By Harold Raker
For The Daily Item
In recent decades, words could barely describe the brutality lurking in the Lehigh Valley for the local Class AAA wrestlers who competed in the Northeast Regional tournament.
If the wrestlers from Shikellamy and Selinsgrove needed to talk with someone who would understand their feelings, they could sit down with the Class AA wrestlers from District 2. Those guys have had it rough, too. They were like lambs being led to the slaughter when they traveled south to Williamsport to compete with District 4 in the final stop on the road to the state tournament in Hershey.
Last year, there was a new glimmer of hope for the Seals and Braves, along with their fellow D4 AAA teams, Jersey Shore and Williamsport.
District 4 combined with District 9 and sent four from that tournament to the Northwest Regional in Altoona.
But the new environs were no more hospitable than those of Bethlehem. No D4 wrestler made it out of the regional to Hershey.
This weekend, wrestlers from D4 AAA will be hoping history does not repeat itself, while the Valley’s AA matmen will hope for more of the same.
The AA regional is set for Friday and Saturday at Williamsport High School while the AAA returns to Altoona the same two days. The top three in each weight class from both tournaments will advance to the state tournament.
A total of 24 Valley wrestlers will see action in Williamsport while eight Shikellamy and five Selinsgrove wrestlers will fight for a AAA berth in the state tournament.
Although the tournament brackets are based on a formula rather than seedings, the highest-seeded district champions are seeded No. 1 and No. 2. In AA, the top seeded of the two district champions wrestles the District 4 fifth-place finisher and the second-highest seeded champ opens with the D4 fourth-place finisher.
In AAA, the top two seeded champs get byes into the quarterfinals.
Line Mountain junior Cameron Newman (33-5) at 113 pounds, Warrior Run sophomore Zack LeBarron (33-1) at 120, Southern Columbia junior Kent Lane (22-1) at 132, Mifflinburg junior Cole Walter (37-2) at 152 and Milton senior Ryan Preisch (34-2) at 160 are all top-seeded in AA.
No District 4 wrestler is among the top two seeds in AAA. Selinsgrove’s Nathan Bingaman (170) and Shikellamy’s Dwayne Pepper (220), both seniors, are the only Valley wrestlers who enter this weekend’s tournament as district champions. Bingaman is 22-8 and Pepper is 19-3.