BY JEFF FALK
HERSHEY – There’s a secret to reaching the summit. You’ve got to peak at the right time.
It’s all about timing, and that time is upon us.
On Saturday afternoon at Hersheypark Arena, during the second and final day of the 82nd annual District Three Wrestling Championships, a handful of talented Lebanon County competitors got their peak on. Led by Northern Lebanon senior Colin Leonard, the locale turned in a solid performance that featured a district gold, two silvers and a trio bronze medals.
Leonard especially was in postseason form, as he left behind a trail of opponents on his way to the Class AA 132-pound weight class championship. That included an 8-1 dismantling of Eli Tuckey of Biglerville in the title tilt.
Two other Lebanon County wrestlers – Leonard’s Viking teammate Nick Winters and Elco’s Trey Donmoyer – reached the championship bouts of their Class AA weight classes. But Winters endured a 15-3 defeat at the hands of Trenton Harder of Bermudian Springs in the final at 152 pounds, and Donmoyer was beaten 6-1 by Littlestown’s James Penton in the championship bout of the 182-pound bracket.
Meanwhile, Annville-Cleona 113-pounder Matt Inman and Northern Lebanon 160-pounder Ethan Herb were third in Class AA. In Class AAA, Cedar Crest’s T.J. Moore earned a bronze medal at 220 pounds.
The Vikings finished fifth among Class AA teams.
“Peaking’s a science,” said Northern Lebanon head coach Rusty Wallace. “If someone could figure it out, they could make a million bucks on it. You see kids peak too early. You want to be peaking right now. We train in December and January like you should train. But we want them (his wrestlers) to be at their best in February and March.
“You have to rest as hard as you train,” continued Wallace. “Over the Christmas break we have a de-training period. We give them a couple days off and allow them to get fat and happy. We treat it like two seasons. We treat this like a totally different season. Now, we’re resting a lot. You want kids to feel good when they come here.”
“I feel like I’m starting to peak now,” said Leonard. “At the beginning of the year, I wasn’t looking too well. I don’t know how he (Wallace) does it, but he gets the credit for it. At the beginning of the year, the way he has it, we’re in shape, but not too good of shape.
“There’s this thing in practice called ‘Shark Bait,'” Leonard continued. “You do it for six to ten minutes at a time, and everyone just beats you from all sides. It mentally breaks you. But it makes you have a really good head on your shoulder.”
Not unlike his 132-pound weight class overall, Leonard was in control of the championship bout with Tuckey throughout.
Leonard took Tuckey down 30 seconds into their match, then added a three-point near-fall near the end of the opening period. Leonard was awarded two back points 40 seconds into the second period to push his lead to 7-0.
“I usually try to get some points on the board at the beginning of matches,” said Leonard, who was eighth in the state last year. “I got lucky early and rode that lead out. At this level, the goals is to win and advance.”
“It’s a stepping stone,” said Wallace. “This is a big tournament. There’s some really good kids here. Colin’s wrestling really well now. But next weekend (regionals) is a new tournament. He’s got to get better every day, but he’s where he wants to be.”
Leonard’s district championship was his second in as many seasons, and came on the heels of a third-place showing as a sophomore and a sixth-place performance as a freshman. He upped his overall record this season to 34-5.
“I was thinking this would be a great opportunity to show what I can do,” said Leonard. “I keep up with the media, and I feel like I get snubbed a lot. They don’t take me seriously. But I kind of like being under the radar. Some kids don’t know who I am. I just try to do my things.”
The story was much different for Winters in the 152-pound championship bout.
He gave up the first take-down to Harder 30 seconds into the match, and trailed 5-0 at the end of the opening period. By the time the third period rolled around, Winters was facing a 9-1 deficit.
“He (Harder) was just a lot quicker than me, a lot stronger than me,” said Winters, who will carry a 29-11 record into regionals. “I knew a little bit about him. I knew he was pretty good. He worked hard the first two periods.
“I did actually expect it (reaching the final bout),” added Winters. “I looked everybody (in the 152-pound weight class) up, I was seeded second and two or three of the guys I wrestled, I had already beaten.”
“We brought nine guys here,” said Wallace. “I thought all nine guys wrestled really well. That’s all you want, for them to come here and compete. I thought we could get five to seven through (to regionals), and we got six. I’m happy with that number. The guys who made it through did a phenomenal job.”
Donmoyer experienced his share of difficulties generating offense against Penton.
The only point the Elco senior could muster was a second-period escape. Donmoyer trailed 2-0 at the end of the first period, and 4-1 following the conclusion of the second.
Donmoyer, now 38-4 on the year, had pulled off a pair of pins on his way to the final.
“It’s been a long day, a long season,” said Donmoyer. “I know I could’ve wrestled better, but my body’s all tweaked up. I know I’m not 100 percent. I try to take it easy on my myself and my body during the week, the best I can.
“Coming in seeded second, I knew most of the kids in my bracket, and I had already wrestled them or beaten them,” Donmoyer added. “It was going to take something outrageous for me not to get there (the championship bout). But he (Penton) knew how to defend. He knew what I was throwing at him.”
Not only did Moore’s 3-2 decison over Dylan Rodenhaber of Red Land in the Class AAA consolation final at 220 earn him a shiny medal, it also qualified him for the PIAA Class AAA Wrestling Championships at Hershey’s Giant Center in two weeks. Over the weekend, the Falcon junior went 5-1 – including four wins in the meat-grinder – to improve to 36-8 on the year.
Inman, now 27-12, scored the first four points in his 6-2 decision over Jace Beegle of Pequea Valley, in the 113-pound third-place bout. Herb, now 39-7, used a big third period to down Tulpehocken’s David Bortz 7-1 in their consolation final at 160.
Northern Lebanon’s Brandon Breidegan was fifth at 120 pounds, as were teammates Seth Ebersole at 170 and Nick Goodyear at 285.
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