BY JEFF FALK
HERSHEY – Some say wrestling is an individual sport. But if one competes for others, instead of just for self, it matters a little more.
And when a team loses together, it hurts a little more.
The Northern Lebanon wrestling team emerged from Saturday morning’s District Three Class AA team tournament championship match at Milton Hershey School’s Spartan Center disappointed but with heads held high, in light of its 52-15 loss to powerful Boiling Springs. The Bubblers won 11 of the 14 bouts, and garnered bonus points from eight of those triumphs.
Boiling Springs won eight of the last nine bouts, to expand upon an early 15-9 lead. The Bubblers secured their fifth consecutive District Three Class AA team title at 138 pounds, where Kyle Shoop scored a 15-0, 3:05 technical fall of Viking Blaise Bressler.
The fourth-seeded Vikings’ appearance marked the first time that a Lebanon County squad had reached the finals of a District Three wrestling team tournament. Northern Lebanon, now 12-2 overall, will also make local history on Monday, when it competes in its first-ever PIAA Class AA postseason, as it hosts a representative from District Six in Fredericksburg.
Boiling Springs improved to 14-3 overall.
“At our school, wrestling is a team sport,” said Northern Lebanon head coach Rusty Wallace. “That’s my philosophy. Until the sectional tournament, that’s the only time it becomes an individual sport. That’s what makes our team successful, they embrace that. There’s nothing they wouldn’t do for each other. When you have that, you can accomplish some great things.
“That’s a part of our success. That’s a big part of it,” continued Wallace. “You can have a group of talented kids, but if they’re not going to work for each other you’re not going to accomplish anything. Alone, we’re a drop of water. Together, we’re an ocean. The mindset they (his wrestlers) have significantly contributes to our success.”
While the Vikings may have missed out on some early opportunities, clearly the better team prevailed.
After senior Evan Daub had drawn Northern Lebanon into a 3-3 tie with a tough 6-3 decision at 180 pound, the Vikings surrendered six team points in each of the next two weight classes. But Viking heavyweight George Thompson kept his team in it with a 1:54 fall that made it 15-9.
“We couldn’t capitalize on some of those early match-ups,” said Wallace. “Our kids battled. Our heavyweight, George Thompson, picked up a nice pin for us. But there were a lot of places throughout the match that if things would’ve happened differently, the score would’ve been more respectable.
“We only ever think ‘win’,” Wallace continued. “When you stop thinking that, it’s time to stop coaching and time to stop wrestling. You’ve just got to have faith in your training. We were going to show up to win, and wrestle to win.”
Down 16 team points, Zach Kelly kept the Vikings’ hopes alive. After working over Lucas Shoop early, Kelly decked him at the 1:38 mark to bring Northern Lebanon to within 25-15 of the lead.
“Most of these kids wrestle so much in the off-season, and we see Boiling Springs all over the place,” said Wallace. “We were focused and we went at it. We were wrestling a pretty darn good team. They (the Bubblers) set the bar for us. When my coaching staff and I took over, we looked at the best teams and emulated what they do. They’re the reason we work as hard as we do.
“I just told the kids not to leave here disappointed,” Wallace added. “Their goal was to win it. Our goal is to win the next match. We have to have a short memory. We’ve got to practice hard and prepare. But they’ve (his wrestlers) earned the right to be happy.”
But Kelly’s pin proved to be the Vikings’ last gasp. Northern Lebanon experienced difficulties scoring points – much less winning bouts – over the next six weight classes, all of which swung the Bubblers’ way.
“It really hasn’t sunk in for them yet, because this is what they expected to do,” said Wallace of his wrestlers. “We (the coaches) didn’t have to put expectations on them, those are their’s. They’re an absolute pleasure to have as wrestlers.
“I don’t think they really understand the history,” added Wallace. “They don’t know the history they’ve made until someone tells them. I don’t think they’re fully aware of the legacy they’re building.”
Northern Lebanon had reached the district championship match with a 36-28 semifinal upset at top-seeded Bermudian Springs on Wednesday. The Vikings had opened their third straight District Three Class AA team tournament appearance with a 56-12 shellacking of fifth-seeded Newport.
“All the team we could’ve possibly wrestled, we had them scouted well in advance,” said Wallace. “My coaching staff is phenomenal. We just have so many good coaches in the room. I’ve been wrestling since I was five, and I still learn something new everyday. And I try to pass it on to the kids. I’m pleased with what we’ve been able to do.
“Now we just evaluate our weaknesses, and work,” concluded Wallace. “The reason I like wrestling is there’s no secrets. If you’re willing to work harder than everyone else, you can be good.”
District Three Class AA
OFFICIAL FINAL RANKINGS
AA School W L T Rating
1 Bermudian Springs 19 1 0 .740136
2 Boiling Springs 11 3 0 .696027
3 Delone Catholic 11 2 0 .677287
4 Northern Lebanon 10 1 0 .672823
5 Newport 13 3 0 .626801
6 Hamburg Area 12 4 0 .602577
7 Biglerville 9 8 0 .569576
8 Annville Cleona 10 6 0 .566206
9 Brandywine Heights Area 10 7 0 .533231
10 Littlestown 12 8 0 .528313
11 Camp Hill 10 7 0 .526381
12 Hanover 8 10 0 .496719
13 Schuylkill Valley 6 9 0 .480119
14 Trinity 8 12 0 .458603
15 Bishop McDevitt 5 6 0 .451165
16 Wyomissing Area 5 8 0 .431966
17 Upper Dauphin Area 4 8 0 .394946
18 Halifax Area 6 11 0 .382683
19 Lancaster Catholic 1 14 0 .323504
20 Pequea Valley 1 9 0 .311240
21 Eastern York 1 9 0 .288724
22 Kutztown Area 2 14 0 .286470
23 Susquenita 1 10 0 .284042
24 Columbia 2 16 0 .282966
25 Fairfield 2 11 0 .269565
26 Tulpehocken 1 16 0 .226813