FREDERICKSBURG – Now with things turned around, the Northern Lebanon wrestling team can re-set its sights on loftier goals. Settling old scores along the way, well that’s just an added bonus.
The Vikings may have officially returned to prominence on Thursday night, when they took down old nemesis Annville-Cleona 43-33 in a dual meet dripping with Lancaster-Lebanon Section Three title implications. After the lead had changed hands on four different ocassions through the middle of the match, Northern Lebanon asserted itself in the upper weights.
The triumph marked the first time in six years that the Vikings have defeated the Little Dutchmen in a dual meet. It also elevated Northern Lebanon to 6-1 overall and 3-0 in the section.
Annville-Cleona, which has enjoyed more team success than any other wrestling program in Lebanon County over the past decade, fell to 10-4 on the season and 2-1 in the circuit.
“You’re always nervous that it’s Annville,” said Northern Lebanon head coach Rusty Wallace. “You know they want to come out and pound you. I told our guys, ‘You have to show up to wrestle.’ And when that first whistle blows you’ve got to have confidence all the hard work we put in in practice is going to pay off. When they (his wrestlers) go out on the mat, they know they’re the better conditioned team.
“I do not know the last time we beat them,” added Wallace. “But it’s always been a rivalry. You want that. We always get up for the Annville match. In the past couple of years we’ve been having trouble with our numbers. Filling all the weight classes, that’s half the battle. They (his wrestlers) truly believe they are great.”
“Everybody went hard,” said Annville-Cleona head coach Mike Miller. “But I didn’t see a lot of taunting. There’s a mutual respect there. It was a good hard wrestling match.
“Even if you don’t like wrestling, you’ve got to like the competition,” Miller added. “They (the Vikings) wanted to beat us. We wanted to beat them. I’m not disappointed at all. They (the Vikes) did a nice job. They have a nice team.”
With emotions running high in a packed gym, the bout that may have turned things in Northern Lebanon’s favor permanently was the one at 182. Down 21-19 on the scoreboard, Viking Tyler Sellers turned a 14-9 lead into a third-period fall.
That gave Northern Lebanon a lead it would never relinquish, as three of Sellers’ teammates followed with falls. Derek DiAngelis needed just 22 seconds to work his magic at 195, NL 220-pounder Matt Vines opened up an 8-0 cushion before sticking his Little Dutchman in the second stanza and Viking heavyweight Anthony Deyo turned in a 53-second fall that gave Northern Lebanon a 43-21 advantage and clinched the win.
“We had a couple of matches we lost that we needed to win,” said Wallace. “We gave up a couple of pins we shouldn’t have. Their (his competitors’) motto is ‘Family.’ It was written on the back of their shirts. They would literally die for each other. They’re there for one another.”
“The score was closer than I thought it would be,” continued Miller. “But it wasn’t the result I expected. We had matches set up where we wanted to take more points.”
Trailing 15-13, Northern Lebanon regained the lead at 160 pounds, where sophomore Evan Daub remained unbeaten with a dominating 4:35 fall. Annville-Cleona went back on top at 170, when Justin Ulrich worked a second-period pinning combination while on the wrong end of a 7-1 score.
“We were pretty much locked into spots,” said Wallace. “We didn’t have any place to go. They (the Little Dutchmen) had a little flexibility. We weren’t bumping around. We knew who we were going to go to.
“We were able to win the ones at the top,” Wallace continued. “They were exciting matches up top. Once we got the momentum, you could feel it.”
Northern Lebanon won the first two bouts to grab a 7-0 lead. Cody Kreiser pulled out a thrilling 15-11 overtime victory over A-C’s Orlando Bellaman at 120 and Caleb Blatt improved to 15-0 with a 15-2 major decision at 125.
But Annville-Cleona claimed the next three bouts, as 12-2 senior Phil Corle shaded Quin Blatt at 132, Dalton Himmelberger reversed a 6-2 deficit into a 3:55 pin at 138 and Jeff Inman, now 14-0, logged a 1:35 fall at 145. But NL’s Craig Spitler stemmed the Little Dutchmen tide with a third-period fall at 152.
“We’ve been working real hard the last couple of years,” said Wallace. “We only started three seniors tonight. Our numbers are better, and we changed the attitude and changed the expectations.”
“They’re (the Vikings) young guys too,” said Miller. “The Blatts are tough. But at other places they have good guys too. Little Daub’s only a sophomore, but he’s a hammer in their lineup. And Kreiser wrestled an awesome match at 120.
Annville-Cleona 106-pounder Josh Renninger improved to 13-1 with a first-period pin, while Little Dutchman Matt Darok moved to 12-2 with a 1:31 fall at 113.
“To be honest, I didn’t even know we had Elco next, until I just looked at the schedule,” said Wallace of his team’s next Lebanon County showdown. “But the kids knew it. It’s been a while since we’ve beaten some of these teams.”
“Actually, I am pleased where we are,” said Miller. “There’s young kids there. We’ve got to learn how to not give up that pin. The younger guys don’t understand. It’s a new experience. They’re learning there’s strategy involved.
“Hey, it’s (the section race) not over,” Miller continued. “One loss. It’s all about who you match up against. But Northern Lebanon has beaten Donegal, (Lancaster) Catholic and us.”