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SCRANTON – Blue Ridge sophomores Mike Pipitone and Alex Stanton each posted convincing major decisions Sunday night to claim championships in the District 2 Class AA Wrestling Tournament at Scranton Prep High School.
Pipitone defeated Lackawanna Trail's Chris Dixon, 9-1, at 125 pounds.
Stanton dominated Nick Kuhl of Hanover Area, 16-2, at 140.
Pipitone (25-9) went into the tournament as the second seed in a bracket where top-seeded Steve Prebola of Berwick was upset in the semifinals, 10-6, by Dixon.
The elimination of the top seed did not have much impact on Pipitone's outlook.
"I always knew I had an opportunity," Pipitone said.
Pipitone had to avoid an upset of his own, getting past Hanover Area's Matt Mullery, 4-3, in Saturday night's semifinals.
After taking a 2-0 lead into the third period, Pipitone pulled away for his win with two third-period takedowns.
"You've always got to be cautious," Pipitone said. "It was not like I was going to relax just because I got a bigger lead."
Stanton (28-4) built the biggest lead of the championship round.
In Kuhl's first bout after posting his 100th career win, he was turned on his back four times by Stanton.
After pinning three straight opponents, Stanton came up one point short of a technical fall in the final.
"I'm getting there, but I haven't wrestled my best yet," Stanton said.
Blue Ridge had two of Susquehanna County's six district finalists.
Elk Lake and Montrose each had two wrestlers finish second.
With two more wrestlers taking third place, Elk Lake led county schools by qualifying four wrestlers for next week's Northeast Regionals.
The Warriors finished fourth out of 18 teams with 148 points. Berwick repeated as champ with 240, followed by Lackawanna Trail with 175 1/2 and Lake-Lehman with 170.
Blue Ridge finished seventh with 112 1/2 points, Montrose was eighth with 98, Susquehanna was 15th with 45 and Mountain View was 17th with 24.
Blue Ridge and Montrose each had three regional qualifiers while Susquehanna had one.
Derek Noldy (171) and Anthony Juser (152) each took second for Elk Lake while Corey Benscoter (119) and Derek Green (140) clinched regional berths by winning consolation finals to take third.
Noldy used two first-period pins and a major decision to reach the final where he lost, 2-1, to Lake-Lehman's Chad Brudnicki.
Juser pinned three straight opponents, including one in 18 seconds, to reach the final. He lost to Lackawanna Trail's Brandon Dixon, 13-5.
Benscoter edged Nanticoke's Brandon Jimmerson, 1-0, and Green defeated Montrose's Mylon Spolar, 6-3, in third-place matches.
Montrose was led by Mike Rihl (145) and D.J. Brown (189) in second place and Nate Hotchkiss (171) in third place.
After starting with a 37-second pin, Rihl was in three straight bouts decided by one or two points. He lost to Lake-Lehman's Shane Stark, 6-4, in the final.
Brown gave returning state finalist Aaron Karns his only challenge of the tournament. Karns had pinned three opponents in a total of 2:50 before battling for an 8-3 win over Brown.
Hotchkiss took third place with a 7-4 decision over Hanover Area's Kyle Stair.
Josh Jenkins was the only Susquehanna wrestler to advance.
Jenkins gave eventual repeat champion Lance Moore of Lackawanna Trail his closest match when he lost, 5-0, in the 215-pound semifinals. Jenkins then came back to post first-period pins for the second and third times in the tournament. His 51-second win over Berwick's Roy Dennis was the fastest of the consolation finals.
Elk Lake's Keaton Bennett (103), Brent Salsman (160) and Jacob Eastman (189), Blue Ridge's Tim Esposito (112) and Stefano Griffin (135) and Montrose's Spolar finished fourth.
Blue Ridge's Anthony Lewis (160), Montrose's Josh Devine (135) and Mountain View's Zack Matulevich took fifth.
Susquehanna's Nicholas Vales was sixth.
WEEK IN REVIEW
ARCHBALD – Susquehanna ran into some tough times along the way, but when the Sabers found a way to deal with Forest City's inside power, they clinched a spot as the only Susquehanna County team to advance to the boys' basketball state tournament this season.
