Robert White was all set to wrestle at 182 pounds for the postseason. It was a logical choice. Even though he barely weighed 170 pounds, the Hughesville junior wrestled 75 percent of his matches there this year.
He had grown accustomed to the style of wrestling at 182 pounds with opponents who maybe move a little slower, and wrestle more with strength. But as his coaches looked over the potential opponents come the postseason, they, along with White, decided his better chance of making a deep run in the postseason was to stay at his natural weight of 170 pounds.
Now White is right in the middle of maybe the deepest weight class in the District 4 Class AA tournament which begins tonight at 5 at Williamsport High School. The logical argument is that making the transition from wrestling bigger opponents consistently to wrestling opponents the same size as him would only be a benefit for White.
He says otherwise. It's been quite an adjustment for White. The brute strength wrestling he had become accustomed to competing against at 182 pounds, is almost non-existent at 170.
"One-seventy is just so much quicker," White said earlier this week. "Going up, it really wasn't a big difference. I wrestled at the Zephyr Duals and was one of the lighter kids and I didn't feel a big difference. Ten pounds just didn't really feel like a big difference."
Even in the deepest weight class in District 4, White has aspirations of doing more than just qualifying for the District 4 tournament, or just qualifying for the Northeast Regional tournament. His goals lie in Hershey, and not just getting to Hershey, but winning in Hershey.
When his coaches analyzed where he would best fit in the postseason, part of the decision-making came from a match with Muncy's Troy Hembury during the District 4 Duals third-place match. Hembury, a two-time state placewinner who's ranked No. 2 in the state at 182, easily handled White for a 12-3 major decision victory.
White admitted the likelihood of wrestling with the top-tier 182-pounders in the state wasn't very high.
"Hembury, my chances of beating him are really slim," White said. "And some matches I wrestled this year at 182, I was just barely winning."
At 170 pounds during the regular season, White went 7-1, with his only loss coming to Saucon Valley's Sam Dickey, who is ranked 18th in the state at 170 pounds. His resume at 182 was quite impressive considering he didn't hit 170 pounds on a weigh-in until the District 4 Duals on Feb. 2.
He went 18-6 at 182, but those six losses came to the likes of Line Mountain's Erik Smeltz, a regional fourth-place finisher last year, Red Lion's Tyler Schell who is a returning state qualifier ranked seventh in the state, Blue Mountain's Mitch Myers who is ranked seventh in AAA at 170, and Hembury.
His six losses at 182 pounds were by a combined 22 points, and take away Hembury's bonus-point win and it was five losses by 13 points. The trade-off for White is being in the mix of a 170-pound bracket that is absolutely wide open. It's a 170-pound bracket this week that does not feature a former state qualifier, and only Benton's Brandon Lontz, Warrior Run's Dan Breech and Smeltz are former regional qualifiers.
It's a bracket in which White has wrestled just four of the other 11 wrestlers. Usually it's a scenario White likes. Even during tournaments he doesn't particularly care to know who he's wrestling.
This weekend will be different, though. He plans on taking time during the course of the tournament to watch his potential opponents. He wants to be prepared as possible, especially in a weight class where you can't afford to have a bad match.
"Last week when I wrestled (CMVT's Troy Patterson), I didn't want to watch the match between him and (Central Columbia's Jake Coombe). But I watched and I learned a lot," White said. "I learned not to hang on his head. If I would have hung on his head, he would have taken me down more. Knowing what I'll need to do will be nice."
White has taken a major step forward in his career this year. His 26-8 record is a world away from the 15-17 mark he posted a year ago when he failed to win a match at the East-Central Sectional tournament.
He rededicated himself to the sport over the summer. He spent more time running, trying to stay in shape. For the first time he spent a lot of the offseason in the weight room, making sure he was strong enough to compete better than he did as a sophomore.
"I've taken practice more seriously this year, too," White said. "My season was so bad last year that I kind of just wanted it to end. This year has been so much better. My work ethic is just better overall."
The improved work ethic shows. White enters this weekend's tournament with as good a chance as any of the other 11 wrestlers of finding himself in the finals. It would be his second consecutive week in the finals after dropping the 170-pound final at the East-Central Sectional last week.
In fact, he would welcome the opportunity for another chance to wrestle Lontz, who beat him 8-3 a week ago. He's still frustrated about the way that sectional final went. He knew it wasn't a true representation of what he's capable of as a wrestler. He realizes this weekend's tournament is a chance to fix that.
"I just want to take it one step at a time," White said. "I want to make it as far as I can."