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IMG_4320BY JEFF FALK

NEW HOLLAND – Northern Lebanon continues to build an impressive resume. The Vikings’ objective? To be recognized as Lebanon County’s best wrestling team ever.

On Saturday at Garden Spot High School, Northern Lebanon accomplished something no local grappling team has ever accomplished when it finished third at the 20th edition of the annual Lancaster-Lebanon League Wrestling Championships. The Vikings compiled 191 team points to finish a competitive third to team champion Penn Manors’ 212 and runner-up Solanco, which amassed 200 points, at a tournament which has not been kind to Lebanon County squads or individuals over the years.

IMG_4336Northern Lebanon, which has worn three straight L-L Section Two crowns, also became only the second Class AA team to finish among the top three in the heavily Class AAA-laden, two-day event. The Vikings, who were without regulars Matt Vines and Quinn Blatt, actually carried a seven team-point lead over Penn Manor going into Saturday’s final day of competition, on the strength of sending seven different wrestlers into weight-class semifinals.

But Northern Lebanon only went 2-5 in the semis.

“We don’t really think about that,” said Northern Lebanon head coach Rusty Wallace of his squad’s place in local wrestling lore. “We don’t compare ourselves to anyone. We just work constantly. They (his wrestlers) really believe in their hearts that they can win any place they go. I’ve been around Lebanon County all my life, and they would definitely be in the conversation.

IMG_4323“Our goal was to win,” continued Wallace. “I’m not sure there was a person outside of our team who thought we could do it. But our kids expect to win. They want to win.”

The only two Vikings to emerge from the morning semifinal round were 145-pound senior Joey Emborsky and sophomore Zach Kelly at 120.

Emborsky’s run at an individual championship was short-circuited by Dalton Groff of Solanco and a 4:51 fall in the final.

IMG_4400Groff tallied four points in a span of ten seconds late in the middle period to break open a close bout and forge a 6-0 lead. Then he took care of Embrosky for good 51 seconds into the final stanza.

Kelly nudged Hempfield’s David Good 6-4 in the semifinals, before being decked by Solanco’s Grayson Charles at the 1:40 mark of their championship bout at 120.

The only other Lebanon County competitor to reach the final of his weight class was Trevor Leonard of Cedar Crest at 126.

IMG_4421Leonard logged three falls on his way to the championship bout, before meeting his match in the form of Aldyn Miller of Hempfield.  Miller opened a 5-0 second-period advantage on his way to a 7-2 triumph over Leonard, now 23-5 overall.

“He had a great tournament, making it to the finals,” said Wallace of Emborsky. “He’s been out with an injury and has missed some time. He’s still trying to get his lungs back and clean up his technique. He’s coming into his own. But it was nice he got to the finals, because he was a three-time semifinalist.

“Every kid we brought here scored points for us, and they all scored bonus points for us” added Wallace. “That’s what makes us special. Every single guy contributes. They’re (his wrestlers) just solid from top to bottom, and that’s where teams start piling up points.”

IMG_4349Two Northern Lebanon competitors bounced back nicely from semifinal disappointment, to claim top prizes in the consolation portions of their brackets. Luke Funck grabbed third place at 160 pounds and improved to 26-8 with a 24-second fall, while senior Evan Daub, now 25-6, edged Donegal’s Connor Maxwell 2-1 in the consolation final at 170.

The third-place bout wasn’t as kind to Viking heavyweight George Thompson, who gave up a takedown with 15 seconds remaining in a 3-2 loss to Michael Kneisley of Conestoga Valley. Northern Lebanon’s Craig Spitler met a similar fate at 182, where he was topped by Cedar Crest’s Jarell Howard-Griffin 2-1 for third place.

IMG_4440The battle for third place at 132 pounds came down to a pair of Lebanon County competitors as well, as Annville-Cleona’s Josh Renninger opened up a 5-2 lead on Cedar Crest’s Austin Butts, before pinning him at the 2:39 mark. Fellow Little Dutchman Matt Darok struck bronze at 138 pounds, courtesy of a 6-2 triumph over Solanco’s Cody Hart.

“We didn’t have a bad tournament,” said Wallace. “An AA school finishing third, I’ve got to be happy about that. We left some points on the table in the consys. Overall, our kids wrestled really, really well. It’s pretty much all AAA schools here, and some are the best ones in the district, and we really battled them.

“We didn’t score a single point at 220, because Matt Vines was hurt,” Wallace continued. “If he had been here, we absolutely had a chance. But we have bigger team goals to reach. We had some matches in the consys we could’ve won. But all you can ask of the guys is to show up and battle.”

