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Bethlehem Mayor John Callahan ejected from wrestling meet

By Will Lewis, Reporter, WLewis@wfmz.com
Published On: Feb 25 2013 12:11:23 PM CST
Updated On: Feb 26 2013 11:20:59 AM CST

Mayor Callahan apologizes

BETHLEHEM, Pa. -

If he was on the mat he could have been called for an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty. However Bethlehem Mayor John Callahan was in the stands.

Yelling at the referee got the mayor tossed from the Liberty high school gym Saturday night. Now he's apologizing to the ref and for his conduct.

Both men say this incident has been blown out of proportion, but people we spoke with in Bethlehem tell us the mayor should have used more restraint.

Callahan went to watch his son wrestle in the District 11 Class AAA championships at Liberty High School on Saturday.

But during the championship match of a different weight class, the Express Times reported the mayor started yelling about bad calls to referee Dennis Buchman.
PIAA refs say they hear this all the time.

"There are parents that keep needling, and needling until they get tossed,” said experienced PIAA referee, Robert Getz, Jr.

That's exactly what happened to Callahan. He was tossed by Buchman.

The mayor, who wants to be elected the next Northampton County Executive, then took to Twitter to say, "Certainly I did not mean to offend tonight. Pretty sad when a wrestling fan can't express displeasure about a call. Talk about rabbit ears."

Bethlehem residents we spoke with say the ref did the right thing by calling the mayor to the mat.

"The mayor should have more of a sense of decorum about how he behaves in public," said Bethlehem resident Ken Burns. "He should probably set more of an example for a public official."

In a written statement via his campaign office, John Callahan said:

“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.

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.”

"I think he needs to have a little more maturity," added Bethlehem resident Jose Vazquez. "I understand that wrestling matches kind of get carried away but he does represent the City of Bethlehem."

Referee Dennis Buchman also released a statement with the mayor:

“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.”