Interstate Drive in Harrisburg isn’t the cornfields of Iowa, and Brent Zeiders and Marshall Peppelman aren’t Kevin Costner and James Earl Jones, but they do have their own “Field of Dreams” moment happening at D3 Training Center.
Zeiders built it, then he landed Peppelman, a three-time PIAA state champ, as his “right-hand man,” and hoped the young wrestlers would come. D3 Training Center is now open for business on the first floor of the Ritter Insurance building with the substance of an accomplished staff and the style of a sharp white, black and blue color scheme that pops.
“I think we’re just starting to build that culture, and it’s kind of the ‘Build it and they will come’ mentality,” Peppelman said. “We have this great training center and I think we have an awesome coaching staff and an awesome product that we’re slowly matriculating to more and more kids.”
On the coaching front, Zeiders is ticketed to work with youth wrestlers and is joined on the staff by Peppelman, who starred at Central Dauphin and wrestled at Cornell and Lehigh; Connor Medbery, a two-time All-American at Wisconsin, and T.C. Warner, a Cumberland Valley grad and three-time NCAA qualifier at Old Dominion, among others.
The new facility grew from a hopeful idea into a state-of-the-art space about three times the size of the average high school wrestling room. Zeiders said the group also has another 2,800 square feet available that could be used for anything from more mat space to specialized training equipment, so there’s room to grow as they hope the business does.
The training center’s doors opened in November at the height of a pandemic, which required a tough decision and shift in approach to adhere to ever-changing CDC and state guidelines. A grand opening in that climate was a discussion Zeiders had to have with Peppelman and Craig Ritter, his boss at Ritter Insurance and a key figure in financing the project.
Ultimately, there was no time like the present and no guarantee that waiting would help, anyway. So, here they are, looking to help young wrestlers get the mat time they need and the specialized instruction to help them get better.
“We were just like, ‘Let’s do it. Let’s go for it,’” Zeiders said. “If we don’t do it, we’ll keep waiting and waiting until we think it’s the right time, but will that ever happen? Is there ever a right time to do something? We don’t know what’s going to happen in a month or two. Here we are in December and we still don’t know what’s going to happen in a month or two.”
Zeiders and Peppelman both cut their teeth in the Central Dauphin wrestling program and came to know how important it is to get extra work beyond their own high school’s practices. And while they do drilling and live wrestling at D3 Training Center, a big piece of their vision is to focus on technical skills that can be taken and applied elsewhere.
Zeiders said he was a senior at CD when he first got a look at Marshall and Walter Peppelman as young kids roughing each other up. Those two boys along with their brothers, Garrett and Colton, became perhaps the “first family” of high school wrestling in the area with nine combined appearances in the PIAA tournament finals and six gold medals.
Marshall Peppelman said he remembers growing up through the youth ranks by supplementing the coaching he got through the Rams’ youth, junior high and varsity program under coach Jeff Sweigard. As clear as the Peppelmans’ natural ability was at a young age, Marshall Peppelman said that extra work made all the difference in his and his brothers’ success.
“Everyone does high school practice, but those hours after practice where you’re honing on your individual skills and needs are what makes the difference in the state tournament,” he said. “It’s the same thing in college. So, it’s really establishing that mindset here at the middle and high school level. It’s not a surprise that it takes more than one practice a day and to do outside work above the ordinary to be successful.”
That’s the mission at D3 Training Center, which Zeiders know is a simple concept that will likely take time to establish and maintain. They have built the facility, and the wrestlers have indeed started to come. He and Peppelman have also assembled what they believe is just the right staff to make the same difference for kids as coaches did for them once upon a time.
D3 Training Center is set up as a nonprofit with hopes of offering scholarships and other programs to make the opportunity affordable for anyone who wants to work hard and put in the time. That mission, and the culture-building it entails, comes before any concern about the bottom line of the business.
“We are doing this strictly for the kids and to give back to the community,” Zeiders said. “We’ve learned so much from this sport, and the reason we learned so much is because of people who were in our place when we were kids. Now we feel like it’s our turn to give back to the kids who come here.”