HEISER: New Central York coaches want wrestling team to join school's 'winning culture'

  • Eric Albright is the new head varsity wrestling coach at Central York High School.
  • Chris Albright, Eric's brother, will an assistant coach with the Panthers.
  • The Albrights combined to win 278 high school matches while excelling at Red Lion.
  • Central York has never won a league or division title in wrestling.
Eric Albright is seen here during his wrestling career at Virginia. He earned 124 NCAA Division I wins during his college career. He is hoping to bring that kind of success to Central York as that school's new head varsity wrestling coach.

Central York, without question, has one of the most successful athletic programs in the York-Adams League.

Need proof?

Just during the 2019-2020 high school year, the Panthers won York-Adams division or playoff titles (or both) in football, girls' volleyball, girls' tennis, girls' soccer, field hockey, golf, competitive cheerleading, boys' basketball, girls' basketball and girls' swimming. 

It's entirely probable that Central would've added some more championships in the spring, had the COVID-19 pandemic not intervened.

While this past fall and winter seasons may have been unusually strong for the Panthers, athletic achievement is nothing new for Central.

That is, except when it comes to one sport — wrestling.

Central has never won a league or division crown on the mat.

Now, maybe the two best wrestlers in the history of Red Lion High School are aiming to change  that.

Eric Albright, right, and Chris Albright are taking over the Central York High School wrestling program. Eric will be the head coach, while Chris will be his assistant.

Albrights taking over: Eric Albright was named the Panthers' head varsity wrestling coach earlier this week, while his brother, Chris, will be Eric's assistant. They combined to win a whopping 278 matches during their high school careers. Chris, a 2008 graduate, leads Red Lion's all-time win list at 143, followed by Eric, a 2005 graduate, at 135. Both won state medals for the Lions.

Now, the Albrights are hoping to bring that kind of success to a Central program that has produced some individual standouts over the years but has struggled to find team success. This past winter, Central was 6-11 overall and 1-5 in York-Adams Division I.

"We should be contending every year for the York title, and ultimately we expect that when you wrestle Central you’ll have your hands full, you'll be in a scrap. Eventually, we want to compete in the state duals tournament," Eric said.

Like what you're reading?:Not a subscriber? Click here for full access to The York Dispatch.

"We need to change the the mindset. We want the kids at Central to believe that they can contend for district titles and state titles. The goal is to keep getting better, get gritty."

Central checks all the boxes: Eric said he and his brother will act more as co-head coaches, rather than as a head coach and an assistant. He said they pursued the Central job for a couple  of reasons.

One, both near live the high school. Eric currently lives in the nearby Northeastern School District but said he and his family will likely soon move into the Central district. Chris already lives in the Central district. Being close to Central is important, since the brothers each already have three young children, with Eric's family soon set to add a fourth. Eric calls the two families the "Albright army."

Second, the brothers are looking to establish a wrestling community that will join Central's legacy of athletic success.

"Central York checked all the boxes," Eric said. "The winning culture of the athletic program attracted us. And ultimately, it made the most sense for our families. Our dream is to build a program that our families can enjoy."

Red Lion High School graduate Chris Albright was a two-time NCAA Division III All-American at York College. Chris is now an assistant coach at Central York.

Similar, yet different: The Albrights, who have been a "package deal" for most of their coaching careers, come to Central after leading the Red Lion Junior High program. It's the first varsity head-coaching job for Eric. Both have also coached at the club level after enjoying standout college careers. Eric earned 124 NCAA Division I wins at Virginia and Pitt. Chris, after starting out at Pitt, was a two-time NCAA Division III All-American at York College.

Both are now financial advisers. Eric said that profession gives them the schedule flexibility needed to take over the Central program.

Despite their very similar backgrounds, Eric said the brothers are "polar opposites" in terms of coaching personalities. Eric said he is more detail-oriented, while Chris tends to be more passionate and direct. Eric said it's been an effective combination during their coaching careers. 

PIAA breaks with national federation, mulls dropping wrestling weight class

The fact that both brothers are still relatively young could also be an asset. Eric is 33, while Chris is 30. 

"We’re both very hands-on," Eric said. "We'll both be in the trenches with the kids on the mat."

Succeeding Beitz: The Albrights take over at Central for Seth Beitz, who led the program for the last five years and produced several outstanding individual performers, most notably Michael Wolfgram and Mason Myers.

"Seth told me when I hired him that he was looking at coaching for five years," Central athletic director Marty Trimmer said. "His family is starting to grow. He told me at the beginning of the year that this was it. He kept his word to coach for five years. I appreciate everything he did for our wrestling program and our kids. He was a class act."

Trimmer now believes the Albrights are the right fit to take Central to the next level.

"Eric was impressive from the start in his interview, his vision for what he wanted to accomplish and the values he wants to instill in young men," Trimmer said. "We liked his ideas on building the whole program from the youth on up. We believe he will hold our athletes to a high standard on and off the mat and emphasize good sportsmanship from the bench to the fans."

Looking to advance to next level: Eric said he hasn't had a chance to talk with his new wrestlers yet, but he hopes to do a Zoom chat next week.

"I know we have a really good, tough group of young kids. There's a lot of kids in the youth program," he said. "I'm ready to get to know them and build that trust. .... We have a pretty good blueprint on what we need to do to get Central to jump to the next level."

'Warrior mindset' puts Kennard-Dale grad in strong position to earn unlikely Olympic berth

The Albrights are hoping that "next level" will include some team championships — something that has long eluded the Panthers' wrestling program.

Then, Central's already-bulging trophy case can add even more hardware.

— Steve Heiser is sports editor for The York Dispatch. He can be reached at sheiser@yorkdispatch.com.