The Northern Lebanon wrestling program is getting another opportunity to battle against some of the top teams in the country - this time on a bigger stage.
The Vikings will face the No. 20 team in the country and defending state champions of New York, Hilton High School, Sunday at 10 a.m., with the match taking place at Cornell University.
This will be the feature match of the Cornell high school showcase.
NL coach Rusty Wallace said, “It’ll be a pretty neat environment, being surrounded by some of the top schools, and some of the top college teams on the East Coast. It’ll be should be a great opportunity for the guys.”
According to Wallace, the idea to participate in this match first came in October.
When it was discovered Athens High School, which was the original team invited to wrestle in the showcase, found out it couldn’t go due to a scheduling conflict, NL was then invited to Cornell to wrestle against Hilton.
Wallace said, “When we were asked if we were interested, we jumped on the opportunity to do something fun.”
It’s certainly going to be a memorable experience, but it will be perhaps the biggest challenge to date this season for the Vikings.
Besides coming in as defending state champs, Hilton also carries two No. 1 ranked wrestlers at their respective weight classes, including Yanni Diakomihalis, who is a two-time world champion as a senior.
Hilton also carries a No. 5 ranked wrestler.
NL will also be behind the 8-ball, having to forfeit one match, due to the fact that New York has an extra weight class at 99 pounds. Since the Vikings are the away team, they will need to follow the home state’s rules.
But despite some tougher circumstances and wrestling on a bigger stage, facing nationally ranked teams comes as nothing totally new for the Vikings, having experienced matches like this last year at the Virginia Duals, as well as earlier this season when they faced Nazareth, which was a top 10 team.
Wallace said, “Because of the schedule we wrestle, our guys really don’t look at who their wrestling. All matches are the same. Their approach is the same. Since they’re used to seeing pretty good teams at the tournaments they go to, they don’t really get concerned.”
The outcome however, won’t greatly affect NL in the standings.
Because the Vikings aren’t facing a non-PIAA team, the match will not count towards their power ranking. It will only count towards their overall record.
Fresh off their fifth straight Lancaster-Lebanon Section 3 championship, the Vikings will travel to Ithaca, NY Saturday afternoon, which will be a quick turnaround after they wrestle at Cocalico.
“Our guys are used to wrestling two-day tournaments,” Wallace said. “A lot of the tournaments we go to are two-day events. They’ll get a good night sleep and be ready to go in the morning.”
After the match against Hilton, the team will then stick around to watch the Cornell-Lock Haven match before leaving for home.
Stay tuned for a full recap early next week.