HERSHEY — Central York sophomore heavyweight Michael Wolfgram tells himself that the District 3 Class 3-A wrestling competition is just another tournament.
It's how he prevents himself from getting too psyched out by the bright lights, the large crowds and all the amenities that come along with competing at Hershey's Giant Center.
Except, the District 3 tournament isn't just another tournament. It's the first of two postseason tournaments contested at the 10,000-plus seat arena, presenting the high school wrestlers with their first moments of the season when they aren't in the tight confines of a high school gym.
So, while Wolfgram and so many others will do their best to treat it like any other tournament or match, it isn't. The more experience you have at this stage, the better off you'll be.
"You can't think of it like, "Oh, if I lose this, I'm not going to states,' or, 'If I win this, this kid is ranked this in the state,'" Wolfgram said. "You just have to wrestle every match."
This is the first time the district competition has been held at the Giant Center, moving across the parking lot from the historic Hersheypark Arena.
Experience helps: So, for everyone involved, it was a new experience. But, it paid off to have experience competing at this stage, which showed in the number of York-Adams League wrestlers who performed well on the competition's first day and are now just a win away from booking a berth in the state tournament.
Wolfgram is among them, earning two pins in his two bouts on Thursday, pushing his record to 32-0. He's one of two York County products in the semifinals of the heavyweight division, with Northeastern's Blaine Yinger, the reigning District 3 3-A champion in the division, also going 2-0. Yinger's task was a bit more difficult, earning a pin in his opening bout and then drawing Exeter Township's Oscar Daniels in the quarterfinals. Yinger beat Daniels in last year's district championship and it was another close bout this year, with Yinger grabbing a 3-2 decision.
"I want to be a two-timer," Yinger said about defending his crown. "I worked all year for it, so I don't want it to just go to waste now in the postseason after all this hard work."
The Y-A League saw some of its biggest success come at the heavier weights, with Spring Grove's Nate Young (220) and Dallastown's Bryce Shields (220) also making it to the semifinal round. Young got a pin in his opening bout and then a 3-1 win in the quarterfinals, while Shields was efficient with his time on the mat. With the tournament stretched out over three days, it's important for wrestlers to conserve their energy and Shields did that. He scored two pins in a combined 2 minutes, 30 seconds, putting him in good shape heading into Friday's semifinals.
"I know wrestling at a bigger weight, I get tired pretty easy," Shields said. "So, I do the best I can trying to get a bigger lead early in the match and then holding onto that lead throughout the match."
Ten moving on: In total, there are 10 Y-A League wrestlers into the semifinals, with other experienced wrestlers such as the Rockets' Dalton Rohrbaugh, the reigning 106-pound champion, in the 113-pound final four and his teammate, Jake Meyer, in the 132-pound semifinals.
The Wildcats' Dalton Daugherty scored two wins to make the final four at 126 pounds. This is his second time at districts and he said the biggest difference this year is understanding that he belongs. Now, he's only a win away, not only from qualifying for states, but also competing on Saturday for the district title.
"It's a good feeling to know that I'm just one win away," he said. "I know that I have a tough semifinal match, so I need to get in the right mindset and be ready for whoever I wrestle that, if I win or lose, just be ready for the state tournament."
From Adams County, New Oxford's Zurich Storm (120) is in his fourth district tournament, finishing second last year. He's back in the semis this year. Gettysburg's Dylan Reinert is into the semifinals at 138 pounds.
But, for all the experience that is needed to perform at this stage, Northeastern freshman Cole Wilson proved that mettle can come in all shapes and sizes. He grabbed two easy pins in less than a period combined to make the 106-pound semifinals. He looks poised to also make it one-for-one in state appearances.
"The first match I was pretty nervous," Wilson said. "I was nervous warming up and stuff, but when I got on the mat, it just felt like a normal match."
Consolation survivors: Several other Y-A wrestlers kept their seasons alive by winning a consolation round match.
Most notably, Dallastown's Cael Turnbull (106) and Cameron Green (182); Spring Grove's Clay Baker (120), Anthony Hinson (152) and Jared Barley (170); Red Lion's Dylan Gurreri (160) and Zach Shaffer (195); Central York's Logan Paluch (120); Northeastern's Dedrick Turner (220); and Susquehannock's Jack Allred (182).
Day 2: The second day of competition will begin at 10 a.m. Friday when Class 2-A gets underway with its first round and quarterfinal round and first-round consolations. The second session of the day and third of the overall tournament will begin around 5:30 p.m. with both class' semifinal rounds and third-round consolations and consolation semifinals.
Everything will wrap up on Saturday with the championship bouts and consolation bouts.
— Reach Patrick Strohecker at firstname.lastname@example.org