BY JEFF FALK
HERSHEY – It is the most compelling of all motivations.
More than competitiveness.
More than self-actualization.
More than school spirit.
Even more than a committed responsibility to team and teammates.
It’s called survival. And when coupled with that ‘good of the whole is more important than the good of the individual’ approach, it becomes even more powerful.
On Saturday morning at Milton Hershey School’s Spartan Center, the Northern Lebanon wrestling team’s survival instinct produced a sense of urgency that carried the Vikings to a 47-18 triumph over Upper Dauphin, in the consolation final of the District Three Class AA team tournament. Northern Lebanon used an aggressive mentality and bonus points to jump out to an early lead it never relinquished.
Fourth-seeded Northern Lebanon captured nine of the 14 bouts, seven of which came by fall.
It was a have-t0-have scenario for a a Viking club which was looking to extend its postseason as a unit. The result qualified Northern Lebanon, which was coming off a disappointing 34-32 semifinal setback to Bermudian Springs on Wednesday, for its third straight PIAA Class AA team tournament, which gets underway Monday.
As the third-place finisher out of District Three, the Vikings, who improved to 17-3 in dual meets, will meet the runner-up from District 11 in the play-in round of the state bracket. Second-seeded Upper Dauphin concluded its campaign at 13-3.
Last season, Northern Lebanon captured its first, and Lebanon County’s only, District Three team championship.
“It was a must-win,” said Northern Lebanon head coach Rusty Wallace. “You don’t make it to states if you don’t win. It guarantees us another dual meet. Plus I wanted to see how our guys would respond to Wednesday. Life looks more like a 34-32 loss than it does a 47-18 win.
“The most important dual meet is the next one,” Wallace continued. “When we left the locker room on Wednesday, we wanted to forget about it and put it behind us. Obviously this was important because we want to keep competing. We don’t want our season to be over.”
“It was important to win,” said Viking 138-pounder Zach Kelly. “If we lost, we would’ve been done. We took our lumps on Wednesday. It (the post-practice) wasn’t anything different. We kept the same mentality. We tried to get better everyday.”
After the Vikings had logged falls in the five of the first seven bouts, they cinched the win at 285 and 106 pounds.
Down 2-0 early, Northern Lebanon heavyweight Kyle Sonnen used a reversal to set up his 1:33 pin. Then at the lightest of weights, Viking Brandon Breidegan opened a 9-0 advantage on his way to a 3:41 fall that gave his side an insurmountable 41-9 advantage.
“They’re a different kind of team,” said Wallace of the Trojans. “There were different match-ups. Obviously we match up better with Upper Dauphin. We were able to get the guys we wanted on their guys.
“Our guys look up to our seniors,” continued Wallace. “One of the things our older guys can offer to the younger guys is experience, and how to handle these situations.”
“Nobody expects to lose,” said Kelly. “To lose kind of stinks. It (Wednesday’s loss to Bermudian Springs) wasn’t shocking. They’re a good team. But we didn’t come out with our best, and we lost.”
Northern Lebanon assumed an 18-0 lead with falls in the the first three bouts.
Kelly was working with a 12-1 advantage when he completed his pinning combination at the 5:34 mark. Stevie Herb decked his 145-pound opponent, Darien Wiest, at 3:13. And 152-pounder Blaise Bressler took care of Trojan Steven Heck at 3:28, after enjoying an 8-0, first-period lead.
Two bouts later, senior Luke Funck pushed Northern Lebanon’s lead to 24-6 with a fall in 28 seconds at 182. Then at 195 pounds, Viking Max Embrosky overcame a 6-2 deficit with a 4:27 pin.
“Jumping out to a lead early helps the mindset of the other guys,” said Wallace. “When it’s close, they put more pressure on themselves. When you have an early lead, they can relax. It was nice to get off to a lead. Zach’s (Kelly) a go-getter. He’s going to go after his opponent.
“I don’t think we wrestled bad,” added Wallace. “I thought we lost some close ones. I thought there were a couple of matches where we didn’t push the pace in the first two periods. You can’t wrestle half a match. You’ve got to wrestle all six (minutes). I think if we could’ve wrestled the entire match, we would’ve come out on top more.”
“I think any dual meet is important,” said Kelly. “I don’t care where or when it is. You want to put a hundred percent into it.”
With the trip to states secured, Viking Tyler Anspach scored a 10-5 decision at 113 pounds. Protecting a 4-3 edge, Anspach opened things up with six unanswered points in the third period.
In the final bout of the match, at 132 pounds, Trevor Leonard of Northern Lebanon rode a 3-1 first-period advantage to a 7-2 decision.
“Any time you lose, you’re disappointed,” said Wallace. “But at the end of the day, you’ve got to give some props to Bermudian. From a spectator’s standpoint, it was probably a good meet to watch, a fun one to watch. There was a lot of hype around that match.
“Wednesday, we had four kids out with strep throat. We were very sick,” added Wallace. “I’m not sure everyone knew that. We just needed to get healthy. Normally, two days out of the week, we go really hard. But you’ve got to know who’s not feeling well. At this point of the season, you’re not making huge strides in one day.”
“Personally, wrestling as a team is very important to me,” said Kelly. “It makes me work harder. You want to get to states.”
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2016-17 Northern Lebanon Wrestling Schedule
@2016 Mule Classic
|7:00 PM||W 83-0|
@2016 King of the Mountain
@2016 Bethlehem Holiday Wrestling Classic
|6:00 PM||W 44-20|