Brandywine's storied wrestling history started in 1960, through the efforts of Mr. and Mrs. Earl
Gerlach. The Gerlachs were supporters of Lehigh University's wrestling program, and after Mr. Gerlach's
passing a few years ago, his wife, Betty, continued the tradition and, as of 2008, attended her 59th
consecutive Eastern Intercollegiate Wrestling Championships! She continues to attend most of Brandywine's
matches as well. Mr. Gerlach was a Lehigh University graduate and, together with Mrs. Gerlach, thought
that the addition of wrestling as a Varsity sport would be a good activity to offer Brandywine's students.
During an Open House at Brandywine, the Gerlachs discovered that the newly hired English teacher
had wrestled at Bloomsburg State College. That teacher's name was Carmine Pennella, and when asked by the
Gerlachs if he would be interested in starting a wrestling program at Brandywine, he eagerly agreed.
Through the efforts of the Gerlachs an assembly was arranged to demonstrate the sport. Legendary
Lehigh coach, Gerry Leeman, brought a few Lehigh wrestlers to the assembly including NCAA champion Ed Hamar.
One assembly was all it took and a number of boys signed up to participate. Mr. Alfred Ayres, the high
school principal, gave the program his blessing especially since startup costs were nonexistent.
Tumbling mats were already in use in physical education classes and no uniforms were needed.
The first year was spent practicing and drilling. There were only four other schools in the county with
wrestling programs and there were no dual meets scheduled. The following year, 1961, exhibition matches
were arranged and although not sanctioned by the PIAA, Brandywine posted a record of 2-4.
1962 saw another year of exhibition bouts but Brandywine's record fell to 0-5-1. The 1962-1963
season was sanctioned by the PIAA and wrestling was now a full varsity sport. Although there was no league
established, Brandywine posted an 8-2 record. The first sectional wrestling tournament was held. Reading
High won the team title and Brandywine with no champions but five runners-up, finished second.
1963-1964 saw the formation of the Berks County Wrestling League. There were now ten teams
participating with each school wrestling nine league meets. Reading High wrestled an independent schedule
and was not in the league. Brandywine finished second behind Gov. Mifflin with a record of 8-1. AT
sectionals we crowned our first champion, Mike Stauffer, and finished tied for third place with Kutztown.
The 1964-1965 season saw Brandywine's dual season record slip to 4-6 but the Bullets again took
second place at sectionals behind Reading.
The program went through ups and downs until the arrival of Head Coach Sam Lovello in 1975. He
asked Robert Van Syckle, who had started an elementary and junior high developmental program a few years
prior to Lovello's arrival, to serve as the assistant coach. In 1982, the elementary program known as the Bullet Mat Club was established through the efforts of Bob Adam and Dave Halulko. Both served as coaches. In 1987, Bob Adam established a Junior High wrestling program. Soon the feeder program started providing top quality athletes and Brandywine's rise to the top of Berks County Wrestling began.
Bullet Mat Club