Highlights from Northern Lebanon's 70-3 win over Annville-Cleona Wednesday. Matt Catrillo/GameTimePA.com
FREDERICKSBURG – Annville-Cleona coach Jerome Simon knew this was going to be a learning year for his squad.
Despite having eight seniors returning, Simon has very little depth to work with.
In the midst of those obstacles however, the Dutchmen found their way to a 3-0 start, including 2-0 in Section Three, setting up a first-place showdown with powerhouse Northern Lebanon.
But the Dutchmen’s main Achilles heel certainly showed in the biggest test they’ll face all season, after suffering a 70-3 blowout loss to the Vikings Wednesday at Northern Lebanon High School.
“I hate to use the term rebuilding, but we don’t have a ton of experience overall,” Simon said. “The thing I told them was I wanted them to battle, and hit everything hard. For the most part, I thought they did wrestle hard and did a nice job pushing the pace.”
Now that his team has experienced an atmosphere like NL, with those kind of stakes on the line, the A-C coach can start pointing his team in the right direction.
“We wanted to have the tough matchups,” Simon said. “For the most part, those were the matches we had to see. We’re looking ahead to the leagues, sectionals, and possibly districts. We wanted to see what we have right now. Now our guys know what they have to work on.”
One Dutchmen wrestler in particular who knows some technique he needs to continue improving upon is Zach Renninger, who’s showed some promise, but suffered a bump in the road after a 15-0 technical fall loss in 5:00 to the Vikings’ Trevor Leonard at 132.
Simon said, “Trevor is very good on top and tough defensively on his feet. When on the bottom, Zach didn’t move enough, didn’t get hand control first, and just kept getting tilted, even when Zach had decent position. He had to get control before he ever moved to try and come up. That was Zach’s only chance and that didn’t work out.”
And dating back to preseason, Simon wanted Renninger to continuing improving on opening up, particularly in close matches, which Renninger had done to this point – but it did lack a little against Leonard.
“So far it’s been going well, but in this match he was a little cautious,” Simon said. “Trevor has a nasty chin whip, so any shot he would take with his head on the outside, Zach had to be aware of it coming. So I think that took away from some of Zach’s offense.”
Leonard, who’s faced Renninger numerous times while growing up, says his experience definitely paid dividends.
“Because of the tournaments we’ve gone to, I just feel like I’m on a different level than the local kids that haven’t gone," he said.
After taking a 5-0 lead on a three-point near fall, Leonard enjoyed smooth sailing, leading 10-0 after the second period.
“As soon as I got the takedown early, I knew I wanted to get some back points. I did try to pin or tech fall him, and ended up getting the tech fall.”
The lone positive for A-C (3-1, 2-1) came right off the bat at 126, when Hayden Funck won by a 9-2 decision over NL’s Chase Bressler.
“Hayden was very tough on stop,” Simon said. “He’s a very smart kid, and he’s been improving steadily with his hip position when on top. On his feet, he has nice defensive shots, and he’s starting to work on his takedowns. He’s progressing well since last year.”
Meanwhile for the Vikings (3-0, 3-0), who take over sole possession of first place in Section Three, it was the same old approach in making sure they took care of business.
“It’s the same mindset every time we wrestle,” NL coach Rusty Wallace said. “We just talk about everyone doing their job, and letting everything else just take care of itself.”
And each Vikings wrestler had a little extra juice for this particular match, as NL celebrated its second annual “Military Appreciation Night,” featuring a few teachers and elementary coaches in the Northern Lebanon School District who served or are currently serving our country. Anyone else currently serving also was recognized.
“It was a really cool environment. We had a nice crowd tonight,” Wallace said. “Anytime we can pay tribute to the men and women who serve our country…I’d have a military night every night if I could. It’s that important. Having a chance to honor some people who are closely related to our program…it’s an honor for us to be able to do it.”