By Harold Raker
The Daily Item
— LEWISBURG -- After his Green Dragons had finished 4-1 in the Line Mountain Duals earlier this month, and despite a lopsided loss to Mount Union, Lewisburg coach Jim Snyder was ecstatic about the success of his team.
Although making it to the District 4 Class AA Duals is always a goal for Snyder and his program, there are years when he and his staff know it is not a realistic one.
But, after dispensing with Benton, one of the favorites in the tournament, on Wednesday night, Snyder couldn't contain his excitement.
That win clinched a first-round home meet on Wednesday night, meaning the Dragons are just one win away from what has become a great day of wrestling in Milton.
"We really want to get back to Milton," Snyder said that night. "We haven't been there in a while."
When the pairings were announced Sunday by district wrestling chairman Steve Gobble of Towanda, the Green Dragons, at the No. 4 seed, found themselves paired with Snyder's alma mater, the No. 13 Line Mountain Eagles.
The Eagles and Green Dragons did not meet in the tournament.
All of Wednesday's first-rounders are set for 7 p.m. at the home of the higher seed. The winners advance to the quarterfinals at 11 a.m. Saturday at Milton.
Central Columbia (18-1), last year's runner-up, is seeded No. 1 and will host Sullivan County (8-8). Warrior Run (14-3) is the No. 2 seed and the Defenders, who recently gave coach Wayne Smythe his 500th career win, will host No. 15 North Penn-Blossburg (9-9).
The other Valley team in the tournament is No. 10 Southern Columbia as coach Jerry Marks' Tigers make their first appearance in the tournament. Southern (15-10) will visit No. 7 Benton (11-4) in a rematch of a week ago, won by Benton 50-16.
The rest of the first-round meets: No. 14 South Williamsport (9-8) at No. 3 Montgomery (13-3); No. 11 Muncy (11-8) at No. 6 Troy (15-5); and No. 9 Montoursville (13-7) at No. 8 Towanda (15-8).
Williamson and Bucktail, the only others eligible to compete, opted out of the tournament.
The top two teams advance to Hershey the following Thursday. The third-place team travels to Whitehall High School for a 6 p.m. Feb. 4 match with District 11 runner-up.
In Class AAA, No. 1 Shikellamy (8-8) will meet No. 2 Jersey Shore (10-4) at 1:30 p.m. Saturday at Milton for the championship and a berth in the state tournament in Hershey the following Thursday. The Bulldogs beat the Braves by one point earlier in the season, and won last year's title match 47-16.
Line Mountain coach Mike Martz said recently that, before the season, his team fully expected to be battling for one of the three state tournament berths (the PIAA is taking three instead of two from D4-AA this season).
But injuries, wrestlers either not coming out for the team or coming out and then quitting, have left the Eagles with more holes than the Manti T'eo story.
Martz wanted so badly to make the tournament, knowing that advancing past the first round would be a monumental achievement.
The Eagles barely made it, beating Shamokin on the fourth criteria on Tuesday night to get into the 16-team field by a hair in their final regular-season dual meet. They got the 13th seed over South Williamsport because they beat the Mountaineers in their tournament.
The winner of Wednesday's meet at the Donald Eichhorn Middle School will take on the winner of the first-round match between No. 5 Wyalusing and No. 12 Hughesville. The Warrior Run-North Penn winner gets the winner of Benton-Southern.
n Sports editor Harold Raker covers high school wrestling for The Daily Item. Email comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.