"We have a senior-laden team that's been together since we were little," senior center Brent Keyes said after scoring 14 points, grabbing nine rebounds and blocking three shots in a 48-43 semifinal victory over the Foresters to clinch a state spot. "We didn't want it to end like this.
"We've had some tough losses this year."
The toughest had come against Forest City.
Susquehanna entered the postseason with a 13-9 record that included four overtime losses. Two of those came against Forest City; one in double overtime and one in triple overtime.
As the teams headed to the fourth quarter in the February 18 game at Valley View High School, they were again tied.
This time, however, it was the Sabers who controlled the inside.
Keyes and Cody Scepaniak each had six points in the fourth quarter.
Scepaniak also did a lot of the defensive work to hold Forest City center Jesse Walsh to eight points. Walsh had 60 points in the first two meetings, including 17 in the overtime sessions.
Two offensive moves by Keyes and a strong box out by Scepaniak led to Walsh picking up three fouls in a span of 1:23 early in the fourth quarter. Both Susquehanna big men converted two free throws on those fouls, giving the Sabers a pair of four-point leads.
With Walsh remaining in the game with four fouls, but less aggressive during a scoreless fourth quarter, Forest City could not get closer than three points in the final 4:59.
The two times the Foresters closed within three were both on 3-pointers by Andy Delabar, who hit four in the game to lead the team with 12 points and seven assists.
The strong play down the stretch put Susquehanna in the Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic Association tournament for the first time since the school's best-ever finish with a trip to the state Class A semifinals in 1999.
Old Forge defeated Susquehanna, 51-30, in the district final Saturday, but the Sabers advance as the second-place team from the district.
"Getting into the state tournament is exciting," Susquehanna coach Scott Glidden said.
Susquehanna controlled much of the first half against Forest City, including grabbing 13 of the game's first 19 rebounds.
Awful shooting, however, left the Sabers behind for the bulk of the second and third quarters.
Forest City was 10-for-23 (43.5 percent) from the floor, including 3-for-4 on 3-pointers, in the first half. Susquehanna missed all seven of its 3-pointers in the half, while going 7-for-29 (24.1 percent) and missing the rim on five shots.
"I thought maybe the kids were a little nervous; a little unsure," Glidden said. "When you're shooting unsure, you get (7-for-29).
“I told them at halftime, we were doing things well, it was just about confidence."
The Sabers turned the game around with a streak of 12 straight points in the third quarter.
Craig Soden and Kirk Fallon each had five points in the streak. Soden took steals the length of the floor twice, including one that he turned into a three-point play. Fallon hit the team's only 3-point basket of the night during the streak, which produced a 31-27 lead with two minutes left in the third quarter.
Stephen Semenza scored 22 points and Old Forge gradually pulled away in the district final.
Scepaniak had all five of his points to keep the Sabers within, 11-7, after one quarter.
The Old Forge lead reached 26-13 by halftime.
Keyes led the Sabers with nine points, seven of which came in the second half.
Lackawanna League Division III champion Elk Lake was eliminated in the District 2 Class AA quarterfinals when it lost to Dunmore, 58-41, at Abington Heights High School.
Tom Greenwood had 10 points in the loss.
The Bucks outscored the Warriors, 33-21, in the second half.
The Lackawanna League swept the four district titles with Abington Heights (Class AAAA), Scranton Prep (AAA) and Holy Cross (AA) joining Old Forge as champs.
In girls' basketball, Forest City advanced to the state tournament by finishing second in Class A.
The Lady Foresters made the state tournament by beating Freeland MMI, 43-29, in the semifinals.
Cassie Erdmann scored 16 points and Alyssa Borick added 13 for Forest City.
The Lady Foresters opened leads of 12-5 after one quarter and 22-11 at halftime.
Old Forge then stopped Forest City, 46-33, in the final with Kim Kaville scoring 19 points and Aleca Semenza adding 14.
Erdmann led Forest City with 15 points. Kiersten Collins added 10.
The Lady Foresters were within seven points before being outscored, 12-6, in the fourth quarter when 3-pointers by Erdmann and Collins accounted for all their scoring.
