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Lehman - Blue Ridge's Tim Esposito was in danger of having his sophomore wrestling season come to an end.
Seconds later, Esposito rallied to reach a season-long goal and provide the inspiring moment of the District 2 Class AA Wrestling Championships.
Western Wayne's Zac Clookey had a 6-3 lead and had Esposito in a cradle as the midway point of the third period approached in the consolation final.
Esposito fought off the pin and used his leverage to instead score a pin on Clookey, who was otherwise in control.
"This has been my goal the whole season," said Esposito, who decided to keep wrestling despite losing his right arm above the elbow in an ATV accident the summer prior to sixth grade. "All the hard work pays off.
"Every practice was for this; this moment."
That moment when the referee slapped the mat signifying Esposito's pin, and the announcement of his result minutes later, drew two of the biggest reactions of the weekend out of the crowd at Lake-Lehman High School.
"Prior to realizing I had the position, I was just trying to work out of the cradle," Esposito said. "When the time came, I went for it and was able to get a defensive pin."
The performance, to open the second session of the second day of the tournament, reminded Blue Ridge coach John Ciotoli why he wishes wrestling still started every competition at the lowest weight class.
"The emotion, excitement and pure joy he brings sets the tone," Ciotoli said.
Esposito was one of two Blue Ridge wrestlers who joined four from Elk Lake in qualifying for regionals by finishing in the top three in the district.
Elk Lake's Rich Harvey was the only Susquehanna County wrestler to win a title. Harvey posted his 100th career win in the 152-pound semifinals on the way to the championship.
"I was shooting to get 100 today, now I've got 101," Harvey said.
The 100th was the tougher win to get.
Harvey opened an 8-0 lead in the second period then had to hang on for an 8-6 victory over Joe Baranowski of Wilkes-Barre Meyers.
"It was a real tough match," Harvey said. "He beat me in district duals. We were tied, then he turned me late in the third period.
"I had to hold on this time. They were only 10 seconds left and I was hanging on for my life."
Harvey's win came during an impressive streak in which Elk Lake won semifinal bouts at four straight weight classes to qualify wrestlers for the district finals and berths at the Northeast Regionals.
Derek Green (140), Anthony Juser (145) and Derek Noldy (160) also won their semifinals before settling for second-place finishes.
Harvey added a win in the final when he controlled top-seeded Adam Vail of Lackawanna Trail from the top on the way to a 14-2 decision.
Harvey turned Vail three times, outscoring him 9-0 during the 2:59 that he was on top.
"I really just wanted to go out and win or lose, I was going to wrestle the best I could," Harvey said. "He's a good wrestler. It was a hard match, I was just about to catch a few good moves and win."
Green, Juser and Noldy ran into three of the tournament's strongest wrestlers in the final.
Scott Davis of Lake-Lehman posted his district-high 39th win of the season with a 16-0 technical fall in 4:18 against Green.
Lou Ney, one of six champions from team champion Berwick, used his third first-period pin of the tournament to beat Juser in 1:43.
Berwick's Nick Venditti, the tournament's Outstanding Wrestler, beat Noldy, 4-1, at 160 pounds, the toughest bracket in the tournament.
Green got the semifinal roll started for Elk Lake, which finished fifth out of 18 teams with 115 1/2 points. He overwhelmed Wyoming Area's Mike Schutz for a technical fall, 20-5.
"They'd wrestled last weekend and Derek was up, 5-0, and slammed him and wound up losing (on disqualification)," Elk Lake coach Wes Warner said. "I knew he could wrestle him, but didn't think he would dominate the way he did."
Juser came in seeded sixth and wound up the lowest-seeded wrestler to reach the finals. He followed up a 53-second pin of third-seed Nick Robert of Western Wayne Friday night by beating second-seed Mylon Spolar of Montrose, 10-4, in the semifinals.
Juser and Spolar practice together with a club in Broome County. "They know each other very well," Warner said.
Noldy escaped late in the second overtime and held Brandon Owens of GAR down in the third overtime for a 3-2 win to reach the 160-pound final.
