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Blue Ridge's Justin Herbert and Mountain View's Matt Panasevich played supporting roles as the Lackawanna League put together its best finish ever in the Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic Association Wrestling Championships.
Herbert finished seventh at 160 pounds and Panasevich was eighth at 189 pounds as the Lackawanna League matched last season's efforts by producing five medalists.
The league also had two finalists for the second straight year and only its second champion ever.
Honesdale's Josh Arnone finished an unbeaten season by winning the Class AAA 189-pound championship. Valley View's Kyle Davis was second at 215 pounds in Class AA and Delaware Valley's Dave Sullivan was fourth at 171 pounds in Class AAA.
Even getting a shot at state success has historically been difficult for Lackawanna League wrestlers. The only previous champion was Bishop O'Hara 160-pounder Mark McLafferty in 1989.
Until the past decade, Lackawanna League wrestlers were often dominated by the Wyoming Valley Conference, which fared better on the regional and state level. The WVC advantage is now history, but District 2 wrestlers often still find themselves overmatched when they move on to the regional level.
The Lehigh Valley, which is the scene of the Class AAA Northeast Regional in Bethlehem, is essentially the center of the wrestling universe. The District 4 schools who dominate the Class AA Northeast Regional in Williamsport are the strongest pack of small schools in the state.
District 2 wrestlers consistently take a beating in the regional tournaments, but the best from many other districts would probably do the same trying to compete against the best of District 11's Class AAA and District 4's Class AA opponents.
While producing the depth to threaten for team titles or to even up the overall records against the strongest districts is not a realistic goal at this point, the Lackawanna League keeps getting a bit stronger at the top.
Panasevich, a junior who medaled in his first appearance in Hershey, will be part of the group trying to continue that success.
Herbert, Blue Ridge's all-time leader in wins who was sixth in the state last season, has been a big part of the league's peak performance the last two seasons.
Both Herbert and Panasevich won their openers Thursday to reach the state quarterfinals as the last eight wrestlers in their weights with a shot at a Class AA title. After quarterfinal losses, each won their first consolation bout to clinch a finish in the top eight and a state medal. A loss was next, setting up matches for seventh place on Saturday.
Herbert finished seventh when he shut out Jeremiah Serfas of Athens, 5-0, in the last bout of his high school career.
Panasevich settled for eighth when he was pinned by Milton Hershey's Johnny Lamboy with 40 seconds left in the seventh-place match.
Herbert started the state tournament in impressive fashion, racking up a 19-3 technical fall over Burgettstown's Jeff Havelka in 5:17. After losing to Schuylkill Valley's Brian Thomason, 4-3, in the quarterfinals, Herbert defeated Mike Mitchell of Smethport, 5-3. Todd Cessna of Elderton then handed Herbert his second one-point loss of the tournament, 3-2.
Panasevich was at his best in his state tournament debut. He defeated Kellen Harris of Sharon, the eventual fifth-place finisher, 9-5.
In the quarterfinals, Panasevich dropped a 6-0 decision to Wyomissing's David Mendoza, who went on to finish fifth.
Panasevich clinched a medal with his 5-2 victory over Sean Kisel of Forest Hills.
Rich Froats of Burgettstown, who wound up fourth, pinned Panasevich in 1:37 of the third-round consolation match.
WEEK IN REVIEW
The Binghamton Senators and Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins entered the week tied for first in the American Hockey League East Division.
By the time they met Sunday, Binghamton was alone in first and the Senators were able to add to their lead with a convincing 6-2 victory in Wilkes-Barre.
Binghamton went 3-1 on the week, including Wednesday's 4-3 victory in overtime to end Rochester's 17-game home winning streak. Christoph Schubert scored the winning at 1:57 of overtime.
The Senators used two goals by Josh Langfeld to beat the Penguins Sunday. It was the third loss in as many nights for the Penguins, who fell to fourth place, five points behind the Senators.
