BROOKVILLE — Surviving in the Brookville Raiders wrestling room usually guaranteed some level of success as a varsity wrestler over the years.
Listen, apply and work hard, the results have spoken from themselves for a Raiders program that’s produced 186 dual meet wins, four state champions and 19 other state medals over the past eight seasons.
But midway through last season, head coach Dave Klepfer and his staff shifted part of their already-rugged practice with some non-traditional weight training.
“It’s called high intensity interval training, hit training, and we’re trying to achieve a simulation of a wrestling match, without the grind of a wrestling match,” Raiders assistant coach Mick Stormer said.
Stormer assured that it came with some trial and error with the original idea coming from former assistant and Raiders standout Brad Cieleski, who had several college coaching stops over the years.
“Brad was so convinced that had he had this when he was competing, it would have changed his own wrestling level. The question was how do we implement it here,” Stormer said. “A lot of it came from Ohio State University. They do a lot of lifting that we don’t do. We just don’t have the time.”
So what’s it look like in a somewhat small area of a wrestling room? Weighted balls, up to 40 pounds, that are soft enough to throw down on the mat, ropes and resistance bands ... and a stop watch.
“A lot of it are core engagement, a lot of hip thrusting movements,” Stormer said. “And a lot wrestling is a pull sport more than pushing. So it’s a lot of pulling, a lot of leg work, and all between 20 and 45 seconds of reps. That comes from research and scrambling wrestling. What you hear statistically for every minute of wrestling, there are about 40 seconds of scrambling at the highest levels. So I thought, if we could replicate that without actually grinding them to death by wrestling with high intensity training, we should be able to see some benefit.”
Their wrestlers certainly see it, led by returning heavyweight state champion and recent Pitt signee senior Colby Whitehill.
“It’s pretty challenging,” he said. “The workout is more based on positions we will get into while wrestling a match and they help a lot with athleticism.”
The eventual results sold Whitehill even more as time went on.
“I bought into it even more when seeing how well it helped with my conditioning,” Whitehill said. “I like to stay after it the whole match and I felt like I stayed strong during the whole match when I started doing it.”
“It’s been a game-changer for me, personally and the whole team,” said junior Elliot Park. “I’m not going to lie. It’s probably one of the most dreaded parts of practice, but it’s important and we all know that. If feel stronger and faster when wrestling because of it.”
How long is this new piece of workout?
“We can do a super, super intense workout for four minutes,” Stormer said. “It’s never more than 15 minutes.”
It took very little effort to convince Klepfer that this needed to be added to their practice regimen.
“Mick and Brad started talking about it and we started kind of paying attention and Brad was getting things from the Ohio State trainer, Klepfer said. “We used to go down to the weight room as a group and you could be down there, one, two hours and most of the time the kids weren’t getting what they should have been getting because of a lot of chatting and walking around.
“This is quick and we can get that same type, even better workout up here in 10 minutes then they can get down there in an hour and I guarantee it. A lot of thought went into this, so a lot of the exercises that we’re doing are all wrestling-specific with a lot of wrestling positions we get into.”
The whole staff felt the addition of the training led to the team’s run to a fourth-place finish at the PIAA Duals in February.
“It’s a good way to give them the feel in their bodies of what muscles are needed to compete at that those high levels and those long scrambles without actually doing it with a partner,” Stormer said. “It paid off and we think a lot of success at Hershey at team states was all of us just being able to hang in there with kids late in matches.”