Written by Jeff Falk
Dylan Killian is on a quest, an expedition if you will. It is one that began 13 years ago, one that intensified 11 months ago and one that is about to go into critcal mode.
The object of his search? State wrestling hardware.
A senior at Annville-Cleona high school, Killian has achieved just about everything a scholastic wrestler can achieve in a career. The only glaring ommission is a medal from the PIAA Tournament.
“My only individual goal for this season was a state medal,” said Killian. “I’ve been to Giant Center (site of the PIAA Championships) twice. I’ve been in the situation and didn’t take advantage of it. Last year, I got to Giant Center froze up and didn’t wrestle like I should have. From the day I got knocked out last season, that’s been my focus.”
Last season marked Killian’s second trip to states, and the second time he went two-losses-and-out.
In some ways, Killian’s postseason will begin this weekend at Conestoga Valley High School when he wrestles at the Lancaster-Lebanon League Championships. But the way he sees it, his playoffs begin Feb. 19 at a District Three Class AA sectional at Wyomissing.
In between sectionals and states, there are two increasingly intense steps – districts and regionals.
“No, I wouldn’t say so,” said Killian. “If I win the L-Ls, I’d have a little confidence on my side. The L-Ls and PIAA tournament do not go together. My postseason starts when sectionals start. That’s when I go out and wrestle my match. That’s just how it works.”
“I think he’s ready,” said Annville-Cleona head coach Mike Miller of Killian. “He’s kind of looking foward to it. Since the day he lost his second match at states, he was ready. He’s been focused on it all season.”
So what will be different this year? Experience and confidence. Given his wrestling resume, one wouldn’t expect Killian to be someone who has sometimes struggled with confidence.
“Confidence,” said Killian. “The only difference between this season and last season is confidence. My sophomore year I had a bad draw. My junior year I followed Colin Shober to states, one-two the whole way. I ended up coming out in my first match, got super nervous, saw the crowd, just froze up and didn’t move like I should have. It was like I wasn’t the same person.
“This year, I’m going to states, not over confident, but with confidence on my side,” he added.
“Two-and-out at states twice,” said Miller. “That’s kind of been the thorn in his side. He knows he could’ve won some matches at states. It just didn’t work out.”
To this point, Killian has enjoyed an outstanding senior season. He’s undefeated, and last weekend he became Annville-Cleona’s all-time win leader, surpassing Jason Shaver’s old school mark.
“I’m actually having probably one of the most awesome seasons I’ve had in a long time,” said Killian. “What I’ve been able to do for the team and do for myself, it’s been incredible. I’m sitting at 24-0 and feeling comfortable.
“I have some pretty good practice partners,” Killian continued. “I did some amazing things in the summer. I’ve been working out with some of the top kids in the state. I’ve just been making the rounds and doing everything I can to improve. I’m just trying to gain as much knowledge as I can.”
“It’s his senior year,” said Miller. “He probably has 13 or 14 years of wrestling because he’s been doing it since he was a little kid. I have 12 seniors who have all wrestled together their whole lives. One of the things that helps motivate him is that he’s got other kids going through the same things. We’re just trying to get that edge.
“I don’t want to say Dylan hasn’t been pushed,” Miller added. “But he’s gotten a lot of first-period pins. Hopefully he will be prepared the best he can.”
While Killian’s full legacy has yet to be written, his place in the anals of Lebanon County wrestling is secure. His 125-26 career record places him sixth on the locale’s all-time victory list and his 66 pins is topped only be Northern Lebanon’s Jim Collins, Lebanon County’s only state champion.
“My overall goal is a state medal,” said Killian. “But I still have some other things I’d like to accomplish. I’d like to be a four-time sectional champion. I’d like to be a district champion. I’d like to be a regional champion. But my focus is one step at a time.
“A lot of people think ‘Here’s this kid who started wrestling in ninth grade’,” continued Killian. “But my career started when I was four. I’ve been wrestling for 13 years. I’ve ended up winning some pretty big stuff. And I’ve lost to some people I shouldn’t have. But I’ve had a pretty remarkable career.”
“It’s sometimes difficult,” said Miller. “I don’t think Jason (Shaver) ever had as many matches as Dylan. As far as wrestling skills, he’s (Killian) right up there. The only thing that – I don’t want to say will validate his career – would be a medal at states.
“But that’s what he’s looking at,” added Miller. “He wants to be on the medal stand. His record speaks for itself. He’s as good as any wrestler who’s ever come through Lebanon County. He’s our go-to guy.”
And it would seem that 13 years just isn’t enough for Killian. Wrestling is so much a part of his life that he would like to continue doing it in college.
Killian has expressed interest – or vice versa – in Millersville, York College, Shippensburg, Kent State and Pittsburgh-Johnstown.
“It’s something I’m looking forward to,” said Killian. “I have things I’m looking at, places that I’m looking at. I’ve been on a bunch of visits. I thought I was really far behind in the process, but a lot of kids I talked to said they didn’t sign until after the state tournament.”
“I’d say he’s a funny, very personable kid.” said Miller. “He hangs with his friends. He’s one of the Dutchmen Crazies at basketball and football games. He’s pretty athletic too. He could do other things if he chose to.”