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It had been two weeks since Dalton Rohrbaugh stepped foot on a wrestling mat.

Two weeks since he laced up the blue ASICS Rulon wrestling shoes that he's worn so many times they've become an extension of his own feet.

The Spring Grove High School graduate knew something had to change.

Rohrbaugh won 152 matches during his high school career, including a pair of PIAA Class 3-A bronze medals, before joining the NCAA Division I Lock Haven University wrestling program — a program that's produced multiple NCAA national champions. 

Now, Rohrbaugh couldn’t even bring himself to step onto the mat. The strain of cutting weight had simply become too much of a physical and emotional drain.

“I was at the point where I hated going to practice, I hated everything about it,” Rohrbaugh said. “I just didn’t want to do it anymore. I hated that I felt that way. It had a big impact on everything I was doing — how I was living my life every day, to my grades.”

Time for a change: Rohrbaugh decided to quit the Bald Eagles’ team in November. He contemplated ending his wrestling career before making the choice to transfer to York College. He will have two years of eligibility remaining.

After he wrestled at 133 pounds during his freshman season at Lock Haven with a 20-14 record, while winning a Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference title, Rohrbaugh was asked to transition down to the 125-pound weight class. 

He said he wrestled at 126 as a senior in high school, but after putting on some weight, the cut was now too much for him. He made the choice to enter the transfer portal and find a new place to finish his career.

“It just felt weird,” Rohrbaugh said. “I can’t remember the last time I spent that much time away from a mat. I realized I couldn’t just walk away from the sport, but I had to go somewhere else.”

Asking for advice: Rohrbaugh spoke with his head coach at Spring Grove, Tony Miller, who is now an assistant with the program, about his decision. The discussion came when Rohrbaugh was home working with the Spring Grove team and weighing his options. Miller said it was shocking to hear that the kid he coached and knew so well had lost his desire to wrestle.

“He’s the type of kid that couldn’t wait for the next practice,” Miller said. “Dalton loves wrestling. It’s good to take a breath once in a while and re-evaluate where you are and what you want.” 

Late in December Rohrbaugh officially requested to be entered into the NCAA transfer portal and started to receive interest from schools. He said a number of programs were after him, but he only considered three — York College, Shippensburg University and Millersville University — because of their proximity to his home.

Close to home: Rohrbaugh loved the visit he had with York College and the bond he built with Spartans’ head coach, Duane Bastress, and the team. The Spartans are 7-7 this season, but typically have been one of the stronger D-III teams in the mid-Atlantic region.

Rohrbaugh added that seeing some familiar faces from the York-Adams League in South Western grad Adam Leib and York Suburban grad Daoud Ilayan helped make him feel it was the right choice.

In addition to the fit at York College, being 15 minutes from his home will allow Rohrbaugh to help coach at Spring Grove when he can, something he and the Rockets are excited about.

Although it may seem like a dramatic decision to leave an NCAA D-I program to join a D-III squad, Rohrbaugh’s focus is less on the level of the team and more on how he feels about his life.

“When it comes down to it, whether I’m wrestling Division I or Division III, I only got two years left of it,” Rohrbaugh said. “I’m not going to the world level, I’m not doing the Olympics. I’m not that guy. I might as well go somewhere I’m going to be happy to be at and do other things. There’s other things to think about other than being a Division I wrestler.” 

Finding his passion: Miller added that it was tough to see Rohrbaugh struggle with his future and lose interest in the sport, but it also offered him a chance to discover an important part of life at a young age.

“Life sometimes changes the path you thought you were going down for a multitude of reasons and you don’t know why, you just keep doing the best you can where you’re at,” Miller said. “Three years ago, his prediction was definitely not the direction he’s going right now, but sometimes, as you get older, you look at things differently. That was a great learning experience for him to find where he was at and what his goals are.”  

As he focuses on finishing his time in college physically and mentally healthy, Rohrbaugh will start onto the next phase of his wrestling journey — becoming a coach. 

The last few months have forced him to make some of the toughest decisions of his life, but it’s brought him a new perspective on life and allowed him to tap into the passion that drove him to become an elite high school wrestler and earn a scholarship to a D-I program.

“I think it really showed how big of a part of my life wrestling is,” Rohrbaugh said. “My plan was to just step away and I couldn’t do it. I’m excited to get back on the mat close to home, somewhere I really want to be and have fun with it again.”

Reach Rob Rose at rrose@yorkdispatch.com.

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