ANNVILLE – It may be that when the Annville-Cleona and Elco wrestling teams look in the mirror they see each other. But what they are viewing are only shadows of their former selves.
On Wednesday night, in a battle of proud programs working through down cycles, the Little Dutchmen laid waste to their rival Raiders, 52-26. Annville-Cleona benefited from two forfeits and won seven of the eleven bouts decided on the mat.
Of their nine total triumphs, the Little Dutchmen received six team points from eight weight classes.
In fact, Annville-Cleona used those forfeits and three falls to jump out to a 30-0 advantage. Then the Little Dutchmen sewed up the outcome with Kole Orfino’s pin at 195 pounds, which gave them an insurmountable 42-14 advantage.
The result, which came in the Lancaster-Lebanon Section Three finale for both clubs, made Annville-Cleona 14-8 in dual meets, and 4-2 and tied for second-place in the section. The Little Dutchmen are still alive for the eighth and final District Three Class AA team playoff spot, and should discover their postseason fate this weekend.
Elco, which seemed to jostle the Little Dutchmen for the section title almost annually, slipped to 13-9 overall and a rare 1-5 in the section.
“When I look at them I see us,” said Annville-Cleona head coach Mike Miller of the Raiders. “We almost have the same type of team. They don’t have a lot of seniors, and we have two. I see us tangling with them, and Northern Lebanon, in the future. A couple of teams with a bunch of good, young wrestlers.
“We actually know the Elco kids very well,” Miller continued. “They know us. It’s a rivalry. But it’s a friendly, respectful rivalry. We like to beat them. And Chad (Elco head coach Miller) had my number for a couple of years.”
“I think they’re very much like us,” said Chad Miller of the Little Dutchmen. “They’re not really talented in the middle. They’re more talented at the lower weights. But they have some good kids in there. I think they’re (the Little Dutchmen) having a disappointing season in that the section isn’t that good.”
With their fast start, the Little Dutchmen forced Elco to play catch-up all evening. Sandwiched around forfeits at the opening weight of 120, and 145, were A-C pins from Phil Corle, in 3:19 at 126, Tanner Pyles, in 1:02 at 132, and Dalton Himmelberger, in 1:22 at 138.
And the Raiders never got off the mat, sorta speak.
“Actually, I didn’t think the match would start that way,” said Mike Miller. “I thought it would be similar, but closer. I didn’t expect Tanner (Pyles) to pin. Getting six (team points) at 120 and 132 pushed us ahead a little more than I expected. But it kind of went the way we thought. It’s the nature of the sport.
“I thought we matched up pretty well with them,” added Miller. “I was kidding Chad. We’re strong at the same spots and weak at the same spots.”
“We didn’t have a chance,” said Chad Miller. “We had two guys who had to win. The kids who did wrestle, they wrestled fine. I was pleased with them. As far as what we had, it could’ve gone as planned. If I had those two kids (who were hurt), we would’ve had a shot. But I wasn’t displeased with the effort.
A stretch of three straight wins injected hope into the Elco side, and cut the Raiders’ deficit to 30-14. Doing the damage for Elco were Austin Rueppel, with a 3-0 shutout at 152, Zach Bankus, with a 3:49, 15-0 technical fall at 160, and Alex Centeno, who turned an early 7-2 deficit into a 3:49 pin at 170.
But freshman Brandon Light stopped the A-C bleeding at 182, by logging a 4:35 fall that made it 36-14. And Orfino closed out the decision a weight class later.
“Brandon Light’s a ninth-grader,” said Mike Miller. “He’s a kid wrestling with men. At 182, he’s wrestling a lot of juniors and seniors. He really hasn’t wrestled any freshmen. He’s a big strong kid, and he’s just getting better.
“It’s (the possibility of going to districts as a team) a big deal,” continued Miller. “Coach (Jerome) Simon and I look at it and we talk about it. But we don’t talk to the kids about it. It’s undue pressure. They don’t need to have that pressure on them. But you always want to wrestle the tougher schools.”
“We’ve got guys hurt, and hopefully they’re not going to be season-ending injuries,” said Chad Miller. “Now’s the time to start looking at the individual stuff. But I don’t evaluate our team on how we do in the postseason.
“Yeah, we knew it (the season) was going to be tough,” Miller added. “If you would’ve told me at the beginning of the season we’d be 13-9, I would’ve taken it in a heart beat. Northern Lebanon’s the only team which everything fell in line. It’s at a point where we’ve been shooting ourselves in the foot.”
Little Dutchman 106-pounder Josh Renninger needed a mere 29 seconds to record a fall, while 113-pound teammate Matt Darok notched a 9-2 major decision. For Elco, Chris Kreider pinned his man in 1:27 at 220 and Wes Bankus was the recipient of a forfeit at heavyweight.
“At the beginning of the season, I thought we had a shot at the section,” said Mike Miller. “But we knew we didn’t match up well with Donegal. And that’s the way it panned out. I didn’t think about Northern Lebanon going in, because I didn’t know about the Blatts (twins). In (Class) AA, two good guys can make a big difference. That’s a lot of points.
“If you would’ve told me at the beginning of the season that we were going to be 4-2 in the section, I would’ve taken it,” Miller added. “I can’t say I’m disappointed. We got max effort from everyone.”
Both the Little Dutchmen and Raiders will compete at the Lancaster-Lebanon League wrestling championships at Conestoga Valley, Friday and Saturday.
“Since my first year, we’ve never won (just) one match in the section,” said Chad Miller. “One year we won three matches, and that was our worst year. The key for us the last couple of years has been filling weight classes and working hard.
“It’s not like the power has shifted,” concluded Miller. “I thought we had a shot at the section this year. Things just didn’t work out. Obviously 1-5, that’s our worst year in a while. It is what it is. We’ll take it, and hopefully learn from it. Hopefully we can compete in the county tournament (Feb. 9).”