NEW HOLLAND – The Northern Lebanon wrestling team works around the calendar specifically as preparation for this time of the year. But it’s not about how much time the Vikings put in, it’s about what they do with it.
On Saturday at Garden Spot High School, the Vikings captured the team title at the 23rd annual Lancaster-Lebanon League Championships for the second straight season, in somewhat dominant fashion. Northern Lebanon amassed 260.5 team points to easily best runner-up Cocalico and its 230-point total, third-place finisher Manheim Central and the rest of the 22-team field.
Northern Lebanon advanced five competitors to weight-class finals, brought home two championships courtesy of Luke Funck and Blaise Bressler and collected a total of 12 medals. Last year, the Vikings became the first Section Three and Lebanon County team to win the league tournament, on their way to the District Three Class AA championship.
“This is when we want to be getting better,” said Northern Lebanon’s head taskmaster, Rusty Wallace. “This is where you want to be on an upward swing. I think our guys are better than they were last year. I can honestly say our guys are right where they need to be.
“Our tournament schedule is pretty brutal,” continued Wallace. “We’re at some of the top tournaments in the country. We have guys who have wrestled over ten state qualifiers. Our guys are battle-tested. Having that schedule gives you a little confidence. We’ve been to tournaments that are tougher than this one.”
“This is not our man goal,” said Bressler. “It’s nice to win this stuff, but winning in March is what matters. This is one of the easier tournaments we’ve been to.
“Those are like top-ten tournaments in the country,” added Bressler. “Having placed in those tournaments, I’m ready for this one.”
Bressler pinned his way to the 152-pound championship. He improved to 32-6 overall with his 22nd pin of the season, a 35-second decking of Cocalico senior Max Martin in the title bout.
“That’s Blaise,” said Wallace. “Blaise is a dangerous kid. He’s made a lot of improvement. He can pin anyone, anywhere. If you can pin, you can win. He had a nice shot in the finals, and completed it.”
In the final at 152, Bressler needed a mere ten seconds to take Martin down, and then wasted even less time taking him to his back. Once there, all that was left for Bressler to do was squeeze.
“I am absolutely happy,” said Bressler. “The first day (Friday) was kind of easier. I think I only wrestled two minutes. Coming into today, I didn’t feel well. But I took some medicine and that’s exactly what I needed.
“This is the big jump,” added Bressler. “I’m as good as those kids and I’m going to keep going at it.”
“We just wanted to see the kids compete,” said Wallace. “It’s a big tournament and there’s some really good teams here. It’s the last individual tournament before the postseason. But things happen. You’re not going to win them all. I’m happy with the way the guys competed, from beginning to end.”
Funck was honored with the Shorty Hitchcock award for the most falls in the tournament, in the shortest period of time – 4:05. In the championship match at 182, Funck needed just 1:03 to dismiss Logan Boring of Warwick.
It was the 96th pin of Funck’s career. Funck, who advanced to the final four at last year’s state tournament, improved to 31-3 on the season and 152-31 all-time.
“It’s definitely getting it to pay off for this time of the year,” said Funck of all the work the Vikings put in. “The reason we do all that wrestling is to be ready for this moment. It’s just crazy to think this is the last year we’re going to do it.
“I’m feeling good for the end of the season,” Funck added. “I’m getting ready for the team stuff. Then I can focus on the individual stuff.”
“We don’t ever make a big deal out of it,” Wallace added. “Every match is important, but no match is special. We approach every match as the same.”
Funck missed a pair of early shots at take-downs of Boring, before scoring on his third. He made that one count, as he completed his pinning combination near the middle of the opening period.
“That’s just all good for this tournament,” said Funck of the falls. “I want to pin, no matter what. I want to be aggressive. I wanted all pins. I want to hit a hundred.
“Coming into an individual tournament, it’s all about you,” continued Funck. “This is an individual tournament, 100 percent. If you mess up it’s on you, not the team. It all comes down to you and how you’re going to feel that night.”
Things did not go the Vikings’ way in three other championship bouts.
