HERSHEY — There's no question that high school wrestling tournaments can be a real grind.
Having to wrestle multiple matches over several consecutive days can take a toll on even the most conditioned athletes.
Many competitors who participated in the three-day PIAA Class 3-A Championships left Saturday’s final day with bumps, bruises, black eyes and cuts, as well as injuries to their shoulders, legs, ankles and necks.
In the end, however, it can be tremendously rewarding, especially for those able to finish in the top eight of their respective weight classes and earn medals.
Such was the case for a trio of York-Adams League wrestlers this past weekend at the at the Giant Center. Central York's Michael Wolfgram and Dallastown teammates Raymond Christas and Jamal Brandon each capped off terrific senior seasons with victories in the medal round. Wolfgram took third place at 285 pounds, while Christas was fifth in that same class. Brandon claimed seventh at 220.
“York County really represented tonight at heavyweight,” said Christas, who along with Brandon, gave Dallastown its first pair of state medalists since 2009.
Of the three Y-A medalists, Christas seemed to be the one least affected by injury. Brandon and Wolfgram both suffered facial cuts. Brandon’s was just below his left eye and Wolfgram's was on his lip. Brandon also hurt his shoulder during Thursday’s first-round match, but battled through it the rest of the weekend.
Even those who failed to make it to the final day were not spared trouble. The most notable York-area injury happened to Susquehannock junior Colby Romjue, who twisted his ankle in his quarterfinal bout at 152 Friday. While Romjue did his best to fight through it, the Warrior standout just missed the medal stand Saturday.
Brandon claims medal despite ongoing battle with insomnia: While those injuries are more physical in nature, Brandon’s journey to a medal is remarkable for a different reason. The Wildcat senior has been battling a case of insomnia for the past several months.
“I got a good bit of sleep Thursday night, but (Friday) night I hardly got any,” Brandon said. “It takes a toll after a while, but I try not to let it affect me.”
Christas, who shared a hotel room with Brandon during the event, certainly noticed it first hand.
“He’s different when it comes to sleep,” Christas said. “He doesn’t sleep and I don’t know why. He takes his pills, whatever they are, that make him sleep. Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t. But I don’t know much more than that, because when I’m in the room, I’m out cold.”
Brandon, who is hoping to officially become a Morgan State recruit in football, believes that now that wrestling season is over that his condition may improve.
“Hopefully,” he said after completing his season with a 45-5 record with a 6-5 decision over Ogden Atwood of Armstrong in the seventh-place match.
Wolfgram bonces back from semifinal loss: Ever since last year’s state tournament ended, Wolfgram has worked tirelessly to improve upon his fourth-place finish.
He dominated everyone — including Christas in the finals of the sectional and district draws — that he faced this year up until his semifinal bout with Jake Slinger of Upper St. Clair Saturday morning.
Slinger proved to have all the answers against Wolfgram, claiming a 9-5 triumph that sent the Panther standout to the consolation draw.
“I tried to stick to my game plan,” Wolfgram said. “And he had his and his worked out better than mine. It was just a few positions that I got wrapped up in and he took advantage of. So congrats to him. He’s an amazing athlete for it.”
For much of the season, the West Virginia recruit was widely seen as a favorite to make it to the championship match. So to drop to the consolation bracket for a second year in a row with was certainly a tough pill to swallow for Wolfgram, who finished at 36-1.
“You always have to wrestle to the best of your ability,” he said. “And I think that is exactly what I did. I thought that I wrestled well, but you can’t really focus on the end goal … you still have to take it one match at a time.”
Wolfgram shook of his lost to Slinger, who dropped a 3-1 decision against Kawaun DeBoe of Erie Cathedral Prep in the final, to defeat Christas for a third time this season in the consolation semifinals. Wolfgram then wrapped up his high school career with a 9-3 decision over Isaiah Vance of Hempfield (District 7) in the third-place match.
While Wolfgram, who boasted a 139-17 record over his four-year run at Central, was disappointed to not come home as a state champion, he knows that when he looks back on his Panther wrestling career in the future, he will be proud of what he accomplished.
“My senior year — the whole year — was one big highlight,” he said. “I just enjoyed it and had fun. There are a number of things that I will take away from my time here on the mat, off the mat, character-wise and wrestling-wise, that I can continue to implement to my life in the future.”
Christas pleased with fifth place: After barely missing out on the state draw a season ago with a fifth-place finish at districts, Christas rolled through this season with an unblemished record into the postseason. While Christas could solve pretty much any other heavyweight he faced, he couldn’t solve his nemesis, Wolfgram, who defeated him in the finals of the sectional and district draws.
It continued into the state event. The two met in the consolation semifinals Saturday. Christas, who lost by tech fall in the district final, was able to keep it much closer Saturday before falling 11-5.
The only other wrestler to defeat Christas during his 42-4 run this season was the eventual state champion, DeBoe, who claimed a fall late in the second period during the quarterfinals.
For his only four losses this year to come against the state champion (one) and third-place finisher (three) is nothing for the East Stroudsburg football recruit to feel badly about.
“To be on the medal podium was really something special,” Christas said. “I’m proud of myself for this performance.”
After his loss to DeBoe dropped him into the consolation draw, Christas kept up his fighter’s mentality. Instead of getting down on himself, he made a commitment to himself.
“I just made a goal to get as high as I could,” he said.
Other notables: One of the most anticipated matches of the entire evening Saturday came in the 195-pound final when Cedar Cliff’s Donovon Ball faced off against Northern York's Kyle Swartz.
Swartz, who earned a victory in double overtime for the district title, led throughout the bout until Ball evened the score in the third period.
With a large contingent of Polar Bear fans in attendance, Swartz, a junior, gave his fans something to cheer about when he scored the gold-medal winning reversal with less than five seconds remaining to earn his fourth victory over his rival this season.
Three Adams County wrestlers from the Y-A League earned 2-A medals: Biglerville's Levi Haines, second at 106; Bermudian Springs' Trenton Harder, sixth at 152; Biglerville's Blake Showers, eighth at 120; and Littlestown's Carl Harris, eighth at 170.
Haines lost his title match to Troy junior Sheldon Seymour, 5-4. It was Haines' first loss the of the season. The freshman finished at 40-1.
Reach Ryan Vandersloot at email@example.com.