Dan Albright had never really participated in any sports when he was younger. In fact, when he was 12 or 13 years old, he weighed about 330 pounds.
Albright had been to one wrestling match while he was in the Conemaugh Township School District, but, he admits, he didn't really pay attention to it.
His family moved into the Chestnut Ridge School District his freshman year, and that year his math teacher, Greg Lazor, the Lions' wrestling coach, asked him if he wanted to come out for the sport.
Photo for the Mirror by Tami Ogline Knopsnyder
Chestnut Ridge’s Dan Albright pinned his way through the District 5 Tournament.
"I was kind of undecided about it," Albright said, "but he kind of talked me into it. I just came out, and I loved it."
"He likes the physical nature of the sport, and he grew up with a lot of brothers," Lazor said. "I think he figured it would be just like home."
Now a senior at Ridge, Albright has come a long way in those four years. He's coming off of his second District 5 title at 195 pounds and enters this weekend's Southwest Regional Tournament with a 33-4 record and 18 pins. In three years as a starter, he's gone 79-22 with 47 pins, including 67 wins and 41 pins in the last two years.
* Two-time District 5 Tournament champion at 195.
* He's 33-4 with 18 pins as a senior. He set the school record for pins with 23 last year.
* Has a 79-22 career record in three years.
"Well, he got a late start in wrestling, but he has a lot of tools," Lazor said. "I am pleased with his progress, but not real surprised. He comes from a real hard-working background, and he won't settle for less than his best."
Albright was on the team as a freshman, but he didn't see any varsity time as he learned the ropes.
"When I first started, I didn't know what I was doing," he said. "I knew what a headlock was and what a very bad cradle was. I didn't get the hang of it until my junior year, and it clicked. I think what really helped was the great coaching. They all know what they're talking about. My practice partner is Tyler Dibert. He's the greatest practice partner I can have, and he helps me out when I'm having problems."
"He means a lot to the team," Dibert said. "He started wrestling when he was a freshman, so he hasn't been doing it for that long. I know he loves the sport, and he's a really great guy to be around."
As a sophomore, he worked himself into the lineup, went 12-10 and wrestled in districts at 215 pounds.
"I didn't like how I wrestled that year," he said. "I really didn't know too much. I started off bad, and then I started getting better."
Albright became a force last year as a junior, going 34-8 and setting the school record for pins with 23, which is being threatened by both Dibert and Derrick Claar, both of whom have 22. He captured the district title at 195 with a 3-2 win over Conemaugh Township's Kyle Drenner.
"His junior year, he learned how to stay in matches longer and wait for his opportunities," Lazor said. "He learned that you just can't grab a guy and throw him around. His ability has helped him out tremendously. He is not a natural athlete, but he's very strong and mentally tough. These things helped him progress quickly."
He followed his first district title up over the weekend by pinning his way through the tournament, including a fall over Tussey Mountain's Shad Brumbaugh in 2:57 in the finals. He didn't get a rematch with Somerset's Jacob Nicholson, who beat Albright in the Thomas Subaru Tournament finals because Brumbaugh pinned Nicholson in the semifinals.
"Last year, he was in a weight that wasn't the strongest, and I thought he could win," Lazor said. "This year, he was in with Nicholson, so he knew he would have to wrestle a great tournament. And he did, pinning his way through the tournament."
For the record, not only does he wrestle, but he also plays football and participates in a number of events in track and field. He wants to continue his wrestling career in college, but he's waiting to see if he gets better offers. Four more years would be just fine with Albright, who was a joyous hero against Bedford in the District 5 Duals championship.
"It's always a great time when it's wrestling season," he said. "My brother Teddy wrestles too, and it's one of our favorite sports. We wish we had started wrestling earlier. My nephews wrestle in elementary, and I just wish I could have wrestled like that at their age. I think the more experience you have, the better wrestler you'll be."
Albright is looking for a better experience at the regional tournament than he had last season. He went 2-2 in last year's tournament, getting stopped a win short of making the medal round by Moshannon Valley's James Stodart, 12-2. Stodart and Albright are first and second, respectively, in the Mirror rankings at 195, and they're in the same bracket at a very deep weight class.
"There are a few boys that are all pretty equal, so it will be tough," Lazor said. "But, if he wrestles well, I expect him to have a decent shot at qualifying for states."
"Last year's tournament motivated me to get better," Albright said. "I wasn't really sure what to expect. I'm going to wrestle more quality kids, but this year I want to beat them and know where I've come from. I'm beyond excited. Last year, I was disappointed in myself. That didn't sit well, and it's all I've been thinking about."