By Jeff Greer
Special to The Washington Post
Friday, January 23, 2009
It's normal for a freshman wrestler to join his high school team with wide eyes and a stomach full of butterflies. Centennial's Nathan Kraisser didn't experience any of that. Then again, he's not a typical ninth-grader.
Already an accomplished junior league wrestler, Kraisser walked onto Centennial's campus with his big brother, Brian, already on the wrestling team and his father, Cliff, an assistant coach. Instead of worrying about fitting in with his teammates at a new school, Kraisser had other concerns, such as handling the pressure of being Maryland's most highly anticipated 103-pounder.
"He knew what everyone expected when he came here," Centennial Coach Dave Roogow said. "He knew he'd be the number one kid in the state and he didn't want to disappoint anyone. He's wrestled in tough tournaments against good kids his whole life, so he can handle it."
Kraisser earned his reputation when, as an eighth-grader, he ended New Jersey wrestler Mark Grey's streak of seven consecutive titles at the prestigious Tulsa Nationals in Oklahoma. In his match against Kraisser, Grey had a chance to set the tournament record for consecutive titles. The entire tournament stopped to watch. After falling behind, 3-0, Kraisser fought back and stunned Grey, winning 5-3.
The result secured Kraisser's status as a top-tier prospect entering high school, and Kraisser has lived up to expectations. He's 13-1, with the loss coming at Mount Mat Madness last weekend, when Wyoming Seminary (Pa.) freshman Dominick Malone upended Kraisser, 3-1, in the championship bout at 103 pounds.
It was a tough stumble for Kraisser, who desperately wanted to go undefeated, but he had already moved on by the next day. On Sunday, he was back at the gym, working on technique with his club coach, Cary Kolat, a former Olympian.
"Even though I didn't win [Mount Mat Madness], I did well against Dominick," Kraisser said. "I just have to work harder and get better, and I get a lot better by training" with Kolat.
When Kraisser, the second oldest of seven children, isn't training with Centennial or Kolat, he's home competing with his big brother in just about everything imaginable. That's how the Kraisser brothers stay fresh and hungry, and it's how Nathan hit the ground running at Centennial.
"Both Nathan and I grew up with a strong work ethic and a real need to compete," Brian Kraisser said. "We have that competitiveness at home, and that transfers over to sports and gets us prepared for any challenges away from home."
The Kraissers will get another test this weekend, when the Eagles host the Centennial Duals. Washington Catholic Athletic Conference power DeMatha will be there, along with one of Virginia's top schools, Fauquier. Nathan Kraisser could potentially meet Fauquier's Greg Flournoy, who placed fifth at Mount Mat Madness.
Roogow said potential matchups like that are exactly why he added teams to the tournament, which only had eight teams in previous years.
"I want our guys to wrestle the toughest guys possible and be ready for the postseason," Roogow said. "This is how you do that."Hawks Strike Back
Last year, Westminster (Md.) High stunned Urbana, 36-34, in a dual meet. This time around, the Hawks wanted revenge. Urbana (13-1) dominated Westminster in a 44-25 dual-meet victory on Wednesday night.