At 220, senior Hunter Wallace dropped a 7-3 decision to Evan Clark of Warwick. Following a score-less opening period, Clark outscored Wallace 5-1 in the second stanza.
Northern Lebanon sophomore Colin Leonard fell 9-7 to Hempfield’s Jarod Loose in the 120-pound final. After rallying from a 7-3 deficit to tie the bout at seven on a reversal with 25 seconds left, C. Leonard gave up the winning take-down with 12 seconds to go.
In the 132-pound championship bout, Northern Lebanon’s Trevor Leonard absorbed a 17-2, 5:49 technical fall at the hands of Dave Miller of Pequea Valley. T. Leonard entered the final period trailing 10-0.
“We just talk about wrestling the first seed the way you would the last seed,” said Wallace. “Everybody’s good. I thought Colin wrestled loose. He competed for six minutes. Miller is a super tough kid, and we’ll learn from that. Hunter decided to wrestle up to 220, but you’ve just got to wrestle. There was a lot of action in that match.”
Three other Vikings copped bronze medals – Kyler Anspach at 103, Zach Kelly at 138 and Stevie Herb at 145. In the consolation final at 285 pounds, Cedar Crest’s Ross Fisher shaded Kyle Sonnen of Northern Lebanon, 11-2.
Northern Lebanon was the only Lebanon County team to qualify a wrestler for the finals, but Lebanon High’s Jose Barrios was third at 113 pounds, while Zach Renninger of Annville-Cleona was fourth at 132.
“In all honesty, it’s pretty exciting,” said Wallace. “We had 12 guys medal, and seven are underclassmen. It’s a pretty young team still. It’s nice to see young guys battle and compete.”
PIAA District Three
Class AA Power Rankings
|2||Upper Dauphin Area||12-||1-||0||0.740298||0.913386||0.528746|
|9||Eastern Lebanon County||14-||6-||0||0.570856||0.707071||0.404372|
|24||Brandywine Heights Area||2-||10-||0||0.293470||0.156250||0.461183|
(at Garden Spot High School)
106: Will Betancourt (Manheim Central) p Austin Jones (Ephrata), 1:38
113: Josiah Gehr (Cocalico), d Cameron Terry (Ephrata), 7-0
120: Jared Loose (Hempfield) d Colin Leonard (N. Lebanon), 9-7
126: Tanner Bell (Pequea Valley) d Nate Fritz (Cocalico), 7-1
132: Gabe Miller (Pequea Valley) tf Trevor Leonard (N. Lebanon), 17-2
138: Gary Clark (Garden Spot) d Grayson Charles (Solanco), 6-2
145: Pavel Dariychuk (CV) d Connor Finkey (Garden Spot), 5-1
152: Blaise Bressler (N. Lebanon) p Max Martin (Cocalico) 0:35
160: Josiah Barley (Penn Manor) p Jose Lao-Cooper (Manheim Twp) 1:55
170: Ben Root (Solanco) p Carlos Lugo (McCaskey) 3:01
182: Luke Funck (N. Lebanon) p Logan Boring (Warwick), 1:03
195: Ben Fromm (Cocalico) d Josh Weder (Solanco), 12-4
220: Evan Clark (Warwick) d Hunter Wallace (N. Lebanon), 7-3
285: Ryan Stewart (Warwick) d Brady Maxwell (Cocalico) 3-1, OT
FINAL TEAM STANDINGS
Northern Lebanon – 260.5
Cocalico – 230
Manheim Central – 167.5
Solanco – 145
Conestoga Valley – 140.5
Warwick – 115
Pequea Valley – 110
Garden Spot – 105
Penn Manor – 105
Hempfield – 103
McCaskey – 96
Elizabethtown – 93.5
Donegal – 85
Manheim Twp. – 80.5
Ephrata – 69
Lampeter-Strasburg – 53
Annville-Cleona – 49.5
ELCO – 37
Cedar Crest – 36
Lebanon – 34.5
Columbia – 11
Lancaster Catholic – 8