at Voorhees, the driver and soon-to-be devoted supporter of the program, Al Dittmann, stood before the team and said, “I see a bright future for this program; keep your heads up and keep working hard…good things will follow.”  And right he was.

While struggling with some of the more established programs in the area, the newly established Voorhees Wrestling Program was able to battle through the early years with a record that never fell below .500.  The program managed to tread water with primarily underclassman in the lineup the first two years with back-to-back 9-9 records, and by the time the late-70’s rolled around, Voorhees Wrestling was producing winning seasons, district champions, and even a couple state qualifiers.  The program was poised to make a statement.  The 1977-78 team was the first to make its mark.  The team became known for its “Murderers Row” lineup.  The first six or seven weight classes consisting of legendary Voorhees Wrestlers Mark Zehnbauer, Kevin Adesso, Eric Lobell, Fred Peoni, Greg Lobell, and  Jim Holthaus were virtually unbeatable.

The decade of the 80’s was the most dominate era of Voorhees Wrestling, and it started with the 1979-80 squad.  The team finished a perfect 20-0 beating state powerhouses such as Hunterdon Central, North Hunterdon, Ridge, and Delaware Valley on their way to winning the conference title, the District 17 championship, and the Central Jersey Group II Sectional Title.  They finished the season ranked second in the state of New Jersey.    Many devoted followers of the program argue that this team was the best Voorhees has ever produced.

The 1979-80 team was the beginning of an extraordinary run of success.  In March of 1981, junior Glen Hall became the program’s first state champion when he defeated Doug Taylor of Millville in the 101-lb final.  The following year featured two Voorhees wrestlers in the state finals at Princeton’s Jadwin Gym; while Glenn Hall was unable to repeat as champion, heavyweight Lee Getz capped off his perfect season with a state title.  1983 featured yet another state champion for Voorhees with Dan Moody striking gold at the 122-lb weight class.  In all, Voorhees had forty-five district champions, nineteen region champions, and placed over twenty wrestlers in the top eight in the state tournament in the decade of the 80’s.

Voorhees won Sectional Championships in every year of the 1980’s with the exception of 1983, the first year Voorhees went up from a Group II to a Group III school.  The Group Championship was introduced in 1982, and Voorhees was right there to win its first Group II Championship.  Voorhees won its second Group title in the 1984-85 season; this time in Group III.  The following three years Voorhees found itself in the Group III Championship Finals, winning again in 1987.  The 1986-87 team went undefeated and was ranked second in the state and sixth in the nation!  A total of six wrestlers on that team (Greg Evans, Roger Juntilla, Chris Wolkwitz, Steve Rich, Dave Bowbliss, and Eric Zobian) finished top-eight in the state at some point in their careers.  Voorhees was ranked in the top-twenty every year of the ‘80’s and, more often than not, they found themselves in the top-ten.

The 1990’s was not as successful as the ‘80’s, but the Viking Wrestlers continued to display dominance.  The program continued its run of being ranked in the top-twenty all the way through the 1996 season.  Voorhees won a Group III Sectional Championship in 1991 and three more in Group II in ’95,’96, and ’98.  The program thrived again in the mid-90’s.  From the 1993-94 season through the 1995-96 campaign, Voorhees lost only six matches and was ranked in the top-ten each of the three years.  Voorhees also picked up the 300th win in program history, thus solidifying a mark of success.  The 1995 team brought home won the Group II State Championship, thereby giving the program its fourth Group Title.  Two wrestlers from that team continued to promote the wrestling program with their individual accomplishments.

Eric Hall set the school record for wins with 126.  He also became the programs first four-time district and region champion while managing to place eighth, fourth, and second in the state tournament.  He would soon go on to earn All-American honors, placing 3rd at the NHSCA HS National Tournament.  John Brienza also came up big for the program in that time period.  John finished his career with 112 wins (second all-time) and an all-important 130-lb State Championship with an electrifying pin in the first period over Dave Santamaria of Christian Brothers Academy.  It was the Voorhees’s fourth state champion.

At the conclusion of the 1997-98 season, renowned former Phillipsburg coach Rick Thompson took the reigns of the program for a three-year stint.  The whole-sale coaching changes took their toll on the program in terms of participation.  However, despite having few bodies to work with, Coach Thompson and his staff were able to keep the program competitive.  In all three of Coach Thompson’s years at the helm, the Vikings qualified for the Sectionals, advancing all the way to the finals in 2001.  In the 2000 season Voorhees had two region champions, one of which, Matt Brienza, battled through the wrestle backs of the state tournament winning five straight matches in route to a third place finish 145 pounds.

After Coach Thompson left the program at the conclusion of the 2001 season, former assistant coach Bob Angstadt took the helm.  The Vikings steadily improved in Coach Angstadt’s first two seasons and came into the 2003-04 season with a group of experienced wrestlers ready to make another long-awaited run at a team title.  After a fine regular season two convincing wins in the Sectional Tournament, Voorhees ended a six-year title drought with a North Jersey Section II Group II Sectional Championship.  Voorhees also qualified two wrestlers for the individual state championship tournament and has had a least one wrestler qualify every year since.

  While Al Dittmann is no longer around to drive the bus and address the team, his famous words wisdom now, more than ever, apply to Voorhees Wrestling: “Keep your heads up and keep working hard…good things will follow.”