In his first two seasons, Blaise Bressler was a reliable cog in Northern Lebanon’s team wrestling machine, but not a standout.
This year, things have changed.
Bressler nailed a deep single-leg shot on Cocalico’s Max Martin and turned it into a takedown on his way to a 35-second victory by pin in the 152-pound final at the Lancaster-Lebanon League wrestling championships Saturday afternoon at Garden Spot High School in New Holland.
The win placed Bressler on top of the league’s medals podium for the first time in his career after back-to-back sixth-place finishes in his first two league tournament quests.
Bressler was one of two individual titlists for Northern Lebanon, which captured its second straight league tournament team championship by placing five wrestlers in the finals. He joined Luke Funck, who successfully defended his 182-pound title by pinning Warwick’s Logan Boring in 1:03.
How did Bressler turn the corner this season?
Mostly, he says, it’s been a matter of belief.
“Last year, if I saw someone I knew was good, I’d wrestle scared,” Bressler said after joining his teammates in celebrating the team title. “This year, I decided that I’m just as good as anyone I go up against, and I wrestled like it.”
Vikings coach Rusty Wallace said he wasn’t surprised at Bressler’s success in the title match.
“That’s Blaise,” he said. “He’s a dangerous kid. He can pin anybody from anywhere. He had a nice shot there, made a nice transition to the half and got the pin.
“He’s improved a lot. Last year, he lost to a lot of good kids by just a few points here and there. This year, he’s winning those matches.”
Bressler, a junior, said his plans for the future are a factor in his sudden rise. He’s beginning to look at college programs, and as he pointed out, “Most of them won’t look too hard at a .500 wrestler.”
Bressler is planning to have a career in the military; hopefully as an Air Force pilot. So he’s looking at a handful of military academies.
He also serves as a member of the Air Force Auxiliary Civil Air Patrol. He and his fellow crew members meet weekly at the Lebanon VFW, conducting drills. Among other duties, the Civil Air Patrol assists in aerial searches for missing persons and works at aircraft crash sites.
“I just can’t see myself doing a normal job,” said Bressler. “The Air Force has always appealed to me.”
In the more immediate future, Bressler hopes to be a part of deep postseason runs in the upcoming team and individual tournaments. He said he will continue to approach every match the same way.
“I feel like I’m as good as anyone else,” he said. “I feel like I belong.”
Funck’s postseason pedigree has already been well-established. He used his league championship last year as a launching point for a successful tournament run. He won individual Class AA titles in the District 3 and Southeast Regional tournaments before finishing fourth in the PIAA tourney.
This year’s run through the L-L League bracket took him a grand total of about four minutes. He won all of his matches by pin, earning the tournament’s Shorty Hitchcock Award.
“He was on,” said Wallace of his 182-pound senior. “It was a good tournament for him. He wasn’t challenged at all.”
For his part, Funck said he wasn’t expecting to win every match by pin. It just happened that way.
“It’s always shocking when it happens like that,” he said. “I’m always looking for the opportunity to get a pin. If what I’m doing doesn’t work right away, I just come back to it.”
106: Will Betancourt (Manheim Central) p Austin Jones (Ephrata), 1:38
113: Josiah Gehr (Cocalico), d Cameron Terry (Ephrata), 7-0
120: Jared Loose (Hempfield) d Colin Leonard (N. Lebanon), 9-7
126: Tanner Bell (Pequea Valley) d Nate Fritz (Cocalico), 7-1
132: Gabe Miller (Pequea Valley) tf Trevor Leonard (N. Lebanon), 17-2
138: Gary Clark (Garden Spot) d Grayson Charles (Solanco), 6-2
145: Pavel Dariychuk (CV) d Connor Finkey (Garden Spot), 5-1
152: Blaise Bressler (N. Lebanon) p Max Martin (Cocalico) 0:35
160: Josiah Barley (Penn Manor) p Jose Lao-Cooper (Manheim Twp) 1:55
170: Ben Root (Solanco) p Carlos Lugo (McCaskey) 3:01
182: Luke Funck (N. Lebanon) p Logan Boring (Warwick), 1:03
195: Ben Fromm (Cocalico) d Josh Weder (Solanco), 12-4
220: Evan Clark (Warwick) d Hunter Wallace (N. Lebanon), 7-3
285: Ryan Stewart (Warwick) d Brady Maxwell (Cocalico) 3-1, OT