Montrose opened the week with a 47-38 quarterfinal win over Wyoming Seminary at Carbondale, then fell to Wilkes-Barre GAR, 57-49, in the Class AA semifinals.
In the consolation final with a state berth on the line, the Lady Meteors fell short again, 32-29, against Wilkes-Barre Meyers.
Andie King had a double-double with 10 points and 13 rebounds against Wyoming Seminary.
Julia Koloski hit all eight free throws while scoring a team-high 14 points. Monica Turner added 12 points and three blocked shots. Autumn Ely had six assists.
Daniela Donocikova led Wyoming Seminary with 18 points.
The Lady Meteors started and finished strong. They took a 16-9 lead at the end of the first quarter. After Wyoming Seminary closed within, 37-33, Montrose clinched the win with a 10-5 fourth quarter.
GAR continued its improbable playoff run with a second-half rally in the semifinals.
The 17th-seeded Lady Grenadiers, with just six players on the roster and only the starting five in action in the game, posted their fourth straight upset. They knocked off the 16th, first, eighth and fourth seeds to reach the final.
Paige Venson led GAR with 31 points while Lydia Naperkowski added 10.
Turner scored 17 points and Koloski added 15 for Montrose.
The Lady Meteors led, 10-6, after one quarter and, 22-21, at halftime.
Koloski had 18 points for Montrose, which took a lead into the fourth quarter against Meyers.
Scranton (Class AAAA), Holy Redeemer (AAA) and Dunmore (AA) joined Old Forge as champions.
Matt Panasevich, a sophomore from Mountain View, has been in the lineup for about half the season for Cornell, which is ranked 15th in the country in NCAA Division I wrestling.
Panasevich is 5-13 overall and 0-4 in dual meets wrestling at 197 pounds.
THE WEEK AHEAD
Both the Susquehanna boys and Forest City girls open the state basketball playoffs against District 4 champions from the Northern Tier League.
Susquehanna will face North Penn (25-1) Friday at 7:30 at Montoursville.
Forest City will take on Northeast Bradford (24-3) Saturday at 4 at Towanda.
The Class AA Northeast Regional Wrestling Tournament will be held Friday and Saturday in Williamsport.
Quarterfinals are scheduled for 6 p.m. Friday.
Wrestling begins at 9:30 a.m. Saturday with semifinals and consolation quarterfinals at the same time. The consolation finals and championships are scheduled for 5:30 p.m.
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
Kyle Busch Cruises To Truck Win, Fontana, CA – Kyle Busch pulled away from Todd Bodine in the final 10 laps of the Craftsman Trucks San Bernardino County 200 to claim his seventh win in the truck series and his first in a Toyota.
Kyle Busch celebrates after his California Truck win.
“This means the most to me than anything,” said Busch, who finished 1.415 seconds ahead of Bodine. “In this race in 2001, I was kicked out of the racetrack. I probably could have sat on the pole and won the race that day.”
Seven years ago, at age 16, Busch was kicked out of the California Speedway and banned from the Craftsman Truck Series race there because the weekend also featured a CART event sponsored by cigarette maker Marlboro and federal law precluded persons under age 18 from participating in events sponsored by tobacco companies.
Busch led 51 laps in opening a 20-point lead over Bodine, who won the season opener last week at Daytona International Speedway but entered the race tied in the points standings with Busch and Johnny Benson because of a 25-point penalty incurred for a bed panel height infraction at Daytona.
Johnny Benson ran third. Terry Cook was fourth, followed by 2007 series champion Ron Hornaday, Jr., Ted Musgrave, Travis Kvapil, Mike Skinner, Colin Braun and Phillip McGilton.
Bodine held the lead from lap 58 to lap 75, before a cloud cover caused his No. 30 Toyota to tighten up. Busch reassumed the point on lap 76 and led the final 11 laps of the 100-lap event after the field completed a cycle of green-flag pit stops “That's exactly what happened,” Bodine said of the cloud that changed the handling on his truck.
Bodine's crew put on scuffed tires during his last pit stop, but that left his truck with a loose condition that prevented him from overtaking Busch..
