Palmyra s Ben Martin grapples with Exeter s Joe Giorgio last February in a 220-pound showdown at Hersheypark Arena. Martin narrowly missed qualifying for
Palmyra s Ben Martin grapples with Exeter s Joe Giorgio last February in a 220-pound showdown at Hersheypark Arena. Martin narrowly missed qualifying for states after losing the third-place bout 1-0. (FILE PHOTO)
Palmyra's senior 220-pound machine Ben Martin and his coach Adam Bunting will certainly forever remember the feeling they felt on the floor of Hersheypark Arena last February as Martin came one agonizing point away from advancing to states.

Now, Martin prepares for his senior year, certainly motivated by that feeling.

"It's disappointing, but the one thing you can look forward to is that he's only a junior and he has next year," Bunting said last year soon after Martin's heartbreaking 1-0 loss in controversial fashion to Exeter's Joe Giorgio. "It's just disappointing because you never know if you're going to get back here."

Getting back to that point is certainly the goal for Martin and Bunting entering the season. Martin also comes in with 83 career wins and 67 career pinfall victories. With a deep postseason run Martin could potentially come close to 100 career pinfall victories after putting up 21 as a sophomore to set the Palmyra single-season record, then shattered it last year with 28 of his 33 wins coming on pins.

This year, however, Martin won't be flying under the radar like he did much of last year. After an impressive showing in the PIAA District Three Class AAA 220-pound bracket, Martin returns as one of the top-rated wrestlers in his weight class, right behind two-time defending state champion Thomas Haines of Solanco.

"He's becoming known," Bunting said of his senior. "People will now be trying to knock him off. He's got a bull's eye on his back.

"He's working to improve his offensive attacks, instead of relying just on strength," continued Bunting about Martin's off-season work. "He's coming in a little bigger, so he's having to cut weight a little bit, but we'll get the extra two pounds soon, which will help."

Bunting has also worked around the schedule a little bit to help prepare his big man as well as junior 113-pounder Evan Bogdan, adding in several two-day individual tournaments in favor of removing several one-day four- and five-team dual meet tournaments.

"We've taken out some of the usual quad meets and replaced them with bigger 30-team, two-day tournaments," Bunting said of the schedule changes.

Martin had a good start to the 2012-13 season at the Brandywine Heights Bullet Invitational, which included teams like Central Dauphin and Manheim Central, among others. Martin went 3-0, capturing the 220-pound title with three pinfalls to bring his career wins to 86 and pinfall victories all the way to 70.

Also on the docket for the Cougars are the Columbia Tournament in two weeks, then the Governor Mifflin Holiday Tournament late this month and the New Oxford Tournament in late January.

Palmyra’s Ben Martin, top, wrestles Elco’s Chris Kredier at the 220 weight class during the Lebanon County wrestling tournament held at Cedar
Palmyra's Ben Martin, top, wrestles Elco's Chris Kredier at the 220 weight class during the Lebanon County wrestling tournament held at Cedar Crest High School last February. Martin, entering his senior season with the Cougars, went on to win the match by fall in :57 to claim the county championship. (FILE PHOTO)

What follows is a capsule look at the six high-school wrestling programs in Lebanon County:

  • ANNVILLE-CLEONA

    Head coach: Mike Miller (12th season)

    Lost to graduation: Cody Beattie (District 3 qualifier), T.J. Renninger (PIAA SE Regional qualifier), Zack Brandt, Austin Zechman, Tyler Eckenrode, Keller Hess.

    Returning wrestlers: Jeffrey Inman (sophomore, 132/138 pounds, 36-10, District 3 qualifier), Phil Corle (senior, 126/132, 23-18, 81 career wins), Matthew Darok (sophomore, 113/120, 33-8, District 3 qualifier), Tanner Pyles (junior, 132/138, 32-9, District 3 qualifier)

    Newcomers: Josh Renninger (freshman, 103), Orlando Bellaman (junior, 120/126), Luke Fies (Junior, 145/152), Brandon Light (Freshman, 182), Cole Orfino (Sophomore, 195)

    Outlook: "The keys to our success will be getting our wrestlers to the proper weight classes and finding bodies for the upper weight classes," coach Miller said of the keys to success for his program this year.

