HERSHEY – It may have been the defending state champion on the other side of the mat, but as always, there were two possibilities for Northern Lebanon's wrestling team: victory or defeat.
“We had two scenarios on paper,” Vikings coach Rusty Wallace said. “One we lost, one we won. I told the kids it would take a perfect match and a lot of team wrestling, but we absolutely could win.”
With a little strategy in the matchups and several wrestlers swinging bonus points in their favor, Northern Lebanon defeated Brookville 29-27 in the first round of the PIAA team wrestling tournament Thursday afternoon at Giant Center.
Up next for Northern Lebanon is District 4 champion Southern Columbia at noon Friday, back at Giant Center, in the quarterfinals. The Vikings will wrestle a second match as well, at 4 p.m. in the consolations with a loss or 8 p.m. in the semifinals with a win.
The Vikings (19-3) grabbed an 11-0 lead after three bouts against the District 9 champion, which allowed Wallace to use a little strategy for the 152-pound match. He put Ethan Walmer on the mat for his first varsity match of the year. Walmer was pinned by Caleb Hetrick in 1:29, but the value to the move was in who could then wrestle in the heavier weights.
“We won three of the next four,” Wallace said. “And Ethan [Herb] shaved some points, so that all worked out.”
The three wins, which put Northern Lebanon up 20-6, were a pin by Blaise Bressler against Clayton Peace at 160 in 1:31, a 3-1 decision by Luis Negeriros over Tyler Park at 170, and an 8-5 decision by Luke Funck over Xavier Molnar at 195.
But back to the points shaved by Herb at 182. Wrestling against a defending state placewinner, Noah Cielseki, Herb lost by decision, 6-2. The bonus points that were denied Brookville (21-2) proved crucial as the contest reached the final bouts.
“We picked up some bonus points and shaved some where we needed to,” Wallace said.
Holding a 29-14 lead with three bouts to go, Brandon Breidegan and Colin Leonard shaved more points to clinch the team win without winning their individual bouts. Breidegan lost 4-2 to Gabe Park, and Leonard lost 18-6 to Gavin Park. But that left the Vikings up 29-21 with one match left, allowing Wallace to forfeit the 126 match and leave Giant Center still in the winners' bracket.
Northern Lebanon built an 11-0 lead with early wins by Trevor Leonard, Zack Kelly and Steve Herb. Leonard earned a major decision over Steven Sorbin 10-0 at 132. Kelly posted a second shutout for the Vikings with a 3-0 decision over Donte Constable at 138, and Herb added a 12-2 major at 145 over Jacob Cable.
“You just have to be willing to fight for every point,” Wallace said. “We did a good job today of doing that.”
Other winners for Northern Lebanon were Kyle Sonnen, who won 2-0 against Colby Whitehall at 285 on a reversal with 30 seconds left in the match, and Kyler Anspach, who won 11-5 at 106 over Parker Fleming.