Lake-Lehman wrestlers on track to contend for years to come

By Dave Rosengrant - | February 14th, 2016 6:17 pm

By Dave Rosengrant

Lake-Lehman’s first trip to the PIAA Team Championships in 12 years didn’t exactly produce the results the team was hoping for. The Black Knights went winless in two duals, winning a total of just five bouts, while facing some of the toughest competitors of any Class 2A team.

The Black Knights don’t need to worry about that right now, though, and can use the weekend performance at Giant Center as a learning tool.

Lehman is a young team, and even though it had a rocky tournament, the squad has a lot to look forward to in the future with just two seniors on the roster, which was submitted into the state event.

Four of the five athletes who picked up wins last weekend for the Black Knights are underclassmen, including freshman Bobby Long (106 pounds), sophomores Mike Slivinski (220) and Kaleb Konigus (285), and junior Bob Lipski (138). Sophomore Garrett Kolb wrestled two tough opponents very well at 120 pounds before losing late both times.

That list doesn’t even include junior R.J. Driscoll, who was a state qualifier a year ago, but didn’t wrestle at state duals.

The program could be in the process of building a powerhouse for the next several years. On Saturday, Lehman’s junior high team won the season-ending Wyoming Valley Conference tournament by 60.5 points ahead of second-place Tunkhannock. The Black Knights picked up 16 medals in the 18-weight class event including four champions. Eight of the team’s medals and two of the gold medalists were by seventh-graders.

The varsity team has a little less than two weeks to prepare for the individual district championships as it looks to dethrone reigning champ Meyers.

A little late

When Lake-Lehman won its District 2 Class 2A Duals title the first weekend of the month, it was the team’s fifth duals championship, tying Meyers for the most all-time for 2A teams.

The Black Knights were also in the district finals for the record 14th time. The next closest teams to them in that category are Western Wayne and Meyers, which have six appearances each.

The 2A nemesis

Class 2A teams from D2 may be on a winless streak, but a huge part of that is 10-time WPIAL champ Burrell, which dealt Lake-Lehman its first loss last weekend. The Buccaneers have defeated a team from District 2 in five straight years and a total of six times since 2005.

In the preliminary draft for the next two-year cycle, that is expected to change with the D2 champ squaring off against the D10 champ in 2017 and 2018. The bad news about that is that the District 10 champ is usually state powerhouse Reynolds, which finished third this year, has four second-place finishes and three state championships.

Lehman’s record

Technically speaking, Lake-Lehman holds the D2-2A record for most wins in the state tournament. The Black Knights won a preliminary round match three years in a row from 2002-04.

West Scranton, which won twice in 2006, is next while Berwick (2008) are the only other 2A teams from the district with victories in the team state tournament. Berwick will be back in 2A in 2017 and 2018.

Unsung hero

Tunkhannock’s Connor Munley wrestled two matches last weekend at state duals and won both matches. The sophomore 145-pounder has 13 wins this season in limited action, but his two over the weekend were arguably two of the biggest wins for the Tigers.

Munley was also one of just two grapplers on the team to go unbeaten in Hershey with the other being Dalton Ray, who went 3-0.

Road to PJWs begin

The Pennsylvania Junior Wrestling State Championships aren’t held for another few weeks, but the Junior High qualifier for Area XII (Bradford, Luzerne, Lackawanna, Pike, Susquehanna, Wayne and Wyoming counties) will be held on Saturday at Tunkhannock. The top three place-winners in each weight class will qualify for the PJW Junior High State Championships March 5-6 at the Cambria County War Memorial Arena in Johnstown.

A month after that, the PJW Area XII Youth Championships will be held at Tunkhannock on March 20 with the top two in each weight qualifying for the Youth State Championships on April 1-2 at the Erie Insurance Arena in Erie.

The Youth State Championships return to the area in 2017 and 2018 at the Mohegan Sun Arena. This is just the youth tournament and not the junior high portion. The arena in Wilkes-Barre Township hosted the youth and junior high state tournaments in 2010 and 2011.

Reach Dave Rosengrant at 570-991-6398 or on Twitter @tldrosengrant