"If he didn't win to get to the finals, he might not make it through to regionals," said Warner, who was given the Sportsmanship Award by the Lackawanna League Officials' Chapter prior to the finals. "There were five kids ranked in the state in the weight class and wrestling breakthrough might be tough if you didn't catch a break."
Esposito and Blue Ridge teammate Alex Stanton made it through the wrestlebacks of the consolation rounds to earn their regional trips.
Stanton, a freshman, decisioned Brent Platukus of Wyoming Area, 10-6, in the consolation final.
"He's so dynamic that he can score a lot of points," Ciotoli said. "He was down, 4-0, but I told him 'he's going to have to score more than four to beat you.'
"He comes up with 10 points. Obviously, he dominated the match after that."
Berwick, which dropped down from Class AAA this year, won the team title 230 1/2-191 over Lake-Lehman.
Elk Lake was fifth; Montrose was ninth; Blue Ridge 10th; Susquehanna tied for 14th and Mountain View 18th.
John Brooks (130) was fourth and Jacob Eastman (189) was fifth for Elk Lake.
Bud Roszel led the way for Montrose. He suffered a 4-3 loss to Hanover Area's Kyle Stair in the 171-pound consolation finals to just miss a trip to regionals.
Spolar, Nate Hotchkiss (215) and Sean Daly (285) were fifth for the Meteors while Nick Holinej and Josh Devine (130) were sixth.
Mike Pipitone (125) and Ryan Hawk (152) were fourth for Blue Ridge.
Susquehanna's Brant Thomas appeared to be closing in on a regional berth with an 8-0 lead before he was reversed and pinned in 3:52 by Wyoming Area's Schutz in the 140-pound consolation final.
Dustin Perry (152) was fifth and Josh Jenkins (189) was sixth for the Sabers.
WEEK IN REVIEW
Only Montrose and Elk Lake survived the first week of District 2 girls' basketball tournament play.
The Lady Meteors and Lady Warriors only needed to get through one round of the Class AA tournament last week after several first-round games were postponed, pushing the quarterfinals back to Monday.
Brittany Ely helped Montrose pull away and Christine Brown kept the Lady Meteors on top in a 46-38 victory over Lake-Lehman.
The game was tied, 27-27, going into the fourth quarter. Ely, who also had five assists, had seven of her 14 points in the quarter. Brown went 4-for-6 from the line in the final 30 seconds.
Monica Turner added 11 points and 10 rebounds while Jessica Franklin had 10 points and 10 rebounds.
Jaclyn Vaow scored 20 points as Elk Lake defeated Hanover Area, 52-38.
Blue Ridge, Mountain View and Susquehanna were eliminated in the first round of the Class AA tournament.
Blue Ridge had a 10-point lead going into the fourth quarter before Paige Venson scored 18 of her 31 points to rally Wilkes-Barre GAR to a 54-47 victory.
Jocelyn Dearborn led Blue Ridge with 18 points.
Dunmore pounded Mountain View, 64-18.
Susquehanna pushed fourth-seeded Riverside before falling, 39-33.
In boys' basketball, a deep Class AA field meant difficult challenges for Mountain View and Elk Lake in Friday night's quarterfinals.
Mountain View, despite being one of the three division unbeatens, had a quarterfinal match-up with a Lackawanna Trail team that it had beaten by just a point in the final week of the regular season. The Eagles made things easier this time by pulling away for an 83-67 victory.
Mountain View opened the postseason with an even higher-scoring effort when it handled Wilkes-Barre Meyers, 94-71. Robbie Johnson led four in players in double figures by scoring 23 points. Patrick Lambert added 17, Joe Scanlon 14 and Chad Lasher 13 for the Eagles.
Elk Lake fell to defending champion and top-seeded Bishop Hoban, 59-22.
The state's third-ranked Class AA team, according to the Harrisburg Patriot-News, remained unbeaten by opening a 26-0 lead in the second quarter.
Elk Lake had advanced by edging Riverside, 56-54, in the second round.
The Warriors finished the season with a 14-10 record.