Skinner and Hornaday, the two dominant CTS drivers in 2007, both recovered from early difficulty. Skinner's engine had a miss from the outset, but his team discovered a loose sparkplug wire on a Lap 6 pit stop and corrected the problem. A slow pit stop on lap 15 dropped Hornaday from the top 10, but by the time the field restarted on lap 49 after a caution for debris in Turn 3, Hornaday was running fourth. Another slow stop on his final trip to the pits, however, dropped Hornaday to fifth at the finish.
Top-10 Craftsman Truck Series leaders after 2 of 24; 1. Kyle Busch-365, 2. Bodine-345, 3. Benson-340, 4. Starr-284, 5. Crawford-281, 6. McGilton-261, 7. McCumbie-254, 8. Setzer-254, 9. Hornaday-253, 10. Compton-250.
NASCAR Fans And The New “Open-Wheel” Drivers – A lot of loyal fans have left racing because of NASCAR’s attempts to “grow the sport.” One of the things that some fans seem up in the air about is the number of foreign drivers, most of who came from the open-wheel ranks.
NASCAR has boasted that the 18-to-35 age group has become its strongest age group. It’s the older age groups that are on the decline, both at the tracks and in television viewership.
The older age group is being turned off by some of these brash kids with their attitude towards the long-time NASCAR fan base.
There is currently a Formula 1 driver (Juan Montoya) from Columbia; a Scotsman, Dario Franchitti, who is married to a Hollywood actress (Ashley Judd); along with Canadian Patrick Carpentier.
What could these three drivers possibly have in common with the older, die-hard NASCAR fan? They might turn on the younger fans that are more influenced by new trends, but will this younger age group stay with NASCAR?
While some of the younger “X Generation” fans might consider them cool, the new drivers are strangers to fans that have followed NASCAR racing for years and years.
“What I would really like to know is what do they think they bring to NASCAR,” said Don S., a long-time NASCAR fan from Eaton, OH. “I know what they hope to get out of making the switch – more prize money, better/richer sponsorships, more lucrative endorsement revenues, and the like.
“And they get to jump from a currently dying or severely wounded racing venue to the show that is presently on top. But, were not these the latest “stars” of open-wheel, thus were they not part of the problem and not part of the solution for the Indy or Cart circuits? And when they began their careers or shortly before, was not the Indy circuit the big dog in the hunt?
“Since there are surely a number of Denny Hamlins and Kasey Kahnes in the junior circuits waiting to be discovered or have already been discovered, just have not reached the big show, I reiterate my question to the invaders, what do they bring to the ‘good ol’ boys circuit?’ And I don’t want any bull about diversity. They had diversity in Indy and CART and look where it got them.”
While fans aren’t standing in long lines to embrace most of them, neither is Corporate America.
It might be the current economic downturn that has found many of them without lucrative full-time sponsorships. Just last week, Jacque Villenueve, the former Indy-500 winner was dropped from the Bill Davis roster, because his sponsorship deals fell through.
Franchitti, driver of the No. 40 Chip Ganassi Dodge will need several sponsors as he attempts to run the full 36-race schedule.
NASCAR says it’s trying to return to basics, but what perplexes me is why they would turn their back on their old-time racing allies?
Money for NASCAR’s pockets is the only assumption that I can make at this time.
Will these new drivers be able to bring additional fans into the sport? Will the number of new fans offset those that have been turned off?
How well NASCAR continues is going to be determined by how many people attend the races and how many watch it on television. More and more of the older fans are drifting away from the sport. They are waiting for NASCAR’s next move, before returning.
Next Week: Is NASCAR Serious About Regaining the Core Fans?
The Sprint Cup and Nationwide Series are at the 1.5-mile Las Vegas Motor Speedway. The Craftsman Trucks have the week off.
Saturday, March 1: Nationwide Series Sam’s Town 300 on ESPN2, 4 p.m.
Sunday, March 2: Sprint Cup UAW-Dodge 400, race 3 of 36, 267 laps, 3:30 p.m. TV: Fox.
Racing Trivia Question: Name the two former champions that are driving for Kevin Harvick in the Craftsman Truck Series.
Last Week’s Question: Mark Martin’s Cup career is winding down. What state is he from? Martin is from Batesville, Arkansas.
You may contact the Racing Reporter at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
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