Sophomore Michael Wolfgram takes on role of elder statesman. Teddy Feinberg/GameTimePA.com
After finishing third at the PIAA wrestling tournament last season, Spring Grove's Dalton Rohrbaugh enters his junior season hungry for the top prize.
Rohrbaugh has bulked up from 106 to 120 pounds by increasing his time in the weight room, and he's hoping to remain just as formidable at the higher weight.
"In Dalton's case, he finished third and as a competitor he wasn't happy with that," Spring Grove head coach Tony Miller said at YAIAA winter sports media day last month. "Even though he's a state medalist, all he knows is there's another step he can take."
Rohrbaugh is also hoping to help the Rockets take the next step as a team. Spring Grove won Division I last season but came up just short of the PIAA team tournament, losing in the consolation round of districts. Chance Jackson, Clay Baker, Trent Baker and Ryan Daugherty are just a few other wrestlers who will have big roles this season, according to Miller.
Here are some more storylines to watch this season in YAIAA wrestling.
Yinger leads Bobcats
Northeastern senior Blaine Yinger provided one of the YAIAA’s top moments of the 2016 postseason when he turned in a clutch performance to capture the program’s first district championship since 1978.
The heavyweight’s path to district gold was anything but easy, as he won two matches in the second tiebreaker period and two others by a combined three points. The run ended at states, where he dropped his two bouts by a combined four points. But the Giant Center experience has given him all the motivation he needs for the upcoming season.
“I’m ready to go,” Yinger said. “I want to place at states. After what happened last season, I’m going to work harder this year and hopefully get up near the top.”
The senior provides a nice anchor for Bobcats coach Tom Kessler, who also returns Dedrick Turner (fourth at sectionals at 195) and Corey Eaton at the upper weights. Northeastern brings back eight starters, giving the Bobcats optimism that they can field a competitive dual-meet squad.
“We have some pretty good kids up top,” Kessler said. “If we can get them all spread out, and not all at the same weight, we can be really good up there. One of our strengths is that we have eight kids back, so if we can continue to improve and get the kids to buy in, we can be somewhat successful.”
Central York building off of historic season
A year removed from one of the best seasons in recent memory, the Panthers will have their work cut out for them in 2016-17. Central York lost PIAA bronze medalist Dylan Chatterton to graduation, as well as Xavier Musti and Isaiah Dickson.
Leading the way are a pair of sophomores and returning District 3 qualifiers in Michael Wolfgram and Logan Paluch. Also expected to take a leadership role for second-year head coach Seth Beitz’s squad is junior Orion Musti.
Paluch said he hopes to fill the void by “pushing the team and stepping up.” Musti added that he could provide more leadership, while Wolfgram noted that he’d like to set the example for incoming freshmen.
Wildcat building blocks
It remains to be seen if Dallastown can build a top-to-bottom lineup capable of challenging for the Division I crown. But the Wildcats do know they have a strong core to build around.
Dallastown brings back a quartet of District 3 Class 3A qualifiers: Senior Bryce Shields (195 pounds), junior Dalton Daugherty (120), senior Drake Pew (160) and senior Cameron Green (182). Wildcats coach Rob Jansen said he hopes that group of medal-seeking upperclassmen will lift each other and everyone else in the Dallastown wrestling room.
“You have to make sure everyone is working hard in the room,” Jansen said. “When you’re successful a lot of times, and you’re winning most of your matches, it’s hard to push yourself to that next level. A lot of times it comes down to your teammates pushing you hard in the practice room.”
The most decorated of the bunch is Shields, who reached the district semifinals last season and claimed a fifth-place finish, good enough to make him the Wildcats’ sole state qualifier. He won a pair of consolation-round matches at the PIAA tourney, leaving him one victory away from the medal stand.
“One of my main goals is to place in the top six at states,” Shields said. “That’s been the goal since last year. I want to be in the finals at district this year.”
Both Daugherty and Pew won a pair of matches at districts last season, advancing to the third round of consolations.
Red Lion has lofty expectations
With a lineup chock-full of four-year starters, Red Lion is looking to turn a recent spate of close losses into wins. The Lions will have to replace the production of 285-pound extraordinaire Jared Schell.
They'll enter the season with a new head coach, too. Albert Gleichauf takes the reins from the departed Chris Schell.
Kennard-Dale looks for three-peat
After Kennard-Dale claimed the last two YAIAA Division II titles, the Rams will have the target on their backs. But they'll also have to replace Mike Bracey’s production in the lineup. Seniors Andrew Barnett and Austin McNamee are expected to step up and fill the void.
“I always wrestled behind Bracey,” Barnett said. “When he got six, I would get six. We fed off of each other.”
Former Greater Latrobe head coach Tad Harbert takes over the program for the departed Mike Balestrini.
Bermudian Springs' Austin Clabaugh and Delone Catholic's Brian Shermeyer discuss the 2016-17 wrestling season. Matt Allibone
Bermudian Springs looks to stay healthy
The Eagles' motto this year is simple: "No injuries," said senior 195-pounder Noah Fleshman.
Bermudian Springs went all of last season without key starters at two weights, but the Eagles still won YAIAA Division III and reached the District 3 semifinals. The team will once again be without 182-pounder Chase Dull, who suffered an ACL injury during football season. But Bermudian brings back a strong lineup across the board.
If the Eagles avoid any major injuries, they will once again be a major force in Division III. Head coach Dave McCollum's squad has 11 returning lettermen, including Fleshman, 152-pounder Ashton West and 132-pounder Austin Clabaugh.
"To me, (Dull) is the missing link, but we have good numbers and a lot of good guys back," McCollum said. "I think we're going to be really competitive."