The 220-pound wrestler holds a 15-1 record and a signature win. GameTimePA.com
Bryce Shields isn't afraid of a challenge.
Case in point: When the Dallastown wrestling team took on Northeastern last month, the Wildcats' typical 220-pounder requested to battle up a weight class so he could take on Northeastern heavyweight Blaine Yinger.
Yinger is a far bigger competitor, standing at 6-foot and 270 pounds. And with a 13-3 record this season, he's also one of the premier heavyweights in the state, coming off last year's District 3 championship and a state berth.
That's not to suggest Shields is small by any stretch of the imagination. He's a muscular 5-foot-11, 205-pounder who's been on a tear this year.
But when Shields earned a 5-2 decision against Yinger on Dec. 22, both the Wildcat wrestler and his head coach Rob Jansen classified the victory as a signature moment.
"You can go and beat someone who everyone expects you to beat. No one’s going to notice," Jansen said. "If you go out and beat someone who’s really good, that’s when people pay attention."
Shields is making people pay attention this season with an 18-1 record. He's fast on the mat, a skill he was able to use to his advantage in taking down the larger heavyweight Yinger.
"I know Bryce. He's a good wrestler and a good kid," Yinger said. "He was really quick. He had me off balance a couple of times."
Shields pointed to the quality competition as a reason for wrestling up that day, saying, "It'd be a good match and a good match anywhere is a positive thing."
“To not be afraid to wrestle the good kids — to want that challenge — it’s a big thing for the team," said Shields' teammate Dalton Daugherty, a junior. "Everybody sees that and wants to step up and play their role.”
Said Yinger: "I respect that. I think more of him as a man, the fact that he wants to wrestle me."
Shields began wrestling with the Wildcats' youth program in first grade. He's moved up in weight classes through his high school career: He was a varsity starter as a freshman at 145 pounds, before moving to 182 as a sophomore, 195 as a junior and now 220 as a senior.
“Coming from the lightweights, transitioning to the heavyweights, keeping a good speed really helps," Shields said. "Those kids up at the heavyweights, they’re a little bit slower than the kids down at the lighter weights. They’re not as quick to react to stuff like that. I think speed definitely helps. It’s an advantage point.”
After qualifying for states last year, Shields said his goal in 2017 is to finish in the top six in the state in the 220-pound weight class.
Shields said he began wrestling when he was 4 because of his brother Nick, who wrestled for Dallastown and graduated in 2015. Now wrestling at Valley Forge Military College, Nick has been a model and motivator for Bryce's entire life, he said.
“He kind of sets the precedence. I was going to either try to do as well as him or better in pretty much anything I do," Bryce Shields said. "That’s why my goal is to place. Because he never placed. It would be kind of cool to tell him I placed and he didn’t.”
He's got a wealth of state experience at his disposal on the Wildcats' coaching staff. Jansen, the third-year head coach, was a two-time state qualifier at Dallastown in the late 90s. His assistant with the varsity program is Jason Turnbull, a 1991 graduate of West York High School and former state wrestling qualifier. The junior high staff includes:
- Dave Gable, Dallastown alumnus and former head coach, a PIAA medalist in the early 1980s.
- Neal Barnes, Millersville University's former head coach, a state champion under Gable in 1993.
- Brad Lloyd, former Red Lion head coach and alumnus, a national runner-up at Lock Haven University.
"You have a lot of people that want us to win," Jansen said. "They want to go the extra mile to help get us there. Where we have better numbers in the program, where we’re trying to get kids to come out."
Jansen said the Wildcats (13-1) have a full lineup of returning wrestlers this year. In addition to Shields, the Wildcats are enjoying good seasons from Daugherty (126 pounds) and Drake Pew (170). Jansen added that sophomores Jarrett Feeney (152 pounds) and Cael Turnbull (106 pounds) have had solid seasons as well.
That's a good step forward for a Dallastown program that's historically seen success, yet suffered a losing record last year.
"The last few years it’s been kids that, it’s either their first year or they’ve only had two, maybe even just one year of junior high experience," Daugherty said. "This year we’ve had all kids that at least have a year of varsity or a few years of junior high experience. Even though we’re young, we have plenty of experience. It’s good.”
Dallastown looks to continue its strong season this week. Tuesday, the Wildcats (3-1 YAIAA Division I) will visit first-place Spring Grove (4-0), which currently stands alone atop the division: A Dallastown win would potentially create a three-way logjam of one-loss teams with New Oxford. Thursday, the Wildcats take on Red Lion.
“I’m really happy with our team this year," Shields said. "I think we have a good shot at beating Spring Grove next week. And also Red Lion, of course. We can’t overlook them.”
Who: Dallastown (8-1 overall, 3-1 in YAIAA Division I) at Spring Grove (11-2, 3-0)
What: YAIAA Division I wrestling match
Where: Spring Grove High School
When: 7 p.m.
Watch it live: Tuesday's match will be livestreamed at GameTimePA.com, where you can watch it live on any Internet-ready device.