BY JEFF FALK
NEW HOLLAND – Second?
Not sure the Northern Lebanon wrestling team is familiar with the concept or even knows what the word means. Actually, the Vikings have heard of it, but have no first-hand knowledge.
On Saturday at Garden Spot High School, Northern Lebanon finished an uncharacteristic second at the 24th annual Lancaster-Lebanon LeagueWrestling Championships. Despite sending six competitors to weight-class finals and bringing home two championships, the Vikings didn’t have the depth to keep up with Manheim Central, which edged them 219 team points to 203.
Northern Lebanon, which has won seven straight Section Three titles, entered the tournament as its two-time defending champion.
The bright spots for the Vikings were junior Colin Leonard and senior Luis Negeirors, who copped weight-class championships at 126 and 182 pounds. Leonard dominated then pinned Cocalico sophomore Kayde Althouse at 5:45 in the 126-pound final, while Negeirors edged Manheim Central’s Grant Fittery 8-5 in the title tilt at 182.
In all, 13 Lebanon County individuals finished fifth or higher in their respective weight classes.
“I don’t like getting congratulations for second place, ever,” said Northern Lebanon head coach Rusty Wallace. “We just have different expectations. We just have different kids. You try to win everything you can. It doesn’t always work out that way, but you want to.
“We still could’ve won it,” continued Wallace. “We figured going in that it would be between us and Manheim Central. They put 13 guys on the mat and we put 13 guys on the mat. Hats off to them. They had a better tournament. They out wrestled us. But we left some wins on the mat.”
“I think the team’s tough,” said Leonard. “We don’t have as much firepower as last year. We lost 500 career wins, but we still have a lot of kids who will go out there and battle.
“We have our kids who we can trust to get their wins,” added Leonard. “If we do our jobs, it’ll pay off. It’s really a team effort. At practice, we all go after each other to get better.”
Leonard was in control from the opening whistle of his championship bout, building leads of 7-0 in the first period and 12-1 in the middle stanza. He was up 14-1 when he completed his pinning combination with 15 seconds remaining in the third period.
“I was feeling pretty confident,” said Leonard. “I beat him (Althouse) last year. I practice with him over the summer and we were back and forth. He’s a tough wrestler. I always like wrestling him because we’re friends off the mat.
“I felt confident going out,” Leonard added. “I think I did good. I just did what I felt like I had to do to win. I don’t remember much of it. It’s a blur.”
“He’s wrestling really well right now,” said Wallace of Leonard. “He dominated. He didn’t have a close match (in the tournament). When he’s focused, there’s not many kids better in the state. I think there’s a state medal in his future.”
With his showing, Leonard improved to 33-5 on the season. He sports a career mark of 109-44.
“I’m looking to place at states as an individual,” said Leonard. “If I could win it (a state title), I’d be down for that. I’m just glad to be at the point in my career when I can place at the highest level.”
Negeirors ruled at 182 pounds despite being winded and out of breath. He is still rounding into shape from a football injury that he returned from just three weeks ago.
“Coming off an injury, it was a hard tournament for me,” said Negeirors. “It’s all about conditioning. Technique-wise, I’m strong ‘on top’. On the bottom, I could be better.
“I never wrestled him (Fittery) before,” Negeirors added. “I tried to feel him out. My conditioning isn’t the best, but I was trying to wrestle my match.”
“He’s not in shape,” said Wallace of Negeirors. “Not in wrestling shape. But he’s still winning matches. For him to wrestle this tournament, to be in hideous cardiovascular condition and win it, it’s impressive.”
Following a scoreless first period against Fittery, Negeirors scored a take-down 30 seconds into the second period. He exited the period with a 6-4 advantage, then protected it by outscoring Fittery 2-1 in the final stanza.
“I got tired,” said Negeirors. “I just tried to pull out the win. I just wanted to get the win. Usually, I’m trying to improve on it. Whatever my weaknesses are, try to make them strong points.
“For the team, I’d like to make it as far as we can,” Negeirors continued. “Individually, I’d love to make it to the last day of states and get a medal. Mostly it’s my mentality. Push more. Just wrestle my matches.”
In the final bout at 170 pounds, Viking Ethan Herb was beaten 14-2 by Ben Root of Solanco. It was 5-2 Root in the first period, before the top-seeded senior tallied the match’s next nine points.
In the championship match at 160 pounds, Northern Lebanon’s Blaise Bressler was whitewashed 9-0 by another Mule, A.J. Wilson. Following a 0-0 first-period draw, Wilson registered seven points in the second period.
“Our kids in the finals wrestled hard,” said Wallace. “At the end of the match, there’s going to be a winner and a loser. With all classifications being here and us being one of the smallest schools, getting six in the finals says something for our program.”
After posting an 18-9 major decision over Austin Sauder of Manheim Central in the semifinals, Northern Lebanon senior Stevie Herb absorbed an 8-3 loss to Luke Hirtzel of Warwick in the final at 152 pounds. Herb notched two escapes in the opening period, but not much else the rest of the way.
Viking 106-pounder Brandon Breidegan was edged 9-7 by Ethan Herr of Donegal in the championship bout at 106 pounds. A three-point near-fall in the first period gave Breidegan a 6-4 lead, but he was outscored 5-1 in the final period.
“We had six in the finals,” said Wallace. “That’s a ton. The most we’ve ever had. Colin and Luis wrestled great. The other kids battled, but they lost to really good kids.”
A seventh Viking, senior Kyler Anspach, finished fourth at 113 pounds, as did Lebanon 12th-grader Jose Barrios. Cedar Crest 220-pounder T.J. Moore, Lebanon 170-pouner Dallin Ocasio, Annville-Cleona 145-pounder Zach Renninger, Annville-Cleona 132-pounder Hayden Funck and Elco 126-pounder Trenton Brubaker all collected fifth-place hardware.
“It’s really a warm-up,” said Wallace of the Lancaster-Lebanon League tournament’s place in the postseason. “It’s a practice. It’s a cool thing, but in the big picture it doesn’t mean much.”
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24th Annual Lancaster-Lebanon League Wrestling Championships
(at Garden Spot High School)
106: Ethan Herr, Donegal d Brandon Breidegan, Northern Lebanon 8-7.
113: Will Betahncourt, Manheim Central p Arik Harnish, Lampeter-Strasburg 4:21.
120: Josiah Gehr, Cocalico d Cade Zeamer, Manheim Central 6-2.
126: Colin Leonard, Northern Lebanon p Kayde Althouse, Cocalico 5:45.
132: Zach Zeamer, Manheim Central d Caden Rogers, Penn Manor 6-1.
138: Grayson Charles, Solanco p Gunner Gehr, Garden Spot 1:36.
145: Gabe Miller, Pequea Valley d Connor Finkey, Garden Spot 8-3.
152: Luke Hirtzel, Warwick d Stephen Herb, Northern Lebanon 8-3.
160: A.J. Wilson, Solanco md Blaise Bressler, Northern Lebanon 9-0.
170: Ben Root, Solanco md Ethan Herb, Northern Lebanon 14-2.
182: Luis Negreiros, Northern Lebanon d Garrett Fittery 8-5.
195: Keegan McCord, Manheim Central d Steven Seepaul, Warwick 5-1.
220: Ben Fromm, Cocalico d Evan Clark, Warwick 3-2 (4 OT).
285: Ryan Stewart, Warwick p Tyler Oakley, Conestoga Valley 1:27.