Cedar Crest's Leonard is lone AAA wrestler standing from Lebanon County
HERSHEY >> When the final buzzer sounded, Annville-Cleona senior Josh Renninger rolled off his opponent then clapped twice in celebration as he advanced to today's District 3 Class AA semifinals with a thrilling 6-4 win over Northern Lebanon rival Caeleb Blatt at 132 pounds.
The two are quite familiar with each other, with Blatt recording two victories earlier this season, a 4-2 decision last week in the sectional tournament and a 5-2 victory earlier this season in a dual. This time, it was Renninger picking up the win.
Trailing 3-2 in the latter stages of the third, Renninger cut Blatt free from the bottom and pushed for a takedown. With Blatt in on a single, Renninger, working a counter, brought his other leg behind to earn the takedown.
"I just had a boost in adrenaline," said Renninger when asked what fueled his final push despite to two-point deficit. "I knew going into that period the last few times I wrestled him I wasn't able to turn him. I said to myself, 'I'm feeling real confident on my feet today,' so I let him up, and got that takedown."
Most wrestlers at that point, with less than five seconds remaining, are content to take the match into overtime, but Renninger wasn't satisfied, as he locked in a cradle and turned Blatt to his back to earn two nearfall points as time expired.
"As I got into that position, I knew right away my cradle was there, " said Renninger. "I took advantage of that and turned him."
It's the second time Renninger has reached the district semifinals, but this time, it's different.
"Freshman year I made it; this year it feels great," said Renninger, "especially beating a kid that I've lost to the previous times. I was just about sick of it. I knew I was the better wrestler, I knew I could beat him."
Renninger will be joined in the semifinals, which begin at 8:30 a.m. today at Hersheypark Arena, by teammates Jeff Inman (152) and Mark Wagner (160). The duo, unlike Renninger, each received byes due to top-two finishes in last week's sectionals and got to the semifinals in completely different manners. Inman recorded a 16-1 technical fall in 3:04, while Wagner needed overtime to defeat Trinity's Cole Forrester, 5-3.
Northern Lebanon, fresh off a PIAA team tournament appearance, sent five wrestlers into today's semifinals in 138 pounder Quinn Blatt, 145 pounder Joey Emborsky, 160 pounder Luke Funck, 170 pounder Evan Daub and 220 pounder Matt Vines.
Emborsky had the most thrilling match of the day for the Vikings, recording a takedown and three back points in the final 30 seconds to defeat Pequea Valley's Daniel Wanner, 8-5.
Emborsky trailed early in that match 4-0, but continued to push throughout to pull within one, 4-3, entering the third period.
On the advice of NL coach Rusty Wallace, Emborsky cut Wanner free with 42 seconds left and waited for Wanner to shoot before countering and turning his shoulders to the mat, earning some nearfall points and the victory.
"We were working on those yesterday," said Emborsky on the move. "(It's) a throw from a whizzer. I didn't think I'd have to use it today, but it went well."
The win not only put Emborsky in the semifinal, but also just one win away from qualifying for next weekend's Southeast Regional tournament, something that wasn't lost on him post-match.
"It's awesome," said Emborsky on reaching the semifinals. "If I can win one more, I'm guaranteed a spot at regionals. You don't need to be a district champ to place at states or be a top-three placer in the district to go to states. It's awesome. One more win and I'm there at regionals."
CLASS AAA >> Of the seven Lebanon County wrestlers who competed in the District 3 Class AAA Tournament on Friday, only one is left standing, Cedar Crest's Trevor Leonard at 126. Leonard fell 7-4 to Big Spring's Tucker Brough in the first round, but came back with consecutive 7-2 victories in the consolations, the last an impressive win over A.J. Wilson of Solanco.
Leonard still needs two wins Saturday to earn qualification to the PIAA Tournament.
Two locals won their first-round bouts – Barry Breidegan of Cedar Crest at 145 pounds (a pin in 5:44 over Tyler Davis of Reading), and Leo Higgins of Palmyra at 220 (4-2 over David Brubaker of Warwick). But both fell in the quarterfinals, and later lost again in the consolations.
In addition to Higgins and Briedegan, Crest's Jarell Howard-Griffin (182), Palmyra's Adam Kennedy (182) and Elco's Wes Bankus (285) all finished the day with 1-2 records, while the Falcons' Austin Butts was 0-2.
Contact Andrew Mease at 771-2022
Ed Gotwals contributed to this report