BY JEFF FALK
HERSHEY – Lebanon County has never been known for its wrestling. In fact, over the years, there are few sports in which the locale has enjoyed less success.
But quite unintentionally, and by simply focusing on its own goals, Northern Lebanon has changed the climate, has changed the thinking of the sport in the county. The Vikings have changed the game.
On Saturday morning at Milton Hershey School’s Spartan Center, Northern Lebanon captured Lebanon County’s first ever team wrestling championship by defeating Boiling Springs 39-24 in the Class AA title match. After they won the first six bouts and opened up a 30-0 lead, the Vikings held off the Bubblers by wrestling smart, playing the match-ups and fighting for every team point.
But while it was the locale’s initial wrestling team championship, the title was just another of the reigning Lancaster-Lebanon League and Section Three champions’ growing list of accomplishments. As the District Three champs, the second-seeded Vikings, now 17-1 on the season, will compete in next week’s PIAA Class AA team tournament.
The outcome also avenged Northern Lebanon’s 52-15 loss to Boiling Springs in last year’s District Three championship match. The top-seeded Bubblers, now 12-2 overall, were the five-time defending district champion, and still are the reigning PIAA Class AA title holder.
“Not really. It’s not important to us,” said Northern Lebanon head coach Rusty Wallace, when asked about the local historical significance of the Vikings’ title. “We care about the kids in our room. If we lose, it’s never going to be because of a lack of effort. We have four seniors, and we’re going to bring ten of those kids back.
“It’s important,” continued Wallace. “For me, I get a little emotional because I’ve coached some of these kids since they were five years old. The first year I coached, we had six kids on the varsity team. They wrestle 365 days for this moment.”
The match commenced at 170 pounds, where Quinn Blatt got the Vikings off on the right foot with a first-period fall. Hunter Wallace followed suit at 182 by recording a 20-4 technical fall. And undefeated Luke Funck pushed the Northern Lebanon advantage to 15-0, with a 14-6 major decision – after enjoying leads of 9-1 in the first period and 12-3 in the second.
But the Vikings were just getting started. Northern Lebanon 220-pounder Matt Vines joined in with a first-period fall, and heavyweight George Thompson turned a 2-0 first-period lead into a 4-3 decision.
Kyler Anspach completed Northern Lebanon’s opening flurry when he received a forfeit at 106 pounds.
“When we won the turn, we knew we had a shot at all of them,” said Wallace. “That early start was really big for us. We do have flexibility in our lineup. A lot of people watch out for Luke, and Hunter helps us out tremendously.
“We started at the right weight,” continued Wallace. “We knew we were favored in some of the matches. But we got out to a lead. The flip was big. But our guys battled really, really well.”
It was a lead Northern Lebanon fought valiantly to protect.
After the Bubblers captured the 113 to 126 weight classes to pull to within 30-14, Trevor Leonard scored perhaps the Vikings’ most important victory in a ‘swing’ bout at 132. Locked in a two-all tie with Boiling Springs’ Cameron Palmer, Leonard came up with a fall 12 seconds before the end of the first period.
“Trevor’s wrestling on another level right now,” said Wallace. “There’s not a lot of kids in the state who can beat him right now.
“I don’t know if we could’ve wrestled any better,” Wallace continued. “If I could’ve sketched the perfect match, we may have wrestled it. Our guys don’t shy away from hard work.”
Appropriately enough, Northern Lebanon clinched the title with a loss, at 145. Viking Blaise Bressler dropped an 8-5 decision to Boiling Springs’ A.J. Kostyak, but refused to give up bonus points.
“Team wrestling,” said Wallace. “We preach that. It’s not the kids who get the easy pins for you. It’s the kids who aren’t favored who fight and battle.
“We know them (the Bubblers) well,” Wallace added. “We see them in the spring. We seem them in the summer. We know their coaches. There’s no hatred there, but we’ve got to beat them. We have respect for them.”
Northern Lebanon’s final win of the match came from Stevie Herb at 152. Herb opened a 2-0 first-period lead on his way to a 9-3 decision over Nick Kostyak.
“This isn’t our goal,” said Wallace. “We didn’t mention the district title once to our kids. You don’t have to win a district title to win a state title. It’s a goal, but not ‘The’ goal.
“That’s (a state championship) the end goal,” concluded Wallace. “That’s absolutely what you want. That’s what we do the work for.”
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District 3 Class AA Championship
(at Milton Hershey School’s Spartan Center)
Northern Lebanon 39, Boiling Springs 25
170 — Quinn Blatt (NL) p Kaiden Karper, 1:28.
182 — Hunter Wallace (NL) tf Cory Calaman, 20-5, 4:25.
195 — Luke Funck (NL) md Austin Taylor, 14-6.
220 — Matt Vines (NL) p Damon Jones, 0:57.
285 — George Thompson (NL) d Rickie Ott, 4-3.
106 — Kyler Anspach (NL) won by forfeit.
113 — Kollin Myers (BS) p Jarrett Huber, 1:18.
120 — Jalin Hankerson (BS) tf Dustin Breidegan, 20-5, 5:22.
126 — Tristan Hanshaw (BS) d Colin Leonard, 10-6.
132 — Trevor Leonard (NL) p Cameron Palmer, 1:48.
138 — Cole Wetzel (BS) tf Zach Kelly, 21-6, 5:51.
145 — AJ Kostyak (BS) d Blaise Bressler, 8-4.
152 — Stephen Herb (NL) d Nick Kostyak, 9-3.
160 — Travis Wickard (BS) d Luis Negreiros, 1-0.
2015-16 Northern Lebanon Wrestling Results
@2015 Mule Classic Tournament
|7:00 PM||W 69-6|
@Northern Lebanon @ Barnesville
|7:00 PM||W 69-4|
|9:00 AM||W 66-15|
|9:00 AM||W 62-16|
|9:00 AM||W 71-6|
|9:00 AM||W 44-27|
|9:00 AM||W 55-16|
|7:00 PM||W 47-27|
@2015 Bethlehem Liberty Holiday Classic
|8:00 AM||W 53-15|
|8:00 AM||W 39-27|
@Colonial Forge (VA)
|8:00 AM||W 40-29|
|2:00 PM||L 21-46|
|7:00 PM||W 61-16|
|7:00 PM||W 64-9|
|7:00 PM||W 78-6|
@2016 L-L League Wrestling Championships
|6:00 PM||W 62-4|
|7:30 PM||W 59-9|
|10:30 AM||W 39-25|