BY JEFF FALK
FREDERICKSBURG – To boldly go where no Northern Lebanon wrestling team has ever gone before, the Vikings will have to be better than any other Northern Lebanon wrestling team that has come before them.
States: The Final Frontier.
On Thursday night, the Vikings’ flexed their considerable strength, talent and experience while overwhelming rival Annville-Cleona 46-18 in a Lancaster-Lebanon Section Three dual meet. Northern Lebanon appeared flexible and balanced throughout its lineup, and if there were any holes, the Little Dutchmen experienced a difficult time exposing them.
With two of its big guns – senior Evan Daub and junior Matt Vines – showing the way, the Vikings captured the first six bouts, and ten of the initial 11, to open an impressive 46-3 lead. Northern Lebanon cinched the team triumph at 145 pounds, where freshman Blaise Bressler decked A-C’s Rick Tobias.
The Vikings, now 3-0 overall and 3-0 in the section, are seeking their third straight L-L Section Three crown, and so much more. The result made Annville-Cleona 4-3 on the year and 1-1 in the circuit.
“We’re going for three. That’s our goal,” said Northern Lebanon head coach Rusty Wallace. “But we told the guys to get to the next step, we have to think bigger. Last year we took a step forward (by reaching the semifinals of the District Three Class AA tournament). Getting to states is what they want. That’s the ultimate goal.
“We’re probably in mid-season form right now,” continued Wallace. “After the end of last season, those guys didn’t take a break. We wrestled together, as a team, all summer. That’s a lot of commitment there, from wrestlers, their families and the coaching staff. But they’re not afraid of hard work.”
“Tonight was important because I believe Northern Lebanon is the best team in our section,” said Annville-Cleona rookie head coach Jerome Simon. “We wanted to use it as gauge for where we are. They have a very strong team. They did impress me tonight. But I thought our kids fought. I was pleased with the effort.
“I always thought they (the Vikings) were going to be better than they were last year,” Simon continued. “They have a three-year starter who wrestled JV (tonight). That says something about their team. And they had (senior 145-pounder) Joey Emborsky out with an injury.”
Daub and Vines, two of the Vikings’ most influential leaders, really set the tone for the rout.
Daub opened the dual meet with a first-period pin and Vines shut out Little Dutchman Brandon Light 9-0, to stake Northern Lebanon to a 10-0 lead. Heavyweight George Thompson kept the Viking ball rolling by edging Kole Orfino 2-1, as did 106-pounder Dustin Breidegan, with his 11-4 beat down of Zach Renninger.
And when Northern Lebanon’s next two grapplers registered falls, it was suddenly 28-0. Viking Chris Zechman turned the trick in the second period at 113, while Zach Kelly needed just 55 seconds to pin A-C’s Konner Manwiller at 120.
“We had some good and some bad,” said Wallace. “It could always be better. We lost some close matches that guys were working hard to win. But overall, from top to bottom, I thought everybody wrestled really hard.
“It’s a rivalry. It’s a crosstown rivalry we’ve been able to foster,” added Wallace. “It’s nice having to beat the other County teams to win the section. Jerome (Simon) was my coach when I wrestled. It’s good for the sport, to help promote it. We had a lot of fans here tonight.”
“Not many things went our way tonight,” said Simon. “It all started at 195. Daub at 195 was not the match-up we wanted with Brandon Light. But Vines is a tough kid too. We knew Orfino against Thompson was going to be a tough one, and it was. We knew the match at 106 was going to be a tough one, and it was. We knew the match at 113 was going to be a tough one, and it was.
“The match at 138, that hurt,” Simon added. “Matt’s (Darok) a good kid, and tonight he went for a big move and got stuck. He expended a lot of energy getting off his back. The match at 145, I thought could’ve gone either way. That was sort of a ‘let’s-see-if-you-can-catch-me-and-I’ll-catch-you’ kind of match.”
Kodey Manwiller got Annville-Cleona on the scoreboard at 126, with a 6-0 whitewashing of Shawn Campbell. But it proved to be only a temporary interruption of Northern Lebanon’s momentum.
Viking Caleb Blatt handled Little Dutchman Josh Renninger 10-2 at 132, then brother Quinn Blatt surprised Darok by a similar 10-2 count at 138, to put Northern Lebanon ahead 36-3. The Vikings’ lead reached 43 points when freshman Luis Negreiros trounced Clayton Himmelberger 10-1 at 152 pounds.
“I don’t know if I’d say I’m surprised,” said Wallace. “I knew there were going to be a lot of toss-ups. George (Thompson) was probably the underdog in that heavyweight match. But he did what he needed to do to get his hand raised.
“Joey Emborsky is hurt right now,” Wallace continued. “Blaise (Bressler) and Luis (Negrieros) are both freshmen who we brought up. They’re versatile, and they’re gamers. We have complete confidence in those guys.”
“I honestly thought we could win five (bouts), and maybe catch a couple of breaks here or there,” said Simon. “Northern Lebanon deserves it. They wrestled well. I’m not disappointed with the way we wrestled. We knew coming into the season that they (the Vikes) had a really good team. We used it as motivation.
“At 160, we wanted Jeff (Inman) on (Luke) Funck,” added Simon. “Funck wrestled a heck of a match, but Jeff gutted it out and got the win. Jeff showed a lot of heart. At 170, that was a surprise. Jon’s (Zechman) a tough kid. That and 138 were the only surprises.”
Inman and Funck engaged in the most competitive bout of the evening, at 160. Inman won it 4-3 with an escape with ten seconds remaining, after Funck had come up with a reversal moments earlier to knot the score.
Zechman pinned Viking Craig Spitler at the 2:50 mark of their 170-pound bout, and Mark Wagner’s first-period fall at 182 meant Annville-Cleona closed the meet with three straight wins.
“Luke (Funck) wrestled Inman really well,” said Wallace. “Annville-Cleona has a really nice team. They have some good kids. Of the 14 matches, there were a lot of toss-ups. Our guys have done a good job of using what they’ve learned so far. That’s the way they practice.”
“It was nice,” said Simon of the match’s conclusion. “It was a good way to end it. It was nice that we kept fighting. It’s a rivalry. I’m pleased with it. We’ve got some work to do, but we’ll regroup.
“Honestly, I’m pleased with where we are right now,” concluded Simon. “Style-wise, I think we’re ahead of schedule. We ran into a juggernaut tonight. We got out wrestled, but we wrestled tough.”
‘For he today who sheds his blood with me shall, forever, be my brother.’ – Viking War Cry.
Section Three Standings