At 6-feet, 5-inches tall with a muscular 195-pound frame, one might think Dallastown High School senior Zaire Lawrence would've turned to the hardwood at some point.

Especially when you see him on the mat flashing his speed, flexibility and wide wingspan.

But outside of serving as an offensive and defensive lineman for the Wildcats on the football field, Lawrence never had the passion to pick up a basketball.

"My mom always wanted me to play basketball but once I started wrestling that was it," Lawrence said Monday afternoon during a break in practice at the high school.

Now in just his fourth year of wrestling and second as a starter, Lawrence recently qualified for the upcoming District 3-AAA tournament for the first time in his career by finishing as runner-up at 195 pounds in last week's Section V tournament.

Dallastown s Zaire Lawrence, left, prepares for districts along with teammate Cooper Deller. Six Wildcats have qualified for the District 3 tournament.
Dallastown s Zaire Lawrence, left, prepares for districts along with teammate Cooper Deller. Six Wildcats have qualified for the District 3 tournament. (John A. Pavoncello photo)

There's a good reason if you haven't heard of Lawrence before. He might be overlooked among a talented Dallastown bunch. He is the only one going to districts for the first time among Dallastown's six district qualifiers.

Sophomore Nick Shields (113 pounds) and junior Wes Hoover (138) are returning to districts for the second year in a row. Junior Rodney Sunday (126) and seniors Tanner Druck (152) and Cooper Deller (182) are making their third trips to the district tourney.

Of that group, Shields was the only one to earn a top-three medal at districts last year, taking bronze as a freshman at 106 pounds. So, it's easy to assume the Wildcats have unfinished business this weekend.

And Lawrence (21-11) could help them, although he'll have an uphill climb. In his district bracket is Lampeter-Strasburg senior Jeff Pickel (31-1), a district bronze medalist last year, and Eastern York senior Alex Cooley (31-0), who beat Lawrence by seven points at last week's sectional final.

"I haven't looked at it (the district bracket) at all. I have some tough kids," Lawrence said. "I have to wrestle Cooley again. I know I'm gonna have a tough time but it'll be worth it."

Storylines: Of the 42 York-Adams League grapplers in the District 3-AAA tournament, just three earned top-three District 3-AAA medals a year ago.

Red Lion senior Tyler Schell (170) and Shields each earned bronze while Kennard-Dale junior Chance Marsteller won his second gold medal.

While a lot of people might be watching the 160-pound class involving Marsteller, there are many other storylines to follow at this weekend's two-day district tournament for both Class AAA and Class AA that begins Friday at Hersheypark Arena.

Eastern bumped up to Class AAA this year, a challenge Cooley and senior teammate Camden Stoops (220) are looking forward to. Last season at Class AA, Stoops (26-5) took fourth in districts at 195 pounds while Cooley took third at districts and fifth at states.

"He (Cooley) was excited for the move," Eastern coach Dan Garner said. "Sometimes as a double-A wrestler you get a little bit of a slight against you. It's looked at by some people as not as great of an accomplishment I guess."

Spring Grove is sending 11 grapplers to Hershey, eight of whom are returning to the tournament for at least the second time in their careers. That group will be looking for some hardware after not bringing home any top-three medals last year.

The top four grapplers in each weight class at Class AAA qualify for the PIAA tournament.

In Class AA, the top five at districts move on to regionals, where they'll wrestle to qualify for states. Forty-four York-Adams grapplers will compete in the District 3-AA tourney.

-- Reach John Walk at