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North Shore's Grabher wrestles with lacrosse faceoff success
When Dan Grabher has his knees bent, his feet shoulder-width apart, his dominant right foot a few inches in front of his left one and his body low, he usually wins.
"It gives me that quick, one-second burst,” the North Shore senior said.
It’s a typical athletic stance he used during the winter, when grappling with opponents on a wrestling mat. In the spring, Grabher finds himself in a comparable position. Now, on the lacrosse field, there’s a stick in his hands and his knees are lower. Everything else is similar.
“I think wrestling was the big thing that helped me with faceoffs,” Grabher said. “In wrestling you have to be so low in your stance all the time and you have to have a good center balance. You have to be able to explode really quickly in doing a move. So when I’m down taking faceoffs, it’s pretty much the same, I’m going down and all I have is that second to get the ball.”
Through 13 games, Grabher has won 81 percent of his faceoffs, up from 74 percent last season. Performances such as the one he had during North Shore’s win over Hewlett on April 20 have been common. Grabher won 23 of 29 faceoffs and had two goals and four assists. That was three days after North Shore (5-1, 9-4) upset Division, a game where Grabher had two goals, a career-high seven assists and won 24 of 27 faceoffs in a Conference III matchup.
In addition to wrestling, which Grabher said, “is why I like faceoffs a lot, because it brings back that one-on-one mentality,” the Glen Head resident has another edge.
Robert Grabher, a senior faceoff specialist for Colgate’s Division I men’s lacrosse team, is Dan’s older brother. When the older Grabher brother comes home, the family’s front lawn transforms into a setting for faceoff showdowns.
“It’s kind of like training in baseball when you put a doughnut on a bat,” Dan said. “It’s really heavy at first but then you take it off, it’s really light. I train at a higher level so when I go to the high school level, it’s a lot easier to do. He beats me up but I’ve won a few against him.”
The younger brother is a bit modest.
“He absolutely refuses to lose,” Robert Grabher said. “We’ll be out there for a while. There’s no going inside until he wins. I’d say it’s about 45-50 percent of him winning. He’s taken a gigantic step forward and he’s a game-changer.”
Grabher and the Vikings have certainly benefited from the intense, brotherly practices. North Shore entered the 2013 season, according to Grabher and coach Joe Gallina, with modest expectations.
“But when we played Division and Hewlett and had that big week where we had two big wins, we realized we could do a lot more than just make the playoffs and our expectations increased,” Grabher said.
That was also around the same time Grabher switched positions from midfield to attack (he has taken faceoffs all season). Not having to play defense has helped Grabher conserve energy for faceoffs. Shutdown sophomore defenseman Jack Goettelmann has carried the load while Grabher has powered the offense.
“Dan can basically do whatever he wants on the lacrosse field,” Gallina said. “He is just that good.”
The one conference game when that wasn’t the case for the Army-bound standout was on April 11, when North Shore lost to Conference III powerhouse Manhasset (7-0, 10-3) by 10.
“I think we were a little scared of the big name, Manhasset,” Grabher said. “But I think if we went against them again, we’d give them a run for their money.”
And if the teams do battle, Grabher said he’ll be ready at midfield, knees bent, his feet shoulder-width apart with his dominant right foot a few inches in front of his left and his body low.