VIDEO: Dallastown two-way lineman Raymond Christas discusses his role as the team's center and member of the defensive line. JACOB CALVIN MEYER, 717-505-5406/@jcalvinmeyer
Being in shape is a vital part of wrestling.
Workouts to cut weight or improve cardiovascular endurance is a mainstay in wrestling practice.
As a heavyweight, Dallastown senior Raymond Christas said conditioning has always been something he’s had to focus on early in the season — until this year.
Christas, a standout two-way lineman on the football team, said the Wildcats’ high-tempo offense made him a better wrestler. The York-Adams Division I all-star also said the body control that wrestling requires has also improved his skills on the gridiron.
“I think it goes both ways,” said Christas, who is being recruited as a football player by NCAA Division II colleges. “Wrestling helps me with football, and football helps me with wrestling.”
Playing multiple sports in high school is common, and Y-A League coaches and athletes say finding the proper balance between competing in both a fall and winter sport is challenging but rewarding.
“There’s no question it’s a good thing,” Red Lion football coach Jesse Shay said. “These kids are in high school. This is the one time in your life when you can do a whole bunch of activities.”
Not always easy: While Shay and Christas say the benefits are clear, they added that it’s not always easy.
Practice for winter sports can start before the end of football season, and summer workouts can cause conflicts between the sports, too, depending on the travel or AAU teams athletes play on.
Lily Jamison, a senior soccer and basketball player at Dallastown, said the biggest conflict for her came as a sophomore when a club soccer coach offered her a spot on a year-round team that would have forced her to quit basketball. Even though soccer is Jamison’s main sport, she said the decision was tough because of her love for basketball.
“I just wasn’t willing to give up the basketball part of my life, so I decided not to do it,” Jamison said.
Jamison, who was a Y-A D-I first-team all-star, added that another difficult aspect is missing preseason basketball workouts that begin in mid-September — the heart of soccer season.
“I try to go to as many of those as I can, but soccer comes first because that’s in season,” she said. “The other coaches at the school are pretty supportive of playing multiple sports, so that helps.”
Christas said he hasn’t seriously thought about quitting wrestling to focus on football — but the thought has crossed his mind.
“I’ve been wrestling since the first grade,” he said. “I’ve been wrestling my whole life. This is my senior year, and it’s my last chance to achieve my goals and to help my team. I don’t want to let them down. I am going to finish what I started.”
Christas said finding the right balance for his weight between the two sports is a difficult one. For wrestling, he can weigh up to 285, but he thinks he’s most effective at 260. College football coaches, though, would obviously want him to gain weight as a lineman, he said.
“I try to maintain weight during wrestling season,” Christas said. “Ideally, I am going to gain weight for football in college. Coaches ask me what my weight is, and that’s a big deal. Whenever wrestling season is over, I will do what the football coaches want in terms of my weight.”
Support from coaches: Shay, who said about a dozen of his football players participate in a winter sport, said the best way to treat multi-sport athletes as a coach is with “communication and respect.”
A great example, he said, is Davante Dennis, who was a defensive end for the D-I co-champs but is a basketball player first.
“He is going to be a tremendous football player and is already getting talked to by coaches about basketball,” Shay said. “If he wants to go out to Nevada to an AAU tournament during the summer and he misses a summer workout, then so be it. I have no problem with that.”
Shay said he knows there can be some coaches who want their players to only play their sport, but he added that every Y-A football coach shares his view that being a multi-sport athlete is a positive.
“There can be this attitude with some coaches that (the players) have to be with me to be working, and that couldn’t be further from the truth” Shay said. “It’s not like these kids are sitting on their rear ends doing nothing. If (Red Lion wideout) Randy Fizer isn’t with me playing football, he is on the basketball court working his butt off. If (quarterback) Zach Mentzer isn’t with me, he’s being a captain on the basketball team.”
Eastern York boys’ basketball coach Justin Seitz, who said seven of his 10 players competed in a fall sport, agreed with Shay that communication plays a vital role.
“We ran fall sport-only intramurals,” Seitz said. “Once a week, we found an opportunity to work with the golf coach, the football coach and the soccer coach to find availability in their schedules to get the kids in the gym to make sure that they touched a basketball during the fall.”
Crossover skills: Seitz, who is in his first season as Eastern’s head coach, said it's possible to improve as a basketball player by bringing over skills from other sports. He attributes his team’s physicality to some of his players’ backgrounds as football players.
“A big strength coming from football is the toughness,” he said. “That’s really helped some of our kids, and they’ve translated that to the floor.”
Like wrestling, being in shape is crucial in basketball, too, and Jamison said playing soccer only makes her more prepared for basketball season.
“I come into basketball season in better shape than most of my teammates, because I was playing soccer all fall,” Jamison said.
Shay isn’t just accepting of his players wrestling in the winter — he is grateful for it. The six-year head coach said his best running backs, including Tyler Ness and Dylan Gurreri, have all been wrestlers.
“The biggest reason is because they all have good body control going through the hole,” Shay said.
Confidence is key: Of Seitz’s multi-sport athletes, several of them were key parts of one of the most prolific passing attacks in Y-A history. Quarterback Trevor Seitz and wide receivers Demonte Martin, Kaleb Corwell and Bryce Henise contributed to an offense that put up 32.5 points per game, and the Golden Knights’ basketball coach hopes the confidence will transfer to the hardwood.
“It’s definitely helped. The more situations and the more environments that put you outside your comfort zone, the better you’ll be,” Justin Seitz said. “Three guys that Trevor threw the ball to are all on the basketball floor. They have that chemistry.”
Jamison said while playing both a fall and winter sports has caused her to make sacrifices, she added that the experience has made her better in high-pressure situations.
“The more you’re put into those situations, the better you get,” Jamison said.
Reach Jacob Calvin Meyer at email@example.com.