Dunmore held Montrose to two points in each of the first two quarters and three points in the fourth during a 53-17 romp in the second round. The Bucks opened a 24-4 halftime lead.
Montrose finished the season 10-13.
Blue Ridge lost on its home court, 57-53, to Mid Valley in one of two preliminary games needed to trim the Class AA field down to 16 teams. The Raiders finished 3-19.
In Class A, Susquehanna went on the road to win a preliminary round game before falling to unbeaten, top-seed Old Forge, 69-35.
The Sabers beat Freeland MMI, 59-36, behind 24 points by Brent Keyes.
Kirk Fallon added 11 points and Cody Scepaniak had 10 for the Sabers, who took the lead for good by not allowing a field goal for the first 5:26.
The Sabers finished 10-15.
Forest City began play in the quarterfinals where it ran into defending champion Bishop O'Reilly and suffered a 65-47 defeat.
The Foresters finished 12-11.
In professional hockey, the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins won back-to-back games over the host Binghamton Senators Friday and Saturday.
The Penguins won, 5-4, Friday behind two goals by Joe Jensen.
Andrew Penner made 34 saves in Saturday's 4-2 win.
Prior to Friday's game, the American Hockey League announced that Binghamton would host the 2008 AHL All-Star Classic.
"It is indeed a privilege for us to partner with the AHL in hosting the 2008 All-Star Classic and to showcase the best young players in the world," Binghamton executive vice president of operations Tom Mitchell said in a press release. "We're also excited to be able to bring tremendous national and international exposure to our community."
Whitney Williams came off the bench in four games as the University of Massachusetts went 2-2-1 in a season-opening road trip to San Diego.
The freshman from Mountain View made her college debut during the trip. She appeared as a pinch runner in all but one game and scored one run.
"She's an extremely fast, versatile athlete," UMass coach Elaine Sortino said. "She will help us in a variety of ways."
UMass, which opened the season ranked 23rd in the country, beat 10th-ranked California, 1-0, during the trip. It will play its first seven games against teams that played in last year's NCAA Division I tournament. Before opening at home March 23, UMass makes two trips to Florida and one each to Georgia and California for tournaments.
Williams, the 2005 Susquehanna County Transcript Athlete of the Year, batted .470 last year as a senior at Mountain View. She is listed on the UMass roster as both an infielder and outfielder, but is most likely to play as a middle infielder when not serving as a pinch runner or designated player.
"Whitney is an extremely talented young player," Sortino said. "She makes some amazing plays and can really take away the Bermuda Triangle in the middle of the field. She can cover ground like no other I have seen before.
"She is very fast and extremely athletic."
THE WEEK AHEAD
The Binghamton Senators are at the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins Wednesday night for the last of five AHL meetings between the two East Division rivals in less than three weeks.
In high school swimming, Elk Lake will compete in the District 2 Class AA championships Friday and Saturday at the Wilkes-Barre CYC.
In high school wrestling, the Class AA Northeast Regional is scheduled for Friday and Saturday in Williamsport to determine three qualifiers in each weight class for the Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic Association championships.
In boys' basketball, Mountain View will play for either the District 2 Class AA title or third place and a state tournament berth Friday night.
The Eagles were scheduled to take on Hanover Area Tuesday night. Bishop Hoban and Wilkes-Barre GAR play in the other semifinals.
In girls' basketball, Montrose and Elk Lake were trying to advance to Wednesday night's Class AA semifinals when they played Monday night. The Lady Meteors were taking on GAR for a chance to meet the Lakeland-Dunmore winner. Elk Lake was facing unbeaten, top-seed Carbondale for a chance to face the Northwest-Riverside winner.
TOM ROBINSON writes a weekly local sports column for the Susquehanna County Transcript. He can be reached online at RobbyTR@aol.com.
The Racing Reporter
KENSETH Sweeps California Races, Fontana, CA – “I’ll take luck any time over horsepower during a race,” said Richard Childress, owner of the No. 29 driven by Kevin Harvick.
Right on, brother.
The scene in Sunday’s AutoClub 500 at the California Speedway pointed to another close finish, but as the laps wound down, it was luck that determined the winner.
