Central's Wolfgram adjusts to life as targeted wrestler

Patrick Strohecker
  • Central York heavyweight Michael Wolfgram is 27-0 this season with 20 pins.
  • The sophomore is ranked No. 1 in District 3 and No. 5 in the state in his weight class.
  • Wolfgram will begin his quest for postseason success this weekend in sectional action.

Central York wrestling coaches Seth Beitz and Joe Musti were on the mat competing this past weekend at the East Stroudsburg Open.

Central York heavyweight wrestler Michael Wolfgram works out with assistant coach Joe Musti during practice, Tuesday, Feb. 14, 2017. John A. Pavoncello photo

Beitz, who serves as the team's head coach, is only 25, but he isn't far removed from his wrestling days at Penn State. Musti, meanwhile, is in his late-30s, so preparing to compete again was a tad more difficult for him.

Regardless of the rigors of preparing for the event, it was a product of one of their high school athletes living up to a bet made back in the preseason. So, in a way, it was well worth it.

"It was probably a loss for me, but a win for the program," Beitz said.

The bet made was clear. If sophomore heavyweight Michael Wolfgram could achieve 20 pins by the end of the regular season, then both Beitz and Musti had to compete in an open competition. It just so happened that Wolfgram's dominance on the mat this year got him to that mark right on the number, forcing his two coaches to get back out there as competitors again. The 20 total pins by Wolfgram this year were part of a larger campaign that's seen him go 27-0 heading into this weekend's Class 3-A sectional tournament. His breakout season has also brought him state-wide attention as a medal threat for the upcoming PIAA championships.

Major improvement: At this point a year ago, Wolfgram was a freshman preparing for his first varsity individual postseason. He remembers getting ready for sectionals and being a bit awestruck about being there. Then, when he placed in districts and qualified for states, the idea of making it to that point as a ninth grader was enough to erase any bitter memories from going 0-2 at the state competition to cap a more-than-respectable 29-12 freshman campaign.

He's past that now and wants more for himself. In order to accomplish it, however, he must do it with a target squarely on his back.

"I like it a little bit more," Wolfgram said about being a state medal favorite. "Going into the state tournament — not even the state tournament, but sectionals and districts — it's a little different, because instead of saying, 'Oh my gosh, look at all these guys. I'm happy to be here,' I have to go in thinking that I'm one of the guys to beat here and I just have to keep moving forward and dictating the match."

Central York heavyweight wrestler Michael Wolfgram works out with assistant coach Joe Musti during practice, Tuesday, Feb. 14, 2017. John A. Pavoncello photo

Psychologically, Wolfgram will tell himself that he's the best heavyweight, at least in the York-Adams League and District 3, to give him that extra motivation to back it up. However, his competitors now know of his reputation. According to PAPowerWrestling.com, Wolfgram is the top-ranked heavyweight in District 3. He got to that point by knocking off Northeastern's Blaine Yinger and Exeter Township's Oscar Daniels, who were considered the top heavyweights in the district this season before Wolfgram took care of them. On a state-wide scale, Wolfgram is ranked No. 5 in a top-10 heavyweight list that consists of seven seniors.

Big goals: By virtue of graduation, Wolfgram will likely catapult himself into the top three by next year. But, he also plans to make his mark in the state tournament this year by earning a medal, while also achieving even greater feats in the future.

"My ultimate goal is to be a national champion," Wolfgram said. "My coach always says, 'Set your goals so far and so high that you have to work so hard to get them, and the little things will come along the way.' State championships are going to be nice and will be cool, but if you want to be the best, you gotta train to be the best."

While there's no official national championship where all the individual state champions go and compete against each other, there are several events around the country where wrestlers from all different states can wrestle against each other and be crowned a national champion.

Dedication to the sport: In order to accomplish that, Wolfgram has already dedicated his entire life to the sport. He spent the whole offseason between his freshman season and this season training to get better, practicing and lifting weights two or three times a week, while also taking part in several tournaments. Wolfgram said heading into this year, he already had about 25 bouts under his belt from the offseason to get him geared up for the high school season.

At about 258 pounds, Wolfgram is right in the middle when it comes to heavyweights, which has a top limit of 285 pounds. There are several heavier than him, but also some lighter heavyweights out there. Beitz describes Wolfgram as "a lightweight who weighs 250 pounds" because of his quickness and active style, making it difficult to find a training partner for him. So, Wolfgram will not only practice against the coaches, but also against lighter wrestlers on the team, which helps them become better, as well.

"Anytime your partner is practicing to get 1 percent better each day, that's going to make you, in return, a lot better," Beitz said. "That's something that the coaching staff here, we really push that when you come in, you're not only trying to get yourself better that day, but you're also being a good partner and helping your partner get better and accomplish their goals."

Central York heavyweight wrestler Michael Wolfgram talks with Coach Seth Beitz during practice, Tuesday, Feb. 14, 2017. John A. Pavoncello photo

Joining elite ranks: There are boards in the Central York wrestling room that list the names of every wrestler to come through the program who has qualified for districts and/or states, as well as placed in sectionals, districts and/or states. As expected, the names become fewer and fewer as the boards progress in stature.

When this season is said and done, Wolfgram expects to join the elite ranks of Central wrestlers to put his name on the "state medalist" board.

And then he'll look to do it a couple more times before he finally graduates.

— Reach Patrick Strohecker at pstrohecker@yorkdispatch.com

Sectional sites

Following are the two sectional sites that York-Adams schools will compete at on Saturday.

District 3 Class 3-A Section 4 at South Western, 7:30 a.m.: Central York, Dallastown, Dover, Gettysburg, New Oxford, Northeastern, Red Lion, South Western, Spring Grove, Susquehannock, Waynesboro, West York, York Suburban and York Tech. Note: Top four advance in each weight class.

District 3 Class 2-A Section 4 at Bermudian Springs, 8:30 a.m.: Bermudian Springs, Biglerville, Delone Catholic, Eastern York, Fairfield, Hanover, Kennard-Dale, Littlestown. Note: Top three advance in each weight class.

Following are other sectional sites for District 3

Class 3-A: Section 1 at Gov. Mifflin. Section 2 at Hempfield. Section 3 at Mechanicsburg.

Class 2-A: Section 1 at Hamburg. Section 2 at Central Dauphin East. Section 3 at Susquenita.