Northern Lebanon’s Luke Funck circles around Elco’s Austin Rueppel during Wednesday’s match at NL Middle School. The Vikings won 45-23.
Northern Lebanon's Luke Funck circles around Elco's Austin Rueppel during Wednesday's match at NL Middle School. The Vikings won 45-23. (Joel Shannon - Lebanon Daily News)

FREDERICKSBURG - Unlike county rival Elco, the Northern Lebanon wrestling team does not have its own billboard. The Vikings, however, do have a chance at repeating as the Lancaster-Lebanon League Section Three champions.

Northern Lebanon took one step closer to defending its title by toppling Elco 45-23 in a Lancaster-Lebanon League match Wednesday night at NL Middle School.

Nine different Vikings raised their arms in victory, including five via pinfall. NL won five of the first seven matches to build an insurmountable lead and prove last year's triumph in Myerstown was no fluke.

Northern Lebanon ended a decade-long drought against Elco last January by dominating the Raiders 50-14. The victory propelled the Vikings to a perfect record in the section and an appearance in the District Three Class AA Team Championships -- a place usually reserved for the Raiders.

"They have a nice team; they have the kids right now," Raider coach Chad Miller said. "(NL coach) Rusty (Wallace) has put the time in and he gets kids to do stuff during the summer. They deserve all the success they have."

The Vikings improved to 9-0 and 4-0. NL can repeat as section winners by defeating Pequea Valley tonight and Columbia next Wednesday. Elco dropped to 11-3 overall and 1-1 in the league.

"We had to wrestle well, they really came after us," said Wallace. "They have a nice team; they have a lot of tough kids. We didn't have everything go our way, but we'll learn from our mistakes and get better for next time."

Senior Derek DiAngelis opened the night with a 9-0 major decision at 195 pounds, spotting NL to a 4-0 cushion. Classmate Matt Vines followed with an impressive pin at 220 pounds, needing 1:19 to dispose of Elco's Ryan Bennetch. The Vikings led 10-0 after two bouts.

"Wrestling is more important at Northern Lebanon than it is at Elco right now," Miller said. "It's not saying that our kids don't work hard, but it's not a priority and right now you can tell that."

Elco's first points came courtesy of heavyweight Wes Bankus, who pulled out a 6-2 decision over George Thompson to cut the deficit to 10-3. The Raiders never got any closer.

"If you want to be good, you have to wrestle all year round -- and we don't have that," said Miller. "It's not a downplay on our kids, but you have to accept it when teams beat you."

At 106, NL's Dustin Breidegan avenged a pair of 2012-13 losses to Andrew Pasquale with a pin late in the second round. Teammate Zach Kelly continued the onslaught with a technical fall over Sean Pasquale at 113 pounds.

"There were a lot of swing matches tonight," said Wallace. "On paper, we thought a lot of matches could have went either way."

Trailing 21-3, the Raiders regrouped behind a second-round pin by 120-pound standout Chad Puglio. Momentum, however, came to a screeching halt courtesy of the Blatt brothers -- Quinn and Caleb. The Viking siblings registered back-to-back first-period pins to remove any doubts about the outcome.

"They had a little bit of fire in their bellies tonight," Wallace said of the Blatts. "That was just what the team needed."

Quinn, a 126-pound sophomore, dispatched of Matt Achey in 1:27. Caleb, a 132-pound junior, wreaked havoc against Nick Knight in 1:13. The Blatts' bonus points increased the home team's lead to 33-9.

"Oh yeah, we were hyped up for this one. We needed to win this one," said Caleb, who improved to 15-5. "They were saying stuff, badmouthing us the entire time leading up to this match. I said, 'All right, we're going to come in with clear heads, and we're just going to go out and win.'"

Cody Kreiser added three more points for the Vikings with a dramatic decision over Nick Smith at 138.

Northern Lebanon’s Zachary Kelly locks up with Elco’s Sean Pasquale during the Vikings’ 45-23 victory Wednesday night at NL Middle
Northern Lebanon's Zachary Kelly locks up with Elco's Sean Pasquale during the Vikings' 45-23 victory Wednesday night at NL Middle School. (Joel Shannon - Lebanon Daily News)

"This was a huge win for us, a really big win," added Caleb, who posted a 42-8 record last winter. "This is getting us a little further. We have two more section matches. This win is going to give us momentum for our next match and the one next week."

The Raiders rallied in the second half of Wednesday's match, reeling off three straight wins between 145 pounds and 160 pounds. Elco's Randy Wintersohl pinned Joey Emborsky in a back-and-forth affair at 145, Austin Rueppel earned a technical fall at 152, and Zac Bankus controlled Craig Spitler for a major decision at 160.

Still, NL controlled the match, 36-23, with two weight classes remaining. Viking stud Evan Daub beat the first-period buzzer for a pin over Maksim Astakhov, and Travis Gates ended the evening with a comeback decision against Alex Centeno at 182.

"We train like crazy, and we work year-round, which is very helpful," added Caleb Blatt. "It's volunteer, not everyone on the team is there, but a lot of us are."

Northern Lebanon defeated Annville-Cleona 43-25 last Saturday in another matchup of undefeated Section Three squads. Elco hosts Annville-Cleona on Jan. 22.

"Hopefully the Lebanon County teams - between us, Annville and Northern Lebanon - can (finish 1-2-3)," added Miller. "It's never happened that we were the three best teams in the section. It's always been Lebanon is the weakest. It's never even been close to that."

Elco visits Lancaster Catholic on Thursday at 7 p.m. NL travels to Pequea Valley on Thursday.

"We're not overlooking anybody. Everybody's out to beat you," explained Wallace. "We got Pequea tonight - that's the next target. Then we'll look at Columbia next Wednesday."

High school wrestling
Lancaster-Lebanon League
Section Three
Northern Lebanon 43, Elco 25
at Northern Lebanon M.S.
195 - DiAngelis (NL) maj. dec. Rolon 9-0; 220 - Vines (NL) pinned Habowski 1:19; 285 - W. Bankus (E) dec. Thompson, 6-2; 106 - Breidegan (NL) pinned A. Pasquale 3:50; 113 - Zach Kelly (NL) tech. fall S. Pasquale 14-0; 120 - C. Puglio (E) pinned Campbell 3:27; 126 - Q. Blatt pinned Achey 1:27; 132 - C. Blatt pinned Knight 1:13; 138 - Kreiser (NL) dec. Smith 8-7; 145 - Wintersohl (E) pinned Emborsky 5:01; 152 - Rueppel (E) tech. fall Funck 18-3; 160 - Z. Bankus (E) maj. dec. Spitler 12-0; 170 - Daub (NL) pinned Astakhov 1:59; 182 - T. Gates (NL) dec. Centeno 6-4.