Childress’ No. 29 Pennzoil Chevrolet had the horsepower, but the team’s luck ran out five laps from the finish line.
Matt Kenseth, driver of the No. 17 Roush Fenway Ford was the benefactor.
Matt Kenseth celebrates his Sunday win at California.
Photo courtesy of NASCAR
Kenseth had taken the lead with 18 laps remaining, but Kevin Harvick had the fastest car and was slowing, reeling in Kenseth’s No. 17. There appeared to be plenty of laps left for Harvick to pass Kenseth and go on to his second win, after taking the checkered flag last Sunday at Daytona.
During lap 242 of the 250-lap race, Greg Biffle got into the rear of David Reutimann, and knocked him into the wall. This brought out the race’s eighth caution.
With seven laps to go, NASCAR red flagged the race for track clean up.
When the cars were refired, officials allowed cars to pit for fresh tires. The top-8 cars did not pit.
While the cars were circling the track, second-place Harvick radioed to his team that he thought he was having a flat left front tire.
Sure enough he was.
Harvick had to pull into the pits with five-to-go for a fresh tire, while the rest of the field took the green.
Kenseth, who had won Saturday night’s Busch race, led 131 of the 250-laps, and easily held off Jeff Gordon, Jimmie Johnson, Jeff Burton, and Mark Martin during the remaining four laps.
“I thought it was going to slip away,” said Kenseth. “Harvick was a little better than us there at the end. I really thought we were going to lose this one when the 29 was running us down.
“All the team worked hard, but at the end I think it was luck.”
Kenseth’s win was the first for the new Roush Fenway team.
“It didn’t start out too stellar today,” said Jeff Gordon, who finished second. “We over-tightened the car and we had to free it up, free it up, and were having fun coming to the front. Then we loosened it up too much.”
Mark Martin, Clint Bowyer, Kurt Busch, Tony Stewart, Kyle Busch, and Brian Vickers rounded out the top-10.
Dale Earnhardt Inc. teams had a bad day. Both the No. 8 driven by Dale Jr. and the No. 1 driven by Martin Truex lost engines and had DNF’s.
Top-10 unofficial Nextel Cup drivers after 2 of 36; 1. Martin-335, 2. J. Burton-330, 3. J. Gordon-309, 4. Harvick-307, 5. Ragan-270, 6. Bowyer-264, 7. Nemechek-259, 8. Yeley-251, 9. Kyle Busch-239, 10. Stremme-236.
Don’t Believe All The NASCAR Talk – In his speech last week, NASCAR CEO Brian France tried to dismiss the drop in Cup television ratings last season, saying that one year was just a blip in an overall upward trend.
“I think it's undeniable, “ France said, “That corporate America – the funding, the investment in the sport, the belief in this sport, the sport on the move – is better than we've ever had it. Look at the garage, the car counts, the quality of companies that are making this investment.”
The rating for the 2007 Daytona 500 telecast on Fox was the fifth-highest rated Daytona 500 in history, but it was down from last year.
The Daytona Busch race on ESPN2 was down 26 percent from the audience that watched the same race on TNT last year.
The television ratings aren’t the only thing in decline that NASCAR officials have to be concerned about.
While there were 51 entries for the 43 positions in Sunday’s 500-mile Cup race in California, just 41 cars started Saturday’s Busch race which is open to a maximum of 43 cars, and only 34 trucks raced in Friday night’s truck race that can start 36.
In next weekend’s Busch race at Mexico City, there will be wild shouting by NASCAR and the media about the 90,000-100,000 fans that will attend. But what they won’t be telling viewers and readers is that seventy per cent of the fan tickets were bought by sponsors, according to an ESPN article. Corporate sponsorship is responsible for the race, because only thirty percent of Mexican fans attending the race buy their own tickets.
I paid my own way when NASCAR went to Japan in 1996, ’97, and ’98. The largest crowd to attend either race was about 25,000 in 1996. However, NASCAR still made money, because the American teams and Honda Motor Company footed most of the bills.
