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With the depth needed to fill out a 14-weight class lineup lacking, quality Susquehanna County wrestling teams came up short in some key situations this season.
Montrose chose not to be considered for the District 2 Dual Meet Championships. Susquehanna and Elk Lake were among the three teams tied for first in Division II of the Lackawanna League, but lost a three-way wrestle-off to Scranton Prep in a format that added emphasis to having a full and stable lineup.
Those disappointments, however, could not disguise the number of talented individuals the county featured this season.
That talent was on full display in Friday and Saturday's District 2 Class AA Championship.
Although the county had just five of the 16 teams in the event - and none in the top four in the standings – county wrestlers grabbed half of the gold medals. Another five county wrestlers advanced to next week's Northeast Regionals by finishing in the top three in their weight classes.
Jeff Olienacz, Jeff Snyder and Larry Lundy all won titles for Montrose, which tied Western Wayne for fifth in the team standings with 100 points. West Scranton won with 162, followed by Lake-Lehman with 156.5, Wilkes-Barre Meyers with 131 and Hanover Area with 112.5.
Each of the other county schools had one champion.
Elk Lake, which was ninth with 90 points, got a title from Mike Noldy.
Justin Herbert won for Blue Ridge, which was 10th with 88.5 points.
Travis Cordner won for Susquehanna, which was 12th with 72 points.
Mountain View's title came from Matt Panasevich. The Eagles were 13th with 61 points.
Louis Villella of Blue Ridge and Greg Nixon of Mountain View each reached the finals before losing.
Travis McArthur and Larry Hardy of Blue Ridge, along with Dylan Griffiths of Elk Lake, reached regionals by finishing third. All three suffered their first loss in the semifinals, but recovered with two straight wins.
County lightweights won the first three titles.
Montrose's Oleniacz made up for a one-point loss in last year's final by pinning West Scranton's Joe Palmitessa in 2:26 of the 103-pound final.
Olienacz pinned Elk Lake's Kyle Teed in 1:40 and decisioned Wilkes-Barre GAR's Peter Hooker, 7-3, to reach the final.
Susquehanna's Cordner turned in a dominant effort at 112. He pinned Jeff Konetski of Hanover Area in 1:38 and decisioned Steve Tredinick of Meyers, 15-2, to reach the final where he put away Western Wayne's Ronnie French in just 1:42.
Snyder gave Montrose its second title when he repeated as champion. After winning at 112 last season, he won at 119.
Snyder had two first-period pins Friday, then two major decisions Saturday. He beat GAR's John Lord in 35 seconds, Susquehanna's Ed Lawson in 1:57, Blue Ridge's McArthur, 17-3, and Scranton Prep's Mike McLane, 13-4.
The other county titles came in four of the last five weight classes. The only exception in the upperweights was returning state finalist Kyle Davis of Valley View, who produced his fourth straight district title by winning at 215.
Blue Ridge's Justin Herbert got the closing streak started with a technical fall victory at 160 in his fourth straight appearance in a district final.
The championship win was the third straight technical fall for Herbert after a 51-second pin of GAR's Matt Jakubowski in the opening round. Herbert beat Montrose's Dominic Lucenti, 15-0, in 1:15, and Dallas' Josh Anderson, 16-0, in 2:07, before beating Zack Martinez of Hanover Area, 18-3, in 5:45 of the final.
Elk Lake's Noldy won at 171 pounds with the help of two close decisions, including an 8-4 victory over Hanover Area's Dave Paveletz in the final.
Noldy started with a pin in 1:35 over Lackawanna Trail's Blake Smith. He decisioned Blue Ridge's Tim Graf, 4-1, before handling Mountain View's Levi Matulevich, 18-0, in 4:59 of the semifinals.
Mountain View's Panasevich improved to 2-1 in a series of tight battles with West Scranton's Dave Dozack this season by pulling out a 3-2 decision in the 189-pound final.
Panasevich needed just 1:18 on the mat for two wins Friday before working through two low-scoring decisions Saturday. He pinned Valley View's Corey Gerek in 36 seconds and Lackawanna Trail's Jay Selwood in 42 seconds. He decisioned Hanover Area's Mike Pointek, 5-0, in the semifinals.
Lundy, a Montrose senior who has been a record-setting district champion in track and a starting lineman in football, won the 275-pound title in his first season as a wrestler.
Lundy edged Adam Ostrowski of Meyers, who had wrestled as a youngster but was also in his first season on the high school level, 4-2, in the final. Lundy slipped past Alan Pugh of Dallas, 5-2, in the semifinals. Lundy pinned Chris Ryan of Nanticoke in 40 seconds of their Friday quarterfinal.
