HERSHEY – Entering the finals of the District 3 Class AA Wrestling Championships on Saturday at Hersheypark Arena, six wrestlers between Northern Lebanon and Annville-Cleona had the chance to fulfill their goal of an individual district championship.
By day’s end, half of those wrestlers had accomplished. their mission.
Five Northern Lebanon wrestlers had a chance for district gold, and three of them succeeded. What might even be more impressive is the Vikings also had all 13 wrestlers Saturday finish with a medal, leading to the additional bonus of 198.5 teaml points and the AA team championship.
“The kids battled and had a good day,” said Northern Lebanon coach Rusty Wallace Jr. “All five of the guys in the finals wrestled really well, too.”
The first champion of the day for Northern Lebanon was Quinn Blatt at 170, who rolled to a 16-4 major decision over Eastern York’s Dakota Mackley.
“It was a really good match. Everything played to my strong suits,” Blatt said. “I knew he was going to try upper body things, which is actually my more comfortable positions. I’m ecstatic.”
Luke Funck followed with a quick pin in 0:46 seconds over Littlestown’s Connor Geiman.
“I just went right to work on what I know how to do,” Funck said. “I didn’t know anything about him; I didn’t even look at the brackets. It feels great.”
That wasn’t the only pin for a championship - at 220, Matt Vines earned a quick pin of his own, this time in 1:08 over Boiling Springs’ Rickie Ott.
“I was trying to get the best out of it,” Vines said. “It feels pretty awesome. I’m looking for a little more this year, though. I want to medal in states. So hopefully we can do that.”
The only two losses of the day in the championship round came at 132 when Trevor Leonard fell to Bishop McDevitt’s John Pipa 5-2, and at 285 when George Thompson lost a close 2-1 match to Wyomissing’s Robert Dunbar.
Other place winners for the Vikings included Kyler Anspach finishing 4th at 106, Dustin Breidegan taking sixth at 113, and Colin Leonard also placing sixth at 120 despite an impressive come-from-behind effort.
Also placing for the Vikings was Zach Kelly finishing third at 138 with a pin in 1:38 over Bishop McDevitt’s Jayden Johnson, Steve Herb placing sixth at 145, Blaise Bressler taking fifth at 152, Luis Negreiros placing fifth at 160, and Hunter Wallace earning fourth at 195.
A pretty big reason for all the success this season for the Vikings was coach Rusty Wallace Jr., who was honored Saturday as District 3 Class AA Coach of the Year. And assistant coach Jim Collins was inducted in to the District 3 Wrestling Hall of Fame.
“It’s an honor just by the fact that it's voted by all the other coaches,” Wallace Jr. said. “But my coaching staff does so much for our program. It’s more of a group award. We wouldn’t achieve half of what we do without the kids, parents and coaching staff.”
For A-C, Josh Renninger came into the day as the only Little Dutchmen wrestler with a chance at district gold. After losing in the semifinals in two previous times in the district tournament, Renninger finally put himself in position to wrestle in the championship round, facing Boiling Springs’ Cole Wetzel. With the match tied at two late in the second period, things began to unravel for Renninger, as Wetzel took over from the late second period on in a 12-3 major decision.
“It was a good experience. I’m just going to have to work harder,” Renninger said. “I just couldn’t finish my shots, so I just have to work on finishing them.”
But despite Renninger’s loss, it was a pretty memorable and successful weekend for Lebanon County AA wrestling. Now it’s on to regionals next week at Wilson High School next Friday and Saturday.
CLASS AAA: One of the two remaining Class AAA wrestlers in Lebanon County was able to extend his season by qualifying for the PIAA State Tournament, which is March 10-12 at Giant Center.
Cedar Crest senior Jarell Howard-Griffin lost in the quarterfinals Friday night, but he won four consecutive consolation bouts, including three on Saturday, to earn a third-place medal.
Howard-Griffin defeated Jake Schalles of Cumberland Valley 7-2 to get started Saturday. He then edged Jake Kelly of Lampeter-Strasburg in the consy semifinals to guarantee a berth at states. Kelly had gotten the upper hand on Howard-Griffin in the sectional final a week ago, but this time the Falcon was able to ride Kelly 30 seconds in the ultimate tiebreaker for the win.
In the bout for third place, Howard-Griffin picked up a 4-2 verdict over Evan Morrill of Lower Dauphin.
Palmyra's Leo Higgins was eliminated in the third round of consys by Jesse Enck of Daniel Boone, 3-1.