In professional baseball, outfielder Rich Thompson has scored four runs in six games during his effort to make the Pittsburgh Pirates in spring training despite not being on the 40-man roster.
Thompson, a Montrose graduate, is 1-for-9 (.111) at the plate. He has one stolen base.
In high school basketball, the last two Lackawanna League teams were eliminated Saturday when North Pocono and Scranton Prep fell in the Class AAA girls' state quarterfinals.
Villa Maria defeated previously unbeaten North Pocono, 34-32. Lewistown handled Scranton Prep, 66-42.
Montrose graduate Courtney Parvin helped Springfield College reach the NCAA Division III women's basketball Elite Eight for the first time ever before the Pride was eliminated in Sunday's sectional final.
Southern Maine eliminated Springfield, 80-69, despite 22 points from freshman guard Tara McCarthy and 17 from Parvin, a junior forward. Parvin also had six rebounds.
Springfield rallied in the second half Friday night. Parvin scored eight of her 10 points in the second half and grabbed six rebounds, all offensive, during the 62-56 victory over Wesleyan University.
Wesleyan used a 6-1 run to close within, 57-56, with 48 seconds left but Parvin hit a pair of free throws as Springfield scored the last five points of the game.
Springfield trailed, 30-25, with 17:52 left before outscoring Wesleyan, 31-20.
Susquehanna native Frank Passetti began work last week as the new track and field coach at Abington Heights High School.
Official practices started March 7 for the spring sports season.
Track, baseball, softball, boys' tennis and boys' volleyball teams are preparing for the upcoming seasons.
Tennis matches are allowed to start as early as March 21. The other sports are allowed to begin March 24 with the bulk of league competition scheduled for April and May.
TOM ROBINSON writes a weekly local sports column for the Susquehanna County Transcript. He can be reached online at RobbyTR@aol.com.
JOHNSON Breaks Roush Domination At Vegas
Las Vegas, NV – Jimmie Johnson, Kyle Busch, and Jeff Gordon led a Hendrick Motorsports charge at Las Vegas Motor Speedway that saw the three team’s finish 1-2-4 in Sunday’s UAW-DaimlerChrysler 400.
Jimmie Johnson and Jeff Gordon
Roush Racing had practically owned the speedway for the past few years, but the Fords were no match for the Hendrick Chevrolets.
Johnson, driving the No. 48 Chevrolet, passed Ryan Newman for the lead on Lap 214 of the 267-lap race and held on the rest of the way to keep teammate Kyle Busch, a 19-year-old rookie, from becoming the youngest Nextel Cup winner in history.
Kurt Busch, Kyle's older brother, did finish third in a Roush Ford, but Jeff Gordon's fourth-place finish, just ahead of Kevin Harvick, gave the Hendrick team three of the top four finishers.
It was the fifth victory in nine races for Johnson, who hasn't finished worst than sixth in a Cup race since last October.
“The track was very slick and I had to work hard to keep the car underneath me,” said Johnson. “We had some pit stops at the beginning that were good, but just didn’t get it done.
“We finally got the handle on it, and we just took off.”
The 19-year-old Kyle Busch finished his second Nextel Cup race with a flat tire on his No. 5 Kellogg’s Chevrolet.
“I came out here on my second race out and to finish second is just great,” he said. “It’s tremendous. I didn’t think we had a good enough car, but it was just fun.”
Kyle’s brother, Kurt, and 2004 Nextel Cup Champion finished third.
“Our car was close today, but we missed a little in the pits,” said Kurt Busch. “We were able to battle back and to see the 5 car ahead of me was tough to swallow, but he did great today. I’m so proud of Kyle.”
Jeff Gordon was fourth and Kevin Harvick rounded out the top-5.
Polesitter Ryan Newman was a leader in the early and middle stages of the race, but he lost the handling on his No. 12 Mobil 1 Dodge and finished 10th.
Dale Earnhardt Jr. clipped the rear bumper of Brian Vicker’s No. 25 Chevrolet during lap 12, forcing both cars and drivers out of the race. Earnhardt Jr. later apologized for the mistake, and accepted blame for the accident. He wound up 42nd.
