BY JEFF FALK
HERSHEY – This one is exactly like every Northern Lebanon wrestling team over the past four or five years.
The Vikings are a tight-knit group which enjoys spending time together as a family. And they possess their own unique personality.
On Saturday morning at Milton Hershey School’s Spartan Center, Northern Lebanon continued to forge its own identity, and uncovered a way to spend more time together, with a 37-28 triumph over Upper Dauphin, in the consolation match of the District Three Class AA team tournament. The Vikings extended their string of state tournament appearances, by winning eight of the 14 bouts, with four major decisions, a decision, two pins and a forfeit.
After trailing by three team points early, Northern Lebanon rattled off four consecutive triumphs between the 152- and 182-pound weight classes to open an insurmountable 37-16 advantage. The Vikings conceded the final two weights to make the final score appear closer than it really was.
The Vikings, who entered the tournament as the third seed, improved to 19-1 in dual meets this season. Northern Lebanon will continue its season as a team on Monday, in the opening round of the PIAA Class AA postseason, against the runner-up from District 11.
Top-seeded Upper Dauphin concluded its campaign at 15-2.
“To graduate the number of seniors we did and still make it to states, it’s pretty impressive,” said Northern Lebanon head coach Rusty Wallace. “We graduated over 600 career wins. To get back to the team state tournament, that’s pretty good for them.
“This proves they’re their own team,” added Wallace. “They emerged from the shadow of last year’s group. To prove they can get back to the state tournament is a huge accomplishment.”
“We lost some guys last year, so it was important for the team to work hard,” said Viking senior leader Stevie Herb. “This proves we can still accomplish big things. We wanted to keep it going. We wanted to spend more time as a family.
“I’m a senior and I’ve been here for all the state runs,” S. Herb added. “I know what it’s like and the effort we need to put in. I want us to be unified.”
Nursing a 17-16 edge, the Vikings went ahead for good with Ethan Walmer’s 15-3 major decision at 152 pounds. Walmer tallied nine of his points in the opening period.
Then after S. Herb was awarded a forfeit at 160, brother Ethan Herb upped Northern Lebanon’s advantage to 15 team points with an 11-2 decision at 170. E. Herb led 5-1 after the first period and 10-2 after the second.
Senior Blaise Bressler capped the Vikings’ decisive run, making it 37-16 and clinching the victory, with a 47-second pin at 170 pounds.
“We had some matches that went really well,” said Wallace. “We started off pretty good. We got a pin at (106) where we needed it. Kyler (Anspach) did a nice job and Seth Fischer did a phenomenal job. That was huge.
“Colin (Leonard) beat a really good kid at 32,” continued Wallace. “And then beginning at 138, we sent out three straight sophomores, and we won two of those. You finish with your studs. That’s a nice way to run the end.”
“We wrestled well,” said S. Herb. “We kept scoring bonus points and we didn’t give up many. We kept fighting as a team.
“Kyle (Sonnen) did a great job at heavyweight, not giving up bonus points,” S. Herb continued. “We had a couple of other kids who stepped up. It was a team effort.”
Down 13-10, 132-pounder Leonard used an 11-6 decision to pull Northern Lebanon even on the scoreboard. He enjoyed leads of 6-1 in the opening stanza and 11-1 in the final period.
Then Nick Winters posted a 12-0 whitewashing at 138 pounds to extend the Vikings’ advantage to 17-13. Winters’ seven second-period points broke his bout wide open.
“I’m always confident,” said Wallace. “We have a pretty good group of kids. If we put our best effort out there, I know we’re going to be fine. If everybody does their job, we’re going to be fine.”
“I love wrestling,” said S. Herb. “If I get a match, I’m going to do my best, but I just wanted to help the team. I didn’t know I was going to get a forfeit. That’s the way it goes.”
Brandon Breidegan got the Vikings started with a 1:39 fall at 106 pounds. Breidegan wasted little time working his pinning combination, after opening an early 2-0 lead.
Kyler Anspach made it 10-3 Vikings with an 11-1 major decision at 113 pounds. Anspach notched the first nine points in his bout.
“We started out at a nice weight,” said Wallace of 285 pounds. “Sonnen wrestled a great match. And Seth Fischer went six minutes with a state qualifier.
“It was hard for Kyler to get into his rhythm (because of a number of blood stoppages for Upper Dauphin’s Mason Trexler),” added Wallace. “He did a nice job of trying to get one or two (points) here. We told him we wanted a ‘major’ there.”
“Obviously a state medal is what I want,” said S. Herb of the upcoming individual postseason. “It’s going to be tough. One hundred-fifty-two is a tough weight. But I trust in God, and ultimately His will is going to be done.”
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PIAA District Three
Class AA Team Tournament
(at Milton Hershey’s Spartan Center)
Northern Lebanon 37, Upper Dauphin 28
285: Donny Gelnet UD d Kyle Sonnen 4-2.
106: Brandon Breigegan NL p Max Trexler, 1:39.
113: Kyler Anspach NL md Mason Trexler 11-1.
120: Ethan Paul UD md Seth Fischer 9-1.
126: Bronson Garber UD wins by forfeit.
132: Colin Leonard NL d Zach Rupp 11-6.
138: Nicholas Winters NL md Kade Matter 12-0.
145: Tyler Wright UD d Kai Whitman 6-4 (OT).
152: Ethan Walmer NL md Darien Wiest 15-3.
160: Stephen Herb NL wins by forfeit.
170: Ethan Herb NL md Steven Heck 11-2.
182: Blaise Bressler NL p Brennan McAllister :47.
195: UD won by forfeit.
220: UD won by forfeit.