Bethlehem Mayor John Callahan issued an apology for yelling at an official during the District 11 Class AAA wrestling tournament on Saturday, saying, “I should have handled this incident better.”
In the prepared statement, which was emailed to reporters early Monday evening, Callahan said he had personally apologized to the referee, Dennis Buchman of Drums (Luzerne County), for the incident, which resulted in him being ejected from the stands at Liberty High School, where the tournament was held.
“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,” Callahan said.
Callahan’s news release came from Eric Nagy, who is managing Callahan’s campaign to become Northampton County executive. Callahan is serving his last year as Bethlehem’s mayor.
“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,” Callahan said.
The news release included a statement from Buchman, the referee, who said the “incident has been blown out of proportion and is being made into something different than it was.”
“I truly appreciate Mayor Callahan reaching out to me today to apologize,” Buchman said in the release. “It meant a lot to me and I think it sets a good example for our fans and young athletes involved in sports.
“Certainly John and I both want to put this behind us.”
According to one eyewitness, who commented on the first Patch story about the incident, it took place during a match between wrestlers from Liberty and Freedom high schools. Callahan was one of a number of Freedom fans who yelled at Buchman after the referee made an unfavorable call.
Callahan, who is a Liberty graduate but now has a son who wrestles for Freedom, was asked to leave and did so without incident, the witness said.
Here is the full text of Callahan’s statement:
“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.”