The big thing going for NASCAR isn’t fans, but rather the corporate sponsors. As long as Fortune 500 companies pour money into the sport, NASCAR will be safe. If those big bucks dry up, then so will NASCAR.
PETTY Sliding Into Announcer’s Job – Kyle Petty has a heaping helping on his plate this season. Combined with his managerial role at Petty Enterprises and Victory Junction Camp, the driver of the No. 45 Petty Dodge in the Nextel Cup Series is a man in constant motion.
For five races this season, he will move out of his driving seat and into the TNT broadcast booth.
When asked how he handles it all, he replied: “You have to tune everything else out.
“There’s a lot of stuff going on right now. There have been a lot of rule infractions and a lot of severe penalties – in some cases I think too severe. At the same time, maybe we as competitors need to take this as a sign that things are going to change this year with this car and the point system and things are going to change this year with the Car of Tomorrow.
“Maybe we need to look at what has happened as a sign that this is going to be a huge year of change and NASCAR is going to put its foot down solidly from the word go and stay that way. It appears that way from what they’ve done so far.
“With the inspection process and the things we’re going to go through with the Car of Tomorrow, if it’s worse than what’s gone on at Daytona, I might take up golf.”
Petty has signed with TNT to serve as an analyst for the network’s Nextel Cup Series race coverage. He will take a five-week hiatus as driver of the No. 45, marking the first time a Petty will not be behind the wheel in the Cup Series for an extended period of time since his grandfather, Lee Petty, raced in NASCAR’s Elite Series in 1949.
“I’m probably going to be out fewer races this year than I was a few years ago when I was missing so many races because I just wasn’t qualifying,” continued Petty. “Realistically, we haven’t had a shot at the championship in the past 10 years. We’re trying to build this team back, but we’re not to a point where we are a championship team. We’ve got to build ourselves back to that, so to step out of the car for me is not as big of a deal as it would be for Jimmie Johnson or Kasey Kahne or somebody like that. I don’t think what I’m doing is a big deal.
“To be honest with you, it’s just another Kyle Petty deal. It’s something nobody’s done. The opportunity came up. I wanted to try it, so I’m going to try it. We’ll put somebody else in the car for those six races I’m out because we need to stay up in the owner’s points.”
The top-10 Busch Series leaders after 2 of 35: 1. Harvick-345, 2. Edwards-330, 3. Kenseth-327, 4. Blaney-309, 5. Biffle-289, 6. Hamlin-280, 7. Stewart-272, 8. Kyle Busch-232, 9. Smith-223, 10. Ambrose-203.
The Top-10 Craftsman Truck Series leaders after 2 of 25: 1. Sprague-355, 2. Skinner-355, 3. Benson-330, 4. Hornaday-321, 5. Bodine-306, 6. Musgrave-298, 7. Kvapil-290, 8. Crawford-277, 9. Crafton-272, 10. Darnell-256.
The Busch Series travels south to Mexico City for a road race, while the Cup and Truck teams are idle.
Sunday, March 4, Busch Series Telcel-Motorola Mexico 200; race 3 of 35, 80/laps, 1:30 p.m. TV: ESPN2.
Racing Trivia Question: Where is the hometown of part-time Nextel Cup driver Boris Said?
Last Week’s Question: Which former NASCAR driver qualified for the NASA astronaut program? Answer. Janet Guthrie.
You may read additional stories by the Racing Reporter at www.race500.com.
Sunday, January 21, the Blue Ridge Varsity Wrestling Cheerleaders traveled to Binghamton University. The girls met with the cheer and dance teams of the university before and after the game to observe and ask questions.
Members of the Blue Ridge Varsity Wrestling Cheerleaders with the Binghamton University Bearcat.
The BU teams were extremely welcoming and offered multiple ideas that the wrestling cheerleaders plan to implement in upcoming seasons.
The members of the 2006-07 wrestling cheerleading squad include Trish Fassett, Monica Dommes, LeighAnna Fassett, Caitlyn Marsh, Britney Cross, Kate Armondi, Brittany Donnelly, Hailey Morris, Nicole Price and Debbie Bennett, advisor.
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