When Tyrone's D.J. Wunder started lifting weights and eating after his junior wrestling season was over, not only did he start seeing increases in his strength, he also began to gain a lot of weight.
He went from 152 pounds, which is the weight he qualified for regionals at, to 198 pounds, and he's been wrestling at 195 with a chiseled physique and strength that most of his opponents can't handle.
"I made sure I didn't get fat, though," Wunder said with a grin, "because that would have been bad. I just kept my diet good and I pushed hard. I knew when I started lifting in junior high I could start getting heavier, but I honestly didn't think I'd jump from 152 to 195.
Photo for the Mirror by Tami Ogline Knopsnyder
Tyrone’s D.J. Wunder took fourth at the Thomas Subaru Tournament.
"My goal was to get stronger than anybody I wrestled. As of right now, I feel like that's how I am. I feel like there's nobody going to be tougher than me."
Many wrestlers have a hard time adjusting when they jump up two or three weights, which coach Blair Packer was thinking as he watched Wunder gain weight.
"Gaining all that weight was a question mark in my mind," he said. "But, when you get up into the upper weights, your mobility is an asset, and he is very mobile. He was really ballooning up and I was wondering where he was going to stop. I was also concerned if we were going to have a number of kids in the same weight class because he's right around [Jared] Beckwith's weight. As it turned out, it worked out well."
n Finished fourth at the District 6 Tournament last year to qualify for regionals.
n Senior is 20-4 with 11 pins.
n Has a career record of 66-36 in three years.
Yes it did. So far so good for Wunder, who is 20-4 with 11 pins after coming off of a fourth-place finish at the Thomas Subaru Tournament on Saturday. Ranked third in the Mirror rankings, all four of his losses have been by four points or less, including a 5-1 decision to Chestnut Ridge's Dan Albright in the Thomas semis and a 3-1 setback to Moshannon Valley's James Stodart earlier in the season.
He's also had a couple controversial losses to Bald Eagle Area's Aaron Varner, 6-5, in the dual meet and to South Fayette's Zach Walker, 3-2, in the Thomas third-place finals. A late takedown of Varner was waved off, and Walker was given a late caution point, infuriating Wunder.
"I think he's wrestling a lot better than he did last year," Packer said. "He's confident out there, and he's a goer. He doesn't sit, and he doesn't wait."
One of his wins was a 2-1 decision over Altoona's Mante Barnes.
"Oh, that was a tough match," Wunder said. "We're good friends, and I wrestled with him at Young Guns. When I jumped up in weight, he was like 'Ah fat boy.' He's a really good competitor."
Wunder says his last name was shortened from Wunderbar, which means wonderful in German, by his ancestors when they came to America. His first and last name together make many think of a night club, and his teammates and classmates call him Wunderboy and Wunderbread - just for fun, of course.
He's probably been hearing that a lot since he started wrestling around fourth or fifth grade. It wasn't until junior high that he started to develop into a consistent winner.
"I can't say I'm good because I don't want to sound overconfident or cocky," Wunder said, "but I'd say around eighth or ninth grade I started learning technique and started beating a lot more people, and I got more confidence in myself."
Wunder was going to come up as a freshman, but he said the cut from 134 to 112 was too much, so he stayed at the junior high. He went 15-19 as a sophomore 145-pounder.
"In 10th grade, it was scary," he said. "I was nervous and I had low expectations for myself. I didn't do well at districts, and I beat myself up over that. Then my dad [Dave] said as soon as my last match was done, 'The next season starts tomorrow.'"
As a junior, he went 31-13 with 19 pins wrestling at 160 and his postseason weight of 152. He finished fourth at the District 6 Tournament, and he went 1-2 a the Southwest Regional, including a 2-1 first-round loss to South Fayette's District 7 champion J.J. Walker.
"As the season winds down, I'm getting more excited and excited as it comes," Wunder said. "I want districts and regionals to come because last year I choked, and I don't like that at all. I choked at regionals, and this year, I'm going to show everybody where my heart is."
Asked what he meant by choked, Wunder said, "I feel like I expected myself to do better. In the first match against the District 7 champ, I was winning, but I figure-foured the head and I let him up. Just dumb things that I know I shouldn't have done. But everything happens for a reason. I've been praying to God. He's been pushing me, and He's been motivating me every day."
Wunder doesn't play football, although he did lift with the team in the summer, so he's looking to continue his wrestling career in college. He wants to wrestle at Lock Haven, but Millersville, Washington & Jefferson and Thiel have shown some interest.
Until then, he'll continue to work out in "The Cage" to get better. He's been drilling all season with Beckwith, but it's unclear if Beckwith can return in time for districts after injuring his kidney in an automobile accident last week.
"We're equal," Wunder said of his drilling partner. "One will shoot in, and one will stop it. The other one will shoot in, and the other will stop it. They're always making us do different things just to make sure we can get better for each other, and we do. It's a tough fight."