Top ten finishing order: 1. Jimmie Johnson, 2. Kyle Busch, 3. Kurt Busch, 4. Jeff Gordon, 5. Kevin Harvick, 6. Greg Biffle, 7. Casey Mears, 8. Matt Kenseth, 9. Tony Stewart, 10. Ryan Newman.
JOHNSON Takes Over Points Lead The top-10 Nextel Cup leaders after 3 of 36: 1. Johnson-525, 2. Kurt Busch-510, 3. Biffle-428, 4. J. Gordon-418, 5. Edwards-408, 6. Stewart-406, 7. R. Wallace-395, 8. Harvick-394, 9. Newman-385, 10. Martin-374.
A Trifecta Weekend For JIMMY SPENCER, Hampton, GA – Jimmy Spencer will be trying for a trifecta this weekend at Atlanta, as he will attempt to compete in three NASCAR races in three days at Atlanta Motor Speedway
The driver known as “Mr. Excitement,” a nickname he earned racing a modified in Pennsylvania, will begin his weekend on Friday, March 18, with the World Financial Group 200. He has returned full-time this season to the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series, where he is concentrating on trying to win a championship with his No. 2 Team ASE Dodge.
On Saturday, March 19, Spencer will take over Michael Waltrip’s No. 98 Busch Series car to compete in the Aaron’s 312. By Sunday, when Spencer plans to run the No. 50 Arnold Motorsports Dodge in the Golden Corral 500 Nextel Cup race, he’ll have every bump in the fast track memorized.
But with no points or provisionals to fall back on for the Aaron’s 312 and the Golden Corral 500, Spencer knows he will have to qualify well in order to complete the triple.
“It’ll be a full slate, especially on Friday with two truck practices in the morning, two Cup practices in the early afternoon, two Busch practices right after that, truck qualifying and Cup qualifying in the late afternoon, and then the truck race that night,” said Spencer. “I’ll sleep well that night, I can promise you that.”
The Craftsman Truck race will be held under the lights for the first time at Atlanta. Spencer was a spectator for last year’s truck race, and even he was enthralled by the action.
“It’s one of the best races we’ll have all year with the speeds we reach and the intensity on the track, and anybody who watched last year’s race knows that,” Spencer continued. “Man, that was an awesome race. I remember watching it. You had two trucks pretty much door-to-door as they took the checkered flag.
“As a race fan – and I’m one– you can’t ask for much more than that. I assure you we’ll see the same kind of racing this year. There are a lot of competitive trucks and competitive drivers in the truck series right now, and when you get us on a wide-open, fast track like Atlanta, it’s kind of like turning the kids loose on a playground.”
HARVICK Leads Busch Drivers – The top-10 Busch Series leaders after 4 of 35: 1. Harvick-690, 2. Edwards-610, 3. Bowyer-571, 4. Sorenson-564, 5. Truex Jr.-538, 6. Lewis Jr.-494, 7. Stremme-452, 8. Hmiel-431, 9. J. Labonte-427, 10. Hamlin-418.
All three of NASCAR’s major touring series will be in action this weekend at the Atlanta Motor Speedway in Hampton, GA.
Friday, March 18, Craftsman Trucks World Financial 200, race 3 of 25, 130 laps/200 miles, 9 p.m. TV: Speed Channel.
Saturday, March 19, Busch Series Aaron’s 312, race 5 of 35, 203 laps/312 miles, 2:30 p.m. TV: FX Channel.
Sunday, March 20, Nextel Cup Golden Corral 500, race 4 of 36, 325 laps/500 miles, 12:30 p.m. TV: Fox.
Racing Trivia Question: Who is the crew chief on Ricky Rudd’s No. 21 Cup team?
Last Week’s Question: What year did Tony Stewart win the Winston Cup championship? Answer. He was the 2002 winner.
You may read additional stories by the Racing Reporter at www.race500.com.
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