Pennsylvania Stoners hero RICH REICE was hardly the first player from Neshaminy High School in the southeastern section of the commonwealth orginally founded by colonial legend William Penn to attain NCAA First Team All-America status in soccer for the PENN STATE NITTANY LIONS.
In fact, Penn State’s central midfielder CHRIS BAHR had already received such honors twice (in 1972 and again in 1973) when the curly haired Reice and his high school teammate, MATT BAHR, arrived on the State College campus as freshmen and joined the Nittany Lions’ varsity squad under new head coach WALTER BAHR in 1974.
Chris, whose older brother Casey Bahr had been named Third Team All-America (’68 & ’69) at the U.S. Naval Academy and later made three appearances for the United States squad at the 1972 Summer Olympic Games hosted by the West German city of Munich, started scoring goals at a serious clip from the very moment he first slipped on the Penn State shirt. As a freshman in 1971, Chris Bahr scored 12 goals in 11 games before the Nittany Lions were hammered 8-0 by Howard University at the quarterfinal stage of the annual NCAA tournament. Over the course of the next two seasons, Bahr netted a combined total of 21 goals (while also dishing out 12 assists) in 24 games for Penn State while earning back-to-back First Team All-America selections.
In 1973, while netting 11 goals in 12 games as a junior for the soccer team, Bahr also earned his first varsity letter in football for Penn State by simultaneously booting field goals (with ‘sophomore’ eligibility) for Joe Paterno’s gridiron team. The Nittany Lions, featuring Heisman Trophy winner John Cappelletti at tailback, ultimately ended the season with an unblemished 12-0-0 record and the number five ranking in the Associated Press final poll after defeating Louisiana State University 16-9 in the 1974 Orange Bowl. Penn State had fallen behind 7-0 to the Tigers early in the first quarter on that occasion, but it was the soccer All-America who began the Nittany Lions comeback by immediately booming a 44-yard field goal for what was then an Orange Bowl Game record.
Now joined by his father Walter, the new head coach for the Nittany Lions now having departed Philadelphia’s Temple University, and freshman brother Matt in Happy Valley, Chris Bahr would complete his own unique hat trick in the fall of 1974 by becoming the very first three-time NCAA First Team All-America in Penn State soccer history.
With the Neshaminy Scoring Connection accounting for almost sixty percent of the team’s goals, Penn State finished its first regular season under Walter Bahr with an undefeated record of eight wins and three times. Operating at the heart of the Nittany Lions’ 4-3-3 formation, the senior Chris notched another 12 goals and four assists in 1974 and set new school records for career assists and points along the way. Out on the wing, the talented Reice concluded his freshman term as the second-leading scorer for P.S.U. with six goals while the youngest Bahr brother, deployed as an outside midfielder in his first collegiate season, ended up right behind on the chart with five goals.
Despite a strong team which included NSCAA all-region and NCAA honorable mention (third team) All-America selection RANDY GARBER, the Abington High School product who later spent four seasons in the old North American Soccer League with the Tampa Bay Rowdies, Los Angeles Aztecs and Washington Diplomats, the Nittany Lions were knocked out of the 1974 NCAA tournament at the first hurdle when intra-state foe Bucknell University defeated Penn State 1-0 in State College.
Undaunted, the versatile Chris Bahr continued to kick a new school record number of three-pointers for Joe Pa’s gridders as a junior on Penn State team that went 10-2 and finished with the # 7 ranking in the annual Associated Press poll. Bahr contributed two field goals as the Nittany Lions pulled off a remarkable second half rally to trounce Baylor University 41-20 in the 1975 Cotton Bowl on New Year’s Day and then, later that spring, took advantage of a new NCAA rule which allowed him to sign with the professional Philadelphia Atoms of the old North American Soccer League but still save his last season of football eligibility. Bahr went on to score 11 goals in 22 games as a midfielder for the Atoms that summer and was named the 1975 NASL Rookie of the Year.
The prolific attacking midfielder CHRIS BAHR registered 45 goals and 22 assists in 48 games for the Nittany Lions to conclude his highly successful soccer career as the all-time leading scorer in Penn State history … Nowadays, 112 points still ranks the Neshaminy High School graduate as fourth on the all-time scoring list in State College although no Nittany Lion has been able to equal Bahr’s impressive feat of three NCAA First Team All-America selections in soccer while at Penn State.
Those interested in more details on the NCAA field goal kicking exploits of both CHRIS and MATT BAHR might try “JOE PA’s BEST BAHR NONE” here.