BY JEFF FALK
MYERSTOWN – For the better part of a decade, the Elco wrestling program has built a nice little tradition around conditioning, depth and competition for starting spots. This current version is vintage Raiders.
On Wednesday night, Elco used its familiar formula to take apart Northern Lebanon 54-18. Employing a full complement of 14 wrestlers, the Raiders collected four forfeits and gave up points – both individual and team – grudgingly.
Of the ten bouts that were contested, Elco won six of them, including the feature bout of the evening at 160. That’s where Raider senior Tommy Price defeated NL’s Ryan Daub by injury default to prevent Daub from claiming the 100th win of his career.
“This whole senior class will do whatever I ask them to do,” said Elco head coach Chad Miller. “When they wrestle, I know what to expect of them.”
“We didn’t wrestle poorly,” said Northern Lebanon head coach Rusty Wallace. “They out-gunned us a little bit, experience-wise. They have a great team. And we’ve got a lot of young guys.”
The triumph made Elco 15-2 on the season and 3-0 in Section Three of the Lancaster-Lebanon League. The Raiders will meet reigning section champ Annville-Cleona in the last week of the regular season in a dual meet that could decide the section title.
Northern Lebanon, which was beaten by the Little Dutchmen 52-22 a week earlier, fell to 3-5 overall and 0-2 in the section.
“Yeah, we have to win it,” said Miller of the section crown. “I don’t care if it’s with three teams, but that’s our goal. We’ve been second before. But they’ll (the section dual meets) get harder as they go on.”
“I think so,” said Wallace when asked if the section title will come down to Elco and Annville-Cleona. “They just have too much balance for the rest of the teams in the section. I don’t know who’s going to win it. I don’t know. They’re (Elco and Annville-Cleona) always fun to watch wrestle. They’ve got enough numbers to bump around. I don’t want to pick that one.”
With the result of the match made inevitable by the Raiders’ depth, the specators’ attention turned to the Price-Daub dual at 160. The outcome ultimately went to Price when a flu-ridden Daub became physically ill at the end of the second period and couldn’t continue.
But there were some tense – or intense – moments prior.
Daub scored the first seven points of the bout, before Price rattled off nine unanswered of his own. Price enjoyed a 9-7 edge when he was declared the winner, and forced Daub to look for his career milestone another day.
“We bumped Price up to get him a better match,” said Miller. “But we didn’t know what to expect. Price’s health has always been an issue and he was hurt earlier in the season. He’s very, very intense.
“I know Daub was on his way down (weight-wise),” Miller added. “He’s a good kid. But we weren’t just trying to prevent him from getting his 100th win.”
“I didn’t realize he was as sick as he was,” said Wallace of the now 14-3 Daub. “Last night, he was all bundled up with the chills. His goal wasn’t to win a dual meet against Elco. His goal is to get to the state tournament.
“To get to a hundred wins, number one, you’ve got to stay healthy for four years,” added Wallace. “There’s not many people who can do it in three. You’ve got to be tough. We’ve never ducked competition.”
Zach Carley was the only Raider to register a pin, while teammates Austin Ruepell notched a 15-0, 4:00 technical fall at 126 and Zach Layser recorded a similar tech fall at 3:01 at 145. Elco’s Chad Puglio scored the first four points of his 9-3 decision at 106, and Raider Alex Centeno opened an 8-1 lead on his way to a 12-3 triumph at 152.
“The season’s going well,” said Miller. “It started out rough, because we missed Price the first part of the season. But we did very well without him. I’m very pleased he’s OK, but it gave kids experience who didn’t have it.”
“We have some kids hurt and out of the lineup,” said Wallace. “We have four holes. Is it possible to win when you have four forfeits? Yes. But everybody’s got to bring their ‘A’ game. We don’t change our appraoch. It’s an individual sport with a team concept.”
Northern Lebanon’s triumphs came courtesy of Tyler Hitz, who improved to 16-1 with a 6-4 decision at 113, Evan Daub’s 14-8 win at 138 and Anthony Deyo’s second-period fall at 285 which left him 15-5. But perhaps the Vikings’ most inspirational vitory came at 160, where Ryan Kelliher logged a fall while trailing 7-1 in the third stanza.
“I’m a little upset because we got stuck at positions where we were winning the matches,” said Miller. “But the intensity was good in all the matches.”