One could look at all Matt Vines has accomplished in his time inside the Northern Lebanon wrestling room and, from an outsider’s perspective, think he’s done plenty already.
Here’s the thing you need to know first and foremost about Vines, now a senior for Rusty Wallace’s Vikings.
He’s not done yet. Not even close.
As the last three seasons have progressed, Vines has gotten better and better each step of the way.
Up next on the to-do list: 100 wins. Barring health issues, that will happen in mid-season.
After that, a section title, followed by a district title and then, if storybook endings can be predicted, a state medal.
Then? Studying robotic engineering at a campus anywhere Vines wants to call home for a few years.
Vines doesn’t have a wild pregame routine; in fact, he says he prefers to not even think about the match he has on a given night, so as to not out-think himself.
But when he’s on the mat, he’s all business and a major reason why, along with eight other returning wrestlers, Northern Lebanon looks to repeat as section champs and go beyond.
“My season last year was a little difficult,” Vines said during a recent practice. “I was out for three weeks with the leg injury, a hematoma, and I missed regionals by one point, then I had to win one more match to get to states. That was my goal last year, to place in states, and that is my goal this year, if not to win it.
“Hopefully the hard work we put in in the room will get us there; hopefully we win them as a team and win them individually.”
Vines referred to the time he missed with a leg injury, that not only nearly cost him the season, but his leg all together. His right leg stills shows some of the discoloration from the swelling.
Once he was cleared, Vines was one of the catalysts to a Northern Lebanon run through the District 3-AA team tournament and a spot in the state tournament.
Vines’ career to date is not shabby for a wrestler who only picked up the sport as an eighth grader, when he was told it would help him become a better football player.
His focus going into the 2015-16 season is clear.
“Losing that match at regionals [last season] really stuck with him,” Vikings coach Rusty Wallace Jr. said. “That’s the most personally I’ve ever seen him take a loss. He knew he should’ve been at the state tournament and wasn’t. I think that motivated his offseason, his conditioning, and it motivated the way he approaches practices because he knows he has to be at states this year. He knows he has to place. That’s what he has to do.”
Vines has posted 87 wins in his career, including 31 and 30 in each of the last two seasons. But he feels like his most important victories will come when the Vikings hit the mat for the regular season, which begins this weekend. Next Tuesday, the Vikings, who have high aspirations as a team, have a showdown with Donegal at home.
But for Vines, the focus will be about writing that storybook ending. After all, with a focus on his major in college, this season might be the final time he wears a singlet.
“I’m looking for my major for colleges,” Vines said “If they want me to play sports, I’ll play for them. I have this, football and track.
“That’s why I want to have a good last year of high school because it might be the last time ever. It’s just I feel like the schooling part is a lot bigger of a deal. The sports are a big part of my life. It would be a little rough to give it up, but I am willing to make that sacrifice.”
There’s plenty left to do for Vines and his Vikings teammates.
Northern Lebanon Vikings
Head coach: Rusty Wallace Jr., ninth year.
Last year: 16-4
Returning starters: Matt Vines (sr., 220), Luke Funck (jr., 160), Dustin Breidegan (sr. 106), Zach Kelly (jr., 120), George Thompson (sr., 285), Quinn Blatt (138),
Newcomers: Trevor Leonard (126)
Quotable: Wallace said, “It’s neat because when I came to Northern Lebanon in 2007 I started coaching the elementary program, so a lot of these kids I had as second- and third-graders when I started coaching. To be able to follow them up through, they were remarkable youth kids and in their junior high career and now they’re doing some cool things at the varsity level. The attention they get doesn’t really bother them. Everything they do, they expect to do,”
Notes: Leonard transferred from Cedar Crest, where he won 30 matches a season ago … Vikings waste little time getting into the meat of their schedule, tangling with Donegal on Tuesday.
Season opener: Saturday, at the Solanco Tournament
Annville-Cleona Little Dutchman
Head coach: Jerome Simon, 2nd year.
Last year: 11-8
Returning starters: Josh Renninger (sr., 138), Brandon Light (sr., 220), Mark Wagner (sr., 182), Zach Renninger (so., 120), Colin Myers (sr., 113-120), Kurt Reigle (sr., 145).
Newcomers: Hayden Funk (fr., 113), David Fiebig (sr., 145).
Quotable: Simon said, “Working together as a team in practice and a tough schedule should help prepare us for the postseason.”
