Central York wrestler makes quantum leap in 2017. (Teddy Feinberg/GameTimePA.com)
At the end of the season, Central York High School coaches like to give their wrestlers a month off.
The goal is to rest and recuperate, to recharge their batteries after a grueling season.
For most student-athletes, it's not a difficult sales pitch. When it came to heavyweight Michael Wolfgram, however, head coach Seth Beitz made it a mandatory ruling.
"My coach looked at me and said, 'I don't want to see you in the room. You need to stay out,'" Wolfgram said. "I was texting him after two weeks."
Wolfgram was on a mission after his freshman year, when he held a 29-12 record and qualified for the state tournament. For all intents and purposes, his first year on the varsity wrestling mat was a success.
Yet Wolfgram wasn't satisfied. Following the state tournament, he reflected on his season and concluded he was just a few steps away from joining the elite. In turn, his confidence grew, as did his vision of the future.
"Making it to the state tournament — I can get there. You can be here with these guys," Wolfgram said of his shift in perspective. "You just got to go and place. Start working harder in the room and drill faster. That's it.”
From that point forward, Wolfgram decided he didn't need an offseason. He began training with the Panthers' wrestling team year-round and elected to stop playing football. And with that, he's gone from a quality freshman campaign to a dominant sophomore performance in 2017.
Wolfgram said his offseason training regimen consisted of wrestling two to three times a week against Beitz, a former Penn State wrestler, and Dylan Chatterton, a former Central York teammate who's currently a freshman wrestler at Shorter University in Georgia. Wolfgram also said he logged an additional two to three workouts in the weight room each week.
Chatterton said such a year-round commitment to a wrestling program is rare on the high school level.
"You have to put all your eggs in one basket and that's what Mike did," Chatterton said. "It's that work that's paying off. He's one of the most dominant wrestlers in the state right now."
That he is. Wolfgram hasn't lost this season, holding a 27-0 record with 20 of those victories coming via pinfall.
He knocked off two of the district's top wrestlers in Northeastern's Blaine Yinger and Exeter Township's Oscar Daniels. And, according to PAPowerWrestling.com, Wolfgram is ranked No. 1 in District 3 and No. 5 in the state heavyweight rankings. He's one of just two sophomores ranked in the state's Top 10, while seven of those wrestlers are high school seniors.
"That's impressive," Chatterton said.
Along with his increase in confidence, Wolfgram said he's a better technical wrestler this year. Wolfgram said he has a better game plan stepping onto the mat: His attack, counter-attack; move, counter-move; and the process of setting up his opponents are all improved.
Wolfgram said he hasn't grown much in the past year — he still stands close to 6-feet tall — and that he weighs about 15 pounds more as a sophomore, hovering around 260 pounds. His mental game, however, has taken a quantum leap forward, he said.
"Just before the match I always envision myself with snap-downs, outside sweeps, riding heavy. I was wrestling my match," Wolfgram said. "I don’t like to give people a lot of room to breathe.”
Wolfgram was also quick to point out the contributions of Beitz, who's in his second season as head coach of the Panthers.
“He would call me sometimes and say, ‘Hey, I’m going in for a workout, you want to go?’" Wolfgram said. "We’d come in here for an hour, hour-and-a-half and just drill our butts off.”
Wolfgram said the 25-year-old Beitz "understands the bigger picture" and the coach emphasized everything from work on the wrestling mat to work in the classroom.
“I owe a lot of what I’m doing this year to him," Wolfgram said. "Just because of the way he pushes me. He’s a great role model."
With the state tournament looming, three other heavyweights ranked in Pennsylvania's Top 10 hail from District 3 — Cameron Tinner (Shippensburg senior, No. 6); Yinger (Northeastern senior, No. 8); and Daniels (Exeter Township senior, No. 9). Warwick junior Ryan Stewart is currently ranked No. 11.
In other words, the competition looks to be fierce come postseason.
"I don’t think he’s done," Beitz said. "I think he can still compete harder and beat better guys than he’s wrestled thus far. And I’m excited to watch him do that."
When asked about taking the mat against wrestlers from outside the immediate region, Wolfgram said he drew inspiration watching a video featuring four-time collegiate champion Kyle Dake.
"If you’re not confident in yourself, why compete?" Wolfgram asked, rhetorically. "There’s no point in going out if you don’t think you’re going to win. Whenever I step onto the mat, I always envision myself getting my hand raised."