LeBarrons climb to top of podium

HUGHESVILLE – Zack LeBarron hesitated, but only for the briefest of moments to think about how he wanted to phrase his answer.

The Warrior Run freshman claimed he was a better wrestler than his older brother, Brian, after climbing off the make-shift podium in the Hughesville High School gymnasium. But he put a caveat saying he’d win a match if they were the same weight.

Some 20 minutes later, Brian, the junior 126-pounder walked down the levels of the same podium his brother stood on and confirmed Zack’s thought, but again with a caveat.

“If we were the same weight, it’d be a close one,” Brian LeBarron said. “I’ll admit it.”

Which one was the better didn’t matter much Saturday night. Both Zack and Brian won their first gold medals at the District 4 East-Central Sectional wrestling tournament. And just to add to the good family day, their step-brother Eric Hunt finished second at 113 pounds.

All three advanced to next week’s District 4 tournament at Williamsport. In total, 19 local wrestlers advanced to districts next week with both LeBarrons, Hughesville’s Kyle Barnes, and Muncy’s Troy Hembury and Skylar Ebner all taking first place.

Hughesville’s Zach Fry (120 pounds) and Robert White (170) both finished second in two of the toughest weight classes in the district. The 120-pound bracket was so tough that Sullivan County junior Shawn Nitcznski, a 2011 state qualifier, finished fourth and had his season end.

Central Columbia won its second consecutive East-Central team title with 168.5 points. Benton was second with 150.5.

Zack LeBarron said after winning his 106-pound title that should Brian win his finals match against Muncy’s Andy Aguilar that it would create a pretty fierce brotherly rivalry because he and Brian are always really competitive. Their wins yesterday were equally impressive, though.

Zack remained undefeated for the year (29-0) by beating Muncy’s Angelo Barberio, 7-1, in the finals in dominating fashion. It was the second time this year he’s beaten Barberio. He also won 6-2 in a dual-meet earlier this season.

“I wrestled him more defensive last time and I learned I needed to be more offensive and get my stuff,” Zack LeBarron said. “The match was pretty close last time and I know I should be able to beat him worse than what I did.”

He spent the better part of four minutes of the match in the top position. The long and lanky freshman covers his opponents like a tablecloth in the top position. His long reach allows him to easily get to an ankle to prevent his opponents from getting to their feet.

His long arms and legs make him a pest for opponents to try to find an opening to get out on bottom. And then there’s the fact that he’s a pretty darn good wrestler and knows exactly what he’s doing on the mat.

“I feel pretty good now on top,” LeBarron said. “I’ve really been working with coach and all he helps me with is on top and that’s why I feel like I’m stronger there now.”

Brian LeBarron went through a pair of up-and-coming sophomores to win his first sectional title. He even made a move to put himself behind by a point in the third period of the 126-pound final with Aguilar before scoring the winning takedown with a minute to go.

He beat Hughesville’s Houston Bryant in the semifinals by fall, and was tied at 4-4 with Aguilar to start the third period when he elected for the neutral option when Aguilar chose bottom to start the third. The move gave Aguilar a 5-4 lead, but LeBarron said it was a decision born out of a time concern.

“He felt a lot stronger than me and my strongest position is on my feet and I knew I wasn’t going to be able to hold him down,” Brian LeBarron said. “I did it so I had more time on my feet.”

He got the winning takedown with 1:01 to go when he quickly went from a tie-up position to a double-leg takedown near the edge. He rode Aguilar hard for the final minute, but on a restart with about 6 seconds left, LeBarron struggled to get to his feet because he was exhausted.

A caution on the restart caused discussion between the officials and Muncy coaches about how much time should be on the clock. The discussion went for a couple minutes giving LeBarron a break he said he absolutely needed.

He held down Aguilar to win 6-5. Zack and Brian were the 103rd and 104th sectional champions in Warrior Run’s history.

“It took everything in me (to hold Aguilar down),” LeBarron said. “He’s strong. Real strong. His legs are strong and I knew I couldn’t keep him down.”

Ebner also won his first sectional title a year after finishing second to Benton’s Jake Mankey. Ebner, who won his 113th career match in the 195-pound final, cruised through his bracket winning by fall in the semifinals in the first period and pinning Warrior Run’s Hunter Stroup in 2:38 in the final.

Ebner is ranked 14th in the state and lived up to his billing as the top seed.

“The last couple years I had Mankey and it wasn’t a lot of fun,” the senior said. “This year I saw a good opportunity and wanted to go out there and prove myself and get it rolling on to next week.”

Ebner’s two pins yesterday gave him 21 for the season, which makes up 70 percent of his 30 wins this year. He said it was different coming into the sectional tournament as the top seed and favorite to walk away with the gold, but he still sees himself as someone who has to prove himself in the postseason.

“The couple last postseason I haven’t really been wrestling to my potential, so this year I really want to do it,” Ebner said. “It’s definitely different (being the top seed), but you still have to prove yourself. I’ve been working and I just want to get to states. That’s my thing and I want to keep this rolling.”