Krumbiegel trains hard for the joy of winning

ROBERT O'ROURK PHOTO | Christian Krumbiegel of Riverhead, top, went 32-4 and won his first league championship last season.

Christian Krumbiegel knows there are no shortcuts to the hard, grueling work that high school wrestlers such as himself must endure to build the stamina they need. Of course, that doesn’t mean that Krumbiegel likes it. He doesn’t.

The Riverhead High School senior said one never gets accustomed to the demanding training sessions. “It’s pretty tough,” Krumbiegel, wearing a blood-stained shirt, said after his team’s two-hour scrimmage with the Sachem North Flaming Arrows last Thursday in the steamy Riverhead wrestling room. “Every practice is like a mini wrestling season. You just hate it.”

No, it isn’t the training that Krumbiegel cares for, but the end result of what that training can bring. It can brings wins and championships.

Krumbiegel got a taste of both last season when he finished with an impressive 32-4 record and was a league champion for the Suffolk County League IV champion Blue Waves. A wrestler since he was a seventh-grader and a varsity team member since he was freshman, Krumbiegel is under no misconception about what enabled him to reach that level.

“It’s just the hard work, that’s it,” he said. “It’s no secret. If you put in the hard work, you’ll come out on top.”

As much as he may detest it at times, Krumbiegel doesn’t shy away from the training he must do to compete at a high level. He has earned a reputation for putting himself in a position to win through conditioning.

“His conditioning is going to win a lot of matches for him,” one of Riverhead’s assistant coaches, Tom Riccio, said. “He’s going to outwrestle people just because he’s going to be in top condition.”

One of Riverhead’s two returning league champions (Gabe Rice is the other), Krumbiegel is moving up a weight class this season from 125 to 130 pounds. He is actually returning to the 130-pound weight class, which he wrestled at as a sophomore. The decision to wrestle at 130 as a sophomore might have been the wrong one, though. Krumbiegel lost in the league quarterfinals that season, and might have advanced further had he wrestled at 125. “He was in the wrong weight class,” said Riverhead Coach Wade “Rocky” Davey.

Krumbiegel learned from his mistake and competed at 125 last season, setting the stage for his first league championship.

In order to reach last season’s league final, Krumbiegel defeated his teammate and training partner, Pat Thomas, in the semifinals. “It was definitely tough because he knew everything I do, and I know everything he does, so it was kind of like a stalemate the whole time,” said Krumbiegel.

Perhaps the only disappointment for Krumbiegel last season came in the form of his first-round loss in the county tournament. That serves as inspiration, though. He is shooting for a top three finish in the county this season.

Known more for his quickness and strength than his technique, Krumbiegel brings another quality to the wrestling mat: patience.

“I try to set the pace for myself,” he said. “I’ll go after it if it’s there, but I’m not really going to force anything. If people make a mistake, I’m going to try to capitalize on it.”

Davey said Krumbiegel is stronger mentally and physically, and ready for a big season.

“He will be a force,” Davey said. “He’s so powerful. He’s not our slickest wrestler, but he probably is our most powerful wrestler.”

“He’s going to be a hard kid to beat because he’s hard to take down,” the coach continued. “You can’t hold him down. I’ve never seen him held down, never.”

Asthma hasn’t held Krumbiegel down, either. He said his asthma hasn’t really been an issue since he was a freshman. “It’s not like a really big factor now,” he said. “I kind of grew out of it.”

It didn’t prevent Krumbiegel from going 24-0 as an eighth-grader.

In the race to out-train his opponents, Krumbiegel works out six or seven days a week (“Sometimes [Davey] gives us off on Saturday,” he said). He also runs a lot on his own time. What drives him?

“It’s actually a disease because you got to be sick to be in here,” Davey said. “I think it almost becomes addictive. It’s a drive for success.”

Krumbiegel said the experience of receiving a league champion medal has given him confidence, but he is on guard against overconfidence.

Krumbiegel said he is looking forward to the first match of the season. “The first match is going to be fun,” he said. “When the season starts up and running, then everything is just like easy sailing.”

Until then, the hard work continues.

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