IMG_4423Northern Lebanon’s Dustin Breidegan copped fifth-place hardware at 106 pounds, with his 10-4 victory over Annville-Cleona’s Zack Renninger. In addition, Ross Fisher of Cedar Crest was fifth at 285.

Vikings Shawn Campbell, Caleb Blatt and Blaise Bressler claimed sixth-place medals at 126 pounds, 132 and 138, respectively. Elco heavyweight Zach Bankus, Raider 195-pounder Jeremy Habowski and Elco 160-pounder Austin Rueppel also finished sixth.

IMG_4389“It’s a grind,” said Wallace. “It’s a big tournament. You’re wrestling three or four times a weekend, against quality competition. It’s a difficult weekend. I don’t know if it was a case of not wrestling well. We just had some matches not go our way.

“It’s bittersweet,” continued Wallace. “Our guys want to win everything. They understand being from Lebanon County and being a (Class) AA school, how great of an accomplishment it is. They’re fighters. They’re warriors. All of them.”

For the third straight season, the Vikings will compete in the District Three Class AA team tournament, beginning on Wednesday, at a site and time to be determined.

“It’s (the Lancaster-Lebanon League championships) a tool to get better,” said Wallace. “We came here and competed. We sort of use this tournament to gauge ourselves. Now we know what we have to do, going forward. Our kids want to be in the district final. That’s all they’ve talked about since last year.

“This is the most fun I’ve had coaching a group of kids,” concluded Wallace. “I get a little sentimental when I think about the seniors. They see all the hard work they have done. It’s nice to see the process and nice to see the hard work pay off. We have the standard set for our program.’

IMG_4442Lancaster-Lebanon League Wrestling Tournament

Top 3 Team Place Finishes
1996
1. Warwick
2. Elizabethtown
3. Manheim Central
 
 1997
1. Manheim Central
2. Warwick
3. Ephrata
IMG_4360 1998
1. Solanco
2. Warwick
3. Elizabethtown
 1999
1. Solanco
2. Hempfield
3. Ephrata
 2000
1. Hampfield
2. Manheim Central
3. Garden Spot
  IMG_43772001
1. Hempfield
2. Ephrata
3. Manheim Central
 2002
1. Ephrata
2. Elizabethtown
3. Penn Manor
 2003
1. Ephrata
2. Hempfield
3. Lampeter-Strasburg
 
IMG_43582004
1. Hempfield
2. Ephrata
3. Penn Manor2005
1. Hempfield
2. Manheim Central
3. Ephrata2006
1. Manheim Central
2. Donegal
3. Cocalico2007
1. Warwick
2. Manheim Central
3. Garden SpotIMG_43642008
1. Elizabethtown
2. Warwick
3. Hempfield2009
1. Warwick
2. Solanco
3. Elizabethtown

2010
1. Solanco
2. Manheim Township
3. Cocalico

2011
1. Solanco
2. Garden Spot
3. Manheim Township

IMG_44602012
1. Solanco
2. Manheim Township
3. Garden Spot

2013
1. Manheim Township
2. Solanco
3. Garden Spot

2014
1. Solanco
2. Manheim Central
3. Garden Spot

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District Three

 Class AAA Power Rankings

AA School W L T Rating

1 Bermudian Springs 18 1 0 .738307

2 Boiling Springs 11 3 0 .699214

3 Delone Catholic 11 2 0 .676057

IMG_42794 Northern Lebanon 10 1 0 .671061

5 Newport 13 3 0 .626569

6 Hamburg Area 12 4 0 .598854

7 Annville Cleona 10 6 0 .564793

8 Biglerville 9 8 0 .562858

9 Brandywine Heights Area 10 7 0 .534191

10 Littlestown 12 8 0 .529451

IMG_443811 Camp Hill 10 7 0 .527112

12 Hanover 8 10 0 .496608

13 Schuylkill Valley 6 9 0 .479360

14 Trinity 8 12 0 .458008

15 Bishop McDevitt 5 6 0 .448162

16 Wyomissing Area 5 8 0 .429352

17 Upper Dauphin Area 4 7 0 .423725

18 Halifax Area 6 11 0 .383099

19 Lancaster Catholic 1 14 0 .323873

20 Pequea Valley 1 9 0 .309998

21 Eastern York 1 9 0 .288724

IMG_451022 Kutztown Area 2 14 0 .287014

23 Susquenita 1 10 0 .283213

24 Columbia 2 16 0 .283054

25 Fairfield 2 11 0 .267627

26 Tulpehocken 1 16 0 .225723

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