    Experience will be key for the Little Dutchmen, who took a step back in the Section Three race last year. With a large core of the lineup fairly inexperienced and few wrestlers in the upper weights, A-C will have to lean on its core of returning wrestlers in Inman, Corle, Darok and Pyles to pile up points in the lower weights.

    "We need to get experience quickly if we are going to be competitive in the section," said Miller, who predicts Lancaster Catholic and Donegal will top the section.

    Whatever the team results may be, the quartet of returning wrestlers all have good shots at not only making the postseason, but advancing deep into the postseason. Newcomer Josh Renninger could also push himself into the postseason mix as well.

    Annville-Cleona's Matt Darok, left, battles Elco's Chad Puglio during a 106-pound bout at Annville-Cleona High School last January. (FILE PHOTO)
     

  • CEDAR CREST

    Head coach: Barry Spohn, 5th season

    Lost to graduation: Sean Hughes (all-time wins leader at Cedar Crest and District 3 Qualifier), Cody Lloyd (2011-2012 L-L League Champion and District 3 Qualifier), Mike Fiore (District 3 Qualifier)

    Returning wrestlers: Lukas Gerdes (Senior, 182 pounds, 25-6), Bobby Beard (Junior, 152, 17-5), Austin Elliot (Junior, 195, 13-21), Adam Gilson (Junior, 182, 25-14), Pasang Sherpa (Junior, 160, 6-20), Austin Butts (Sophomore, 113, 8-21)

    Newcomers: Barry Breidegan (Freshman, 132 pounds), Anthony Fernandez (Sophomore, 195), Jared Hockley (Sophomore, 152), Layne Mulholland (Sophomore, 126)

    Outlook: "We will have a mix of some experienced guys and some new faces, a few of which are inexperienced, in the line-up," coach Spohn said of his team. "Unfortunately we will not be able to fill all the weight classes and have no backups at several weights."

    Numbers have been an issue recently for not just Cedar Crest, but most teams in the county, especially in the upper weights. Cedar Crest enters the year with just 16 wrestlers, five of whom are brand-new wrestlers.

    The Falcons are certainly not aided by losing three district qualifiers. Sean Hughes graduated and took with him the Cedar Crest all-time record in wins while Cody Lloyd took with him a Lancaster-Lebanon League championship, and Mike Fiore also took with him a district berth.

    While Gilson, Gerdes and Beard appear to be the leaders this year, they will get a boost from freshman Barry Breidegan, who went 17-0 last year in junior high, winning the Optimist Championship. Anthony Fernandez also joins the fray this year after a successful season last year at the junior high level, going 15-2.

    "Success will rely upon staying healthy and everyone improving throughout the season," said Spohn.

  • ELCO

    Head coach: Chad Miller, 15th season

    Lost to graduation: Dylan Hickernell (41-2, District 3 qualifier, L-L League Champion), Colton Dunkle (26-8, District 3 qualifier), Tom Price (20-6, District 3 qualifier), Zach Layser (28-14, District 3 qualifier), Dakota Black (22-12)

    Returning wrestlers: Matt Achey (Junior, 132-pounds, 28-8), Nick Knight (Junior, 126, 20-14), Chad Puglio (junior, 113, 21-13), Zach Bankus (junior, 152/160, 23-8)

    Outlook: After losing one of the more talented senior classes in a long time, Elco moves back to Class AA 10 starters down from last year's squad.

    "Last year's senior class, most were three and some were four-year starters," Miller said of last year's team. "A bulk of the kids, wrestling was their specialty.

    "We have kids in all weights this year. We have 25 kids, which is down from the usual."

    The positive for Elco even with the loss is its return to AA after spending several years up in AAA, and that may help allow some of the juniors to advance not only to districts but possibly regionals.

    "In AA, we may be able to advance more," said Miller. "Our goal for the juniors is regionals, at least. Worst case is it's an extra weekend of wrestling."

    Wrestling the extra weekend is certainly never a bad thing, especially for the kids. The Raiders should be able to be at least competitive in Section Three this year.

