MYERSTOWN – The Raiders had a good run.
The Little Dutchmen engineered a mini-dynasty.
But now, the Lancaster-Lebanon League’s Section Three is on the verge of a new era – the age of the Viking. And it’s been a long time coming.
On Tuesday night, the Northern Lebanon wrestling team cleared another huge hurdle – quite cleanly by the way – in its quest for a rare section championship. Employing a singular focus and a team intensity, the Vikings pretty much took apart Elco 50-14.
Northern Lebanon won ten of the 14 bouts, including a run of seven straight early in the match that gave it a 35-4 advantage. The Vikings clinched the win with Caleb Blatt’s 47-second fall at 120 pounds.
What all the hub-bub is about is the fact that the last section championship the Vikings earned was in 1993-94. That’s 19 years ago, and that was the only section wrestling title that Northern Lebanon has ever garnered.
To complete this deal, the Vikings, now 7-0 overall and 4-1 in the section, will need to defeat Pequea Valley and Columbia in their final dual meets of the Section Three season. The loss dropped Elco to 10-4 on the campaign and 1-2 in the section.
“I don’t remember the last time we beat Elco, but it wasn’t since I’ve been coaching,” said Northern Lebanon head coach Rusty Wallace, who was a senior on that 93-94 Viking club that wore a section crown. “It’s a nice win. But our goal isn’t to beat Elco. It’s to win a section title. Since last week (a win at home over Annville-Cleona) this is what we wanted.
“It (the win over Elco) gives us a chance, where the end’s in sight,” added Wallace. “We’ve still got to take care of business. We don’t take anyone for granted. Hopefully this got us closer to our original goal.”
“They’re (the Vikings) a solid team,” Miller continued. “At every weight, they thought they had a shot to win. As a team, they’re rolling. They’re focused. They know what they need to do.”
What was most impressive about the Vikings’ performance was how they went about their business.
After dropping the opening bout at 145, 9-1 to Austin Rueppel and the Raiders, Northern Lebanon rattled off those seven straight wins to take firm control of the outcome. Undefeated sophomore Evan Daub got the Viking ball rolling with a 3:04 fall at 152, and heavyweight Anthony Deyo finished it off with a 45-second pin.
But there were other impressive performances by NL grapplers along the way. Viking Tyler Sellers also logged a fall, in 45 seconds at 195, Derek DiAngelis posted a dominating 12-1 triumph at 182, Craig Spitler notched a 14-5 victory at 160 and Matt Vines eked out a hard-fought win over Elco’s Chris Kreider at 220.
“They (the Raiders) tried to strengthen their lineup at a couple of places,” said Wallace. “We won the coin toss, so we could decide what we wanted to do. We know what Evan (Daub) is capable of doing.
“I don’t think any of our guys winning was an upset,” continued Wallace. “The confidence comes from our training. We feel we train harder than anyone in the world. That gives them (his wrestlers) a little extra confidence.”
“We’re not a point-getting team,” said Miller. “We needed to win eight matches to win the meet. We bumped kids. We had a plan and it didn’t work out. We lost in the first match. But that was the match we wanted.
“We needed to win eight matches and we won four,” Miller continued. “Could’ve we won eight? Yeah. We kind of got lackadaisical, and that pretty much said it all. I’m disappointed, but it’s not like it’s unexpected.”
With its backs against the wall, Elco did prolong the inevitable. A 6-3 triumph by Andrew Pasquele at 106, Chad Puglio’s 16-4 major decision at 113 and Nick Knight’s 12-7 win at 120 served to stem the Viking tide and give the home team hope.
But the unbeaten Blatt put the outcome to rest in the next bout, and his brother Quin followed with a 58-second fall at 132. Joe Embrowski’s 10-8 overtime victory at 138 placed an exclamation point on the victory and officially made the final score a rout.
“We won all the swing matches,” said Wallace, “or that score would’ve been a heck of a lot different. We have young kids who work hard.
“My coaches yell at me because I might be the most pessimistic guy in the world,” added Wallace. “I’m always nervous. It’s Elco. It’s a rivalry.”
“Every team we’ve wrestled has had a reason to win, but we haven’t,” said Miller. “We haven’t done a good job of coaching the kids. It’s been a while since I’ve had to coach inexperience. Today we didn’t wrestle well. I don’t think we matched their intensity. That’s our goal at the county tournament, to see how much we’ve improved.
With their wins, Daub and Caleb Blatt improved to 16-0. Quin Blatt is now 16-2 with 13 falls.
“We sit down at the beginning of the season, and the team goal was to win the section championship,” said Wallace. “If we trained hard and stayed injury free, we thought we’d have an opportunity. They have a tremendous work ethic. They have tremendous chemistry. I wouldn’t trade this team for anything in the world.
“That team I was on (in 1994) and this team have a lot of similarities,” continued Wallace. “We were a close, tight-knit group. We were just tough and out worked you. That’s something I’ll remember forever. Now we’re over the hump.”
“I’m frustrated. I’m disappointed,” said Miller. “I didn’t necessarily think we were going to win the match. But I thought we had a shot. Northern Lebanon is a nice team.
“We have four returning kids and that’s the smallest group I’ve ever had,” Miller continued. “And we’re lacking in leadership. It makes it difficult for everyone because we’re not on the same page. But we’ve got a lot of matches left and we can work on it.”