Northern Lebanon’s greatest moment on the wrestling mat may yet come this season.
But what the Vikings accomplished this past weekend will rank high on the list of achievements when this season is put to bed in a couple of months.
The site was the Hampton Coliseum in Hampton, Va., home to many college basketball and professional hockey events and notable concerts by iconic jam bands like the Grateful Dead and Phish.
The event was the 2016 Virginia Duals, and Rusty Wallace’s squad found itself center mat in the final of the national bracket opposite Pennsylvania Class AAA powerhouse and potential state title threat, Nazareth.
While the end result wasn’t what Wallace wanted, the trip south was certainly worthwhile.
“Our kids competed and competed hard,” Wallace said. “Nazareth was just better than us.”
That doesn’t mean the Vikings didn’t leave an imprint on the tournament itself. Before Wallace had the team transportation loaded to head home, tournament officials were inviting Northern Lebanon back for next season.
“In the last five or six years as we’ve grown, we’ve slowly increased the schedule and competition,” Wallace said. “Just being on that stage and wrestling a team like (Nazareth) was a pretty neat thing for the guys.”
Northern Lebanon defeated Fauquier (Va.) 53-15 in the opening round, then locked up with Battlefield, Va. After dispatching them 39-27, in the semifinals the Vikes met Colonial Forge, a team that entered the season nationally ranked, according to Wrestling USA. A season ago, Colonial Forge won the Class 6A championship in Virginia.
“Our guys wrestled really well against Forge (in a 40-29 win),” Wallace said. “We had a couple of swing matches that went our way.”
Among them, a Quinn Blatt 9-3 decision over Marco Mason and falls by Luke Funck and Matt Vines, Funck’s coming in 43 seconds.
Nazareth won the title match 46-21, with Funck, Vines and Trevor Leonard scoring pins and George Thompson winning a 5-0 decision.
Wallace said he always wanted to compete in the event, which is held annually.
“We were new to it, so we applied. It’s something I’ve always wanted to do but never had a chance to,” he said.
So Wallace sent an e-mail and heard back from the tournament, but found out they only had an opening in the 16-team national bracket. That mean warming up along side the likes of Iowa State and Virginia Tech, among other schools who competed in the college bracket.
“They do a super job there, it was definitely a worthwhile trip,” Wallace said. “Some of the teams we faced weren’t as tough as we thought, but individually they were solid.”
As far as the competition, Wallace said he doesn’t put much stock in upper classifications in other states, saying Pennsylvania is fine enough of a test.
That is a test the Vikings gear up for with just a handful of matches, including Tuesday’s postponed league match vs Elco, still on the schedule before the postseason heats up.
But the performance his team put for on national stage is something Wallace won’t soon forget.
“It’s a nod to the staff and to the kids to the amount of work they’ve put in the last five or six years to be able to compete like that,” Wallace said.