  • LEBANON

    Head coach: Carl Worrell, 3rd season

    Lost to graduation: None

    Returning wrestlers: Adam Kearney (seniors 170 pounds, 7-8), Steven Giraldo (junior, 145, 7-6), Kyle Clark (junior, 138, 6-11), Damien Mestizo (senior, 132, 3-19), Travis Dent (senior, 195, 5-9), Pablo Barroso (senior, 275, 5-5)

    Newcomers: Matthew Klein (sophomore, 145/152)

    Outlook: "We have 13 seniors this year after having none last year," said Worrell. "Our goal is to simply improve. It's always nice to win, but to improve is first and foremost."

    Lebanon should improve over last year's one win season as they simply have a fuller roster to go along with a lineup full of near .500 wrestlers. Matthew Klein has a lot of potential for the Cedars to go along with the senior-laden lineup.

    "I hope to see improvement over one win last year. It was tough to fill weights," said Worrell. "I expect to win more with only one or two forfeits."

    With a potentially near full lineup, Worrell points to the starting and development of the elementary program as a reason for renewed interest in the program.

    "We started the program four years ago, and they are just starting to funnel through," said Worrell.

    Brighter times ahead for the Cedars.

  • NORTHERN LEBANON

    Head coach: Rusty Wallace, 6th season

    Lost to graduation: Tyler Hitz (28-4), Ryan Daub (35 wins, state qualifier), Brandon Hauck

    Returning wrestlers: Issac Young (senior, 113 pounds, 7-17), Kody Kreiser (sophomore, 120, 14-21, District 3 qualifier), Holden Zeigler (senior, 145, 6-5), Evan Daub (sophomore, 152, 25-15, District 3 qualifier), Ryan Kelliher (senior, 170, 23-17), Tyler Weaver (senior, 195, 2-1), Anthony Deyo (senior, 275, 25-15, District 3 qualifier)

    Newcomers: Dustin Breidegan (freshman, 106), Caleb Blatt (sophomore, 132), Quinn Blatt (Freshman, 138), Joey Emborsky (sophomore, 145), Craig Spitler (Sophomore 160), Derek DiAngelis (Junior, 170), Matt Vines (Freshman, 220), George Thompson (Freshman, 220)

    Outlook: Losing a state qualifier is never an easy thing to overcome, especially a leader like Ryan Daub was last year for the Vikings. Outside of Daub, Tyler Hitz and Brandon Hauck, the Vikings return a lot to the table, including talented sophomore Evan Daub as well as two returning district qualifiers in sophomore Kody Kreiser and senior Anthony Deyo.

    With a full lineup, the Vikings could potentially push toward contending for the Section Three crown with Lancaster Catholic, Donegal, Annville-Cleona, Elco and Pequea Valley also in contention.

    The biggest story this year for the Vikings is what can they do with the legacy Ryan Daub left behind? Will they capitalize and build team momentum, or will it continue to catapult individuals into the postseason like Deyo, Kreiser, Evan Daub and even newcomers like the Blatts?

  • PALMYRA

    Head coach: Adam Bunting, 4th season

    Lost to graduation: Daniel Keller (15-10 last year), Jake Lehman (28-7, District 3 qualifier), Marshall Runkle (11-13), Gavin Schiavoni (19-4), Nathan Sutherland (7-8), Matt Wolf (23-8)

    Returning wrestlers: Ben Martin (Senior, 220 pounds, 33-4, District 3 qualifier), Evan Bogdan (Junior, 113/106 pounds, 28-8, District 3 qualifier), Dale Hall (junior, 126 pounds, 6-9), Joe Scipioni (Senior, 195 pounds, 15-18)

    Newcomers: Jamison Barker (Senior, 275 pounds)

    Outlook: "Our team goals are to make individual improvements," Bunting said entering the season. "We want the guys to make strides and peak at the right time.

    "We want to get Ben (Martin) and Evan (Bogdan) to the Giant Center."

    After losing a handful of seniors, the Cougars will simply lean on Martin, Bogdan and company for production through the season. Last year, Bogdan won a match at districts and will start out the season at 113 pounds but will likely drop to 106 for the postseason.

    Bunting sees promise as well in senior Joe Scipioni. Last year, due to Martin and the graduated Lehman taking up 195 and 220 pounds, Scipioni had to wrestle heavyweight to see time and was giving up sometimes close to 80 pounds. This year, due to Lehman's departure, Scipioni will drop to the 195-pound class.

    "He has district potential," Bunting said of Scipioni. "Last year he was 15-18 wrestling in a weight class way over what his weight was. He'll be a real strong 195."