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The postseason for Lebanon County wrestling begins with this weekend’s Lancaster-Lebanon League Tournament.
Here’s a look at some of the story lines as the most exciting time in wrestling is just around the corner.
Northern Lebanon back to normal
Yes, you just read, “Northern Lebanon,” and, “back to normal” in the same sentence.
While enduring a grueling weekend last week of back-to-back matches at the Donegal duals followed by the big trip to Cornell University, NL also had to battle back from an unusual lackluster performance and loss against Central Dauphin.
But as one would think, the Vikings battled back and nearly beat the No. 20 team in the country, and are feeling good about themselves heading into the L-L tournament.
As if they even had the smallest of doubts anyway.
“Our kids are warriors,” NL coach Rusty Wallace said. “The worse the circumstances the better we perform. It’s a rarity to have kids that can battle in the most negative of conditions. There they were wrestling all day Saturday, drove all the way to Cornell and got minimum sleep, then wrestled a team of that caliber. They just battle. It’s so nice to have a group of kids that no matter what you throw at them, they’re going to be able to stand there and take it.”
Two Vikings wrestlers in particular who are poised for deep postseason runs individually are Luke Funck at 182, and Trevor Leonard at 132.
Funck can’t wait to get started, especially after all he accomplished last postseason, becoming the first Lebanon County wrestler to medal in the PIAA Tournament since 2007, after winning the district and regional championships at 182.
“I’m loving every minute of it,” Funck said. “I love the postseason time of the year. It gets kind of lonely towards the end, but last year it wasn’t lonely at all with seven guys at states. Hopefully that happens again.”
If there’s any NL wrestler who’s more than ready for the big stage of the postseason, it’s Trevor Leonard at 132.
In 33 matches Leonard’s wrestled, 12 have come against state place-winners or state-qualifiers, good for 36 percent of his bouts overall this season.
Wallace said, “When your schedule is like that, you don’t get concerned about an individual bout, because you’re pretty used to it. I like the fact our kids have confidence and know they’ve been to some pretty tough events.”
Elco looking to build postseason experience
The Raiders certainly have the momentum heading into the league tournament, after finishing the regular season earning coach Chad Miller’s 300th career win Wednesday at Annville-Cleona.
But by virtue of the way he builds his team year-after-year, Miller knows it’s going to be a work-in-progress with a majority of his wrestlers not having much experience on the biggest stages of the mat.
“I’m trying to get the kids motivated for the postseason,” Miller said. “It’s just tough because these group of seniors never have had a chance to get out of sections. That’s difficult. So their goals aren’t as high. But if our younger kids can get to districts this year, then they set their goals for regionals next year. But the individuals are going to take time. Once they get to districts, they’ll gain that confidence.”
One Raiders wrestler looking for some tournament success is Alex Puglio at 120, who finished his final match of the regular season with a win by fall in just under a minute.
“I’m ready to go,” Puglio said. “I just want to work on the things I’ve been working on and make them better.”
Annville-Cleona looking to regroup
Wednesday’s 28-point home loss to Elco saw some uncharacteristic bouts overall for the Dutchmen, which coach Jerome Simon didn’t see coming.
“We struggled on our feet in tie-ups,” Simon said. “We were making shots but not finishing them. We didn’t look comfortable. On top we wrestled tough, but on bottom we didn’t seem to get out as much as I thought we would.”
With the league tournament lingering quickly after, Simon says the recovery process is simply getting back to the basics.
“We’re going to have to really work our conditioning and technique,” Simon said. “Hopefully we’ll then begin peaking at the right time.”
One positive for the Dutchmen however, has been the improvement of Zach Renninger at 132, who looks to be the A-C wrestler with the best chance at a deep tournament run.
“He’s opening up and a lot better technically,” Simon said. “He did a nice job Wednesday (against Elco), and he’s been wrestling well all season.”