NBC10.com - Doug Shimell
On Saturday night, veteran official Dennis Buchman asked Bethlehem Mayor John Callahan to leave the District 11 Class AAA wrestling championships at Liberty High School after Callahan allegedly made loud objections to referee calls. NBC10's Doug Shimell reports details from the incident and reactions from locals.
After being thrown out of a wrestling tournament for arguing calls, a Pennsylvania mayor is doing damage control, apologizing for his actions.
"As a community leader, a passionate wrestling fan and a supportive parent of a student athlete, I should have handled this incident better."
That's how Bethlehem's mayor, John Callahan, described his actions during the District 11 Class AAA wrestling championships at Liberty High School over the weekend.
Veteran official Dennis Buchman asked Mayor Callahan to leave after Callahan criticized calls being made by mat officials. The Express-Times reports Buchman didn't even know Callahan was an elected official when he asked the mayor to leave Saturday night after loudly objecting to calls made during the 220-pound championship match.
Callahan's son John, who wrestles for Freedom High School, earlier placed fourth in the 195-pound weight class.
With Callahan seeking office as Northampton County executive it's likely he was looking to put this whole incident behind him, says NBC10's Doug Shimell who tried to talk to the mayor and the referee today but was given a joint release statement from the duo instead.
In his statement, Callahan, a Democrat in his ninth year leading Bethlehem, says he called Buchman to personally apologize for his behavior.
"As a community leader, a passionate wrestling fan and a supportive parent of a student athlete, I should have handled this incident better, no matter how I felt about the calls made during the match. I have a tremendous amount of admiration for the sport of wrestling, and I respect the referee, Dennis Buchman’s right to call the match the way he sees it. I personally reached out to Mr. Buchman today to apologize. We’ve both been involved in wrestling for decades and had a warm conversation reflecting on the great passion that we have for the sport. Certainly, when Mr. Buchman stepped onto the mat, he didn’t expect to find himself in this situation any more than I did. As someone in a line of work subject to plenty of criticism, I can certainly appreciate the difficult job that Mr. Buchman has to do. It’s That said, both Mr. Buchman and I agree that this was a minor incident that has become overblown and unfortunately took away from the great effort and dedication shown by the young men who participated in the tournament. I hope that this will no longer distract from the real issues facing Bethlehem and Northampton County."
The director of officials for District 11, Gene Waas, says Buchman handled the situation properly and that Buchman had no idea Callahan was the mayor of Bethlehem.
In his statement, Buchman says the mayor's apology meant a lot.
"I truly appreciate Mayor Callahan reaching out to me today to apologize. It meant a lot to me and I think it sets a good example for our fans and young athletes involved in sports. Unfortunately this incident has been blown out of proportion and is being made into something different than it was. Certainly John and I both want to put this behind us."
Callahan, a second-term mayor, wrote on his Twitter account: "Pretty sad when a wrestling fan can't express displeasure about a call."