Notes: It's going to be hard to replace Jeff Inman, who won districts as a junior and repeated as a senior a season ago. 10 total wrestlers qualified for the district tournament last year, headlined by Inman, who was the first two-time district champion in school history … Inman and Josh Renninger competed in the SE Regional tournament last season as well, and qualifyied for the PIAA tournament.
Season opener: Dec. 10, at Columbia.
Head coach: Chad Miller, 21st year.
Last year: 19-5
Returning starters: Alex Puglio, Cam Krow, Shawn Price, Ryan Rolon, Jeremy Habowski, Owen Nell.
Quotable: Miller said, “We should be our normal consistent Elco team. We have no real strong individuals that will make a run at states.”
Notes: Over a 14-day span in January, the Raiders will tangle with Northern Lebanon (Jan 12), Donegal (Jan. 21) and Annville-Cleona (Jan. 26), a perfect primer for the Lancaster-Lebanon tournament, starting three days after that matchup with A-C … Miller is inching toward 300 career wins, sitting at 266-111 all-time headed into the opener next week.
Season opener: Dec. 10, at Pequea Valley.
Cedar Crest Falcons
Head coach: Barry Spohn, 8th year.
Last year: 3-17, 0-6 Lancaster-Lebanon I
Key starters: Barry Breidegan (sr, 152), Jarell Howard-Griffin (sr, 182), Ross Fisher (jr., 285)
Newcomers: Tayte Bruckhart (so., 195)
Quotable: Spohn said, “Success will be measured in improvement throughout the season. We will be very inexperienced at weights, which will make dual meet success very difficult this season against teams in our section. We will have a little more emphasis this year on the individual tournaments for our experienced wrestlers and getting matches to help our new wrestlers develop.”
Notes: Spohn feels that Breidegan and Howard-Griffin could make a run into March -- both qualified for the District 3 tournament a season ago … The Falcons are in a tough section with powers Solanco, Penn Manor and an improving Hempfield team in the mix … Spohn will have three freshmen in the fold: Matthew Rodriguez at 106, Sebastian Lausch at 132 and Phillip Weidman at 138; Lausch went 10-10 in junior high a season ago … Among those the Falcons will replace are Austin Butts, who went 32-12 last year.
Season opener: Friday, at the Newport Duals.
Head coach: Vaughn Black, third season.
Last year: 2-14, 1-6, Lancaster-Lebanon Section I.
Key starters: Jose Barrios (so., 113), Trever Amprister (jr., 220), Tommy Blair (sr., 138), Anthony Anazagazty (sr., 160), Benjamin Kutz (sr., 152), Lucas Imm (sr., 285)
Newcomers: Jocsurier Alvorez, sr.; Alex Hartman, sr.; Austin Muzzy, jr.; Brandan Smith, jr.; Nicholas Bradley, so.; Jommo Gathara, so.; Gustavo Guzman, so.; Keiano Stephens, so.; Angle Samuels, so.; Tavin Sumlin, so.; Jamie Gomez, fr.; Dallin Oasio, fr.
Quotable: Black said, “Our team must continue to be dedicated to our system and continue to work hard and push each other on the mat as well as the classroom,” .
Notes: Imm, also a standout two-way lineman for the Cedars' football team, won six matches by fall a season ago and Black is depending on him to lead the way ... He pegs Imm, Kutz and Barrios as the trio who could have postseason succes s… Added Black about his roster: “Our only concerns are keeping everyone healthy and filling all of the weight classes.”
Season opener: Dec . 10 vs Conestoga Valley.
Head coach: Frank Landis, first year
Last year: 0-13
Key starters: Leo Higgans (jr., 220), Josh Myers (so., 106-120), Chris Cisney (jr., 138), Kyle Cisney (jr., 145), Bryce Whitney (so., 120)
Quotable: Landis said, “We are low in numbers, but we have a really good group in the middle school. We will end up forfeiting a couple of weights, but on the plus side we are returning a couple of guys from last year who are going to be good.”
Notes: Landis takes over for former head coach Adam Bunting, who moved on to Garden Spot. Landis said he knew this summer, even though his hire came a little later, and said he was preparing for the move … Landis is a former two-time district qualifier, and competed as a wrestler in the Palmyra program from grades 4-12 … Landis also was a member of the Millersville wrestling team before transferring to Penn State.
Season opener: Saturday, at the Brandywine Heights Tournament.