After the 152nd win of his high school wrestling career, Centennial senior Nathan Kraisser tossed his head gear and red ankle band to the ground, his expression blank. The 126-pounder finally allowed a smile after shaking hands with his opponent, and within seconds, he was airborn, executing a textbook backflip.
With a 14-4 major decision over South River junior Collin Alley in the Maryland 4A/3A final Saturday night, Kraisser became the fifth public school wrestler to win four individual state titles. The flip was the exclamation point on a workmanlike career that brought an even louder cheer from the crowd at the University of Maryland’s Cole Field House.
“I knew I had a target on my back because this was the last chance for people to stop me,” said Kraisser, who got the idea for his celebration when the last four-time champ, Southern Garrett’s Brutus Scheffel, executed the move two years ago. “I decided I had one more time to come out and wrestle tough and have fun.”
Eighth-ranked River Hill — which fell in the 4A/3A duals final on Feb. 11 — captured its first team title, edging Perry Hall, 91-82. No. 7 Urbana, Tuscarora and defending champion La Plata rounded out the top five.
In his first state tournament appearance, senior 285-pounder Jason Johnson provided River Hill’s lone individual title, using a last-minute takedown to escape with a 3-2 final win over previously unbeaten La Plata senior Jon Boarman. When the final buzzer sounded on his final victory, the massive grappler leaped into the waiting arms of Coach Brandon Lauer.
“This is a great senior year for me,” said Johnson, who was also a lineman on the Hawks’ 3A title-winning football team. “I can’t decide which [team title] I like more. We worked so hard to get both.”
As Kraisser put the finishing touches on his milestone career, a pair of local wrestlers stayed on similar courses. Sophomores Josh Llopez (La Plata) and Hunter