|Written by Jeff Falk|
| Expectations are the ugly step-sister of pressure. And the father of achievements.
Not only did the Annville-Cleona wrestling team meet its expectations for 2009-10, it surpassed them.
The Little Dutchmen recently won their second consecutive Lancaster-Lebanon Section Three championship with an unblemished 6-0 league mark, and followed that up with another District Three Class AA appearance. Before bowing to eventual district champion Schuylkill Valley, Annville-Cleona recorded its first-ever – and only Lebanon County’s second – district team tournament victory, a 46-24 dismantling of Newport.
“I thought we had a pretty good season,” said Annville-Cleona head coach Mike Miller. “This year there was a little more pressure on us. Last year, people didn’t expect the season we had. This year was more difficult and the kids stepped up. We weren’t sneaking up on anyone this year.
“As a team, we set our goals short,” Miller continued. “We wanted to win the section and qualify for districts. In the past, we’d set goals like, ‘Let’s see if we can fill a lineup’. Or ‘Let’s see if we can be competitive.’ We haven’t forfeitted an individual weight class in three years. Their (his wrestlers) expectations go up. Our expectations go up.”
A-C attained its goals through two big character characteristics – chemistry and leadership. The Little Dutchmen enjoyed versatility and flexibility throughout, and unquestioned leadership through example.
“Chemistry is very important in wrestling,” said Miller. “People always think wrestling is an individual sport, but some kids did it for the team. There’s very little questioning. ‘I’m going to do what the coach tells me to do.’ The kids are very unselfish. They’ll put the team ahead of personal records.
“Leadership is a key here,” Miller continued. “People look at our lineup and say, ‘Oh, they’re all juniors’. But they’ve wrestled since they were freshmen. These kids have been around. There hasn’t been much they haven’t seen. So nothing really surprises them any more.”
With Friday’s match with Camp Hill pending, the Little Dutchmen have compiled a 13-7 dual-meet record thus far.
“I think we are a good dual-meet team,” said Miller. “We have a better dual-meet team than a tournament team. We really don’t have a star. But we don’t have anyone who’s really bad. We just have a lot of solid wrestlers.
“The kids worked hard,” Miller added. “Some kids are saying to me, ‘I don’t think I ever worked that hard’. I told them, ‘You have expectations. The coaches have expectations.’ We conditioned very well. Through hard work and sacrificing, things came together.”
If the Little Dutchmen do have a star, it’s 140-pound junior Dylan Killian, a state qualifier who sports a 22-4 individual mark. In addition, 112-pounder Tony Yohe and 125-pounder Chris Shifflett boast similar gaudy records, 21-4 and 21-3, respectively.
Freshman Phil Corle has gone 19-5 at 103, Anthony Lentini has compiled a 17-9 mark at 145 and heavyweight Zach Smith has a 16-10 record and a dozen falls.
“We set out to be the champs and now we want to see how we do in the Lebanon County Championships,” said Miller of Saturday’s kick-off of the individual postseason. “It’s always a challenge for us. We’re looking to have some Lebanon County champions.
“I’m hoping to get four or five guys out of sectionals (at Susquenita next weekend) to districts,” Miller concluded. “If you do that, I think you have a good shot at going on to regionals. Last year, Dylan (Killian) got us to the state tournament. This year, I’d like to see two or three guys get us there.”