Blue Ridge's Villella, who won a title a year ago, had to settle for second place at 130 pounds. He dropped a 9-6 decision to John Hettes of Dallas in a match-up of returning champions.
Villella reached the final with two pins and a major decision.
Mountain View's Nixon finished second for the second straight year. He lost to Lake-Lehman's Andy Josuweit, a three-time champion, by pin in 3:58 of the 145-pound final.
Nixon squeezed by Elk Lake's Griffiths, 4-2, in the semifinals.
Griffiths recovered to beat Brandon Owens of GAR, 10-1, to finish third for the second straight season.
McArthur (119) and Hardy (275) won decisions to take third for Blue Ridge. McArthur beat West Scranton's Jon Smerecky, 7-2, in the consolation finals. Hardy beat Ken Edwards of Hanover Area, 10-4.
Susquehanna's Nathan Huyck (130) and Chris Cavanaugh (215) and Elk Lake's Jason Miller (189) missed out on the trip to regionals by losing in the consolation finals and taking fourth.
During the tournament, Huyck became the first Susquehanna wrestler to post 100 career wins.
Elk Lake's Rich Harvey (135) and Andrew Stevens (152) finished fifth, along with Montrose's Lucenti (160).
Elk Lake's Derek Noldy (140) and Mountain View's Matulevich (171) were sixth.
WEEK IN REVIEW
Montrose saw its district title hopes and its chance of reaching the state tournament disappear in consecutive boys' basketball playoff losses.
Eventual champion Bishop Hoban defeated the Meteors, 74-56, in Tuesday's District 2 Class AA semifinal.
Montrose still had a chance to qualify for the Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic Association tournament by finishing third, but the Meteors fell to Riverside, 59-53, in the consolation game Friday night.
Sophomore Kyle Flemings scored 17 of his 26 points in the second quarter when Bishop Hoban took control of the game.
The Meteors led, 15-11, early in the second quarter. Flemings helped Bishop Hoban took a 39-27 lead at the half.
Tom Burgh led the way for the Meteors with 19 points.
Tony Rezykowski, a 6-foot-1 sophomore guard from Elk Lake, was one of three players to start all 27 games for College Misericordia this season.
Misericordia went 11-16, including 8-8 in the Pennsylvania Athletic Conference where it reached the playoffs and won once before falling in the semifinals.
Rezykowski had six points, three assists and two steals in a 70-54 playoff win over Marywood. He then scored 11 points and grabbed seven rebounds in a 68-57 loss to Gwynedd Mercy.
For the season, Rezykowski averaged 8.9 points, 3.2 rebounds, 1.9 assists and 0.9 steals. He shot 42.2 percent from the floor, a team-best 38.8 percent from 3-point range and 76.7 percent from the line.
THE WEEK AHEAD
Elk Lake is the only county entry for the District 2 Swimming Championships, which will be held Friday and Saturday at the Wilkes-Barre CYC.
Competition starts at 6 p.m. Friday and noon Saturday.
In wrestling, the 12 remaining county individuals will try to qualify for next week's state championships in Hershey when they compete in the Northeast Regionals at Williamsport Friday and Saturday.
Herbert finished sixth in the state a year ago.
TOM ROBINSON writes a weekly local sports column for the Susquehanna County Transcript. He can be reached on-line at RobbyTR@aol.com.
BIFFLE Gets His Predicted California Win
Fontana, CA – Greg Biffle, one of the early leaders in Sunday's Auto Club 500, lost a lap, then fought his way back to the front on old tires to hold off Jimmie Johnson and teammate Kurt Busch for his second win in the past three races.
Greg Biffle in his garage on Saturday, telling the news media he would win Sunday's Nextel Cup race.
Photo by Angela Hodges.
Biffle predicted to the news media on Saturday that he would win.
“I got the best car, I’m going to lead by lap five, and I’m going to win the race, going away,” he said.
Biffle got the lead for the first time on lap four, but then lost a lap and had to fight his way back to the front.
The race belonged to Joe Nemechek, driver of the No. 01 Chevrolet until his engine went sour on lap 180 of the 250 lap race.
The new leader was Kevin Harvick. There was another round of pit stops during lap 204, and Harvick continued leading with Matt Kenseth, Jeff Gordon, Kurt Busch, and Biffle rounding out the top-five.
Jason Leffler’s No. 11 Federal Express Chevrolet hit the wall in turn two on lap 218, and went up in smoke, bringing out the race’s last caution. Harvick and most of the leaders pitted, but Busch and Biffle remained on the track on old tires.
When racing resumed with 31 laps remaining, Busch, Biffle, and Harvick were the leaders.
It was evident that Biffle had the fastest car and during lap 228, he slipped under Busch’s No. 97 Ford as they exited turn two, and pulled away.
Meanwhile, Jimmie Johnson, who was on four fresh tires, slowly began to rein in the leaders. He got by Harvick with four laps to go, but Busch was able to block him just enough to cause him to lose momentum.
Johnson did get by Busch on the white flag lap, but came up about four car-lengths short of Biffle when the checkered flag was dropped.
“Taking the tires hurt us,” said Johnson. “But, maybe it was my call. We should have been able to win that race, but we got tangled up with some lap cars that knocked me up into the marbles and I lost a couple spots.”
Polesitter, Kyle Busch finished one lap down in 23rd position.
Last week’s Daytona 500 winner, Jeff Gordon had an engine go bad and was black flagged on lap 246, and wound up 30th.
Dale Earnhardt Jr. and his team never got a handle on his No. 8 Chevrolet and finished the race 13 laps down in 30th spot.
Except for the last four laps, the entire race was less than exciting.
Top ten finishing order: 1. Greg Biffle, 2. Jimmie Johnson, 3. Kurt Busch, 4. Jamie McMurray, 5. Carl Edwards, 6. Kevin Harvick, 7. Mark Martin, 8. Elliott Sadler, 9. Ryan Newman, 10. Rusty Wallace.
Top-10 Nextel Cup leaders after 2 of 36: 1. Busch-340, 2. Johnson-335, 3. Martin-301, 4. Edwards-287, 5. Biffle-273, 6. Sadler-272, 7. Stewart-268, 8. R. Wallace-268, 9. Marlin-260, 10. J. Gordon-258.
HARVICK Is Busch Leader – The top-10 NASCAR Busch Series drivers after 2 of 35: 1. Harvick-340, 2. Sorenson-293, 3. Edwards-289, 4. Bowyer-287, 5. Stewart-271, 6. Lewis-254, 7. Nemechek-248, 8. Truex Jr.-233, 9. Menard-220, 10. D. Green-218.
HAMILTON Leads Truck Series – The top-10 NASCAR Craftsman Truck leaders after 2 of 25: 1. Hamilton-355, 2. Craven-330, 3. Spencer-321, 4. Musgrave-310, 5. Crafton-380, 6. Park 279, 7. Benson-271, 8. Reutimann-256, 9. Setzer-254, 10. Atwood-251.
Drivers And Fans Favor Atlanta And Martinsville
Hampton, GA – Atlanta Motor Speedway is the best track in NASCAR. Just ask the drivers.
Sports Illustrated did just that, anonymously polling 36 NASCAR drivers. Results published in the Feb. 21 issue put Atlanta Motor Speedway at the top of the chart for favorite track, with 27 percent of the vote. Daytona (20 percent) and Bristol (17 percent) followed.
“Drivers love Atlanta for one reason: speed,” Sports Illustrated writes. “The 1.54-mile oval is the fastest track on the circuit, and its long, wide straight-aways create plenty of side-by-side racing. … Add it all up, and Atlanta usually produces heart-pounding, outrageously fast races, which is why most drivers (and fans) relish a trip to the Capital of the South.”
Atlanta Motor Speedway has held the distinction of being the fastest track in NASCAR since its reconfiguration during the summer of 1997.
“I love this race track,” defending Golden Corral 500 winner Dale Earnhardt Jr. said. “You can move around so much. It’s the best race track we run at, and through the race it seems like you always get a real close three- or four-car battle going, and they’re always right there at the end. I love it. Whether I’m first or 20th, I’m having fun. I wish they could build a lot more of ‘em like this. It’s always fun here.”
Earnhardt Jr. will be back at his favorite track next month to defend his title in the March 18-20 Golden Corral 500.
Meanwhile fans said Martinsville Speedway was the location they would hate to see lose a race.
And this was not a poll of a handful of fans. Almost 600,000 votes were cast in the on-line voting, which lasted the last three weeks of the NASCAR Nextel Cup season.
“We never think in terms of losing an event, but we know that those types of rumors have been out there for years and years, and I guess they'll always be floating around," said Martinsville Speedway president Clay Campbell. "But this NASCAR.Com Fan's Voice Award speaks volumes about what race fans think about Martinsville Speedway.
"It also reinforces what we've said for years; that Martinsville Speedway is a fun, affordable place to watch really exciting racing."
The only racing this weekend is the NASCAR Busch Series race in Mexico City. The Nextel Cup and trucks have the weekend off.
Sunday, March 6, Busch Series Mexico 200, race 3 of 35, 80 laps/201 miles, 3 p.m. TV: Fox. This is the inaugural event on the 2.52-mile road course.
Racing Trivia Question: Which team did Steve Park drive for when he raced in Winston Cup?
Last Week’s Question: What year did the new California Speedway open? Answer. It opened June 20, 1997.
You may read additional stories by the Racing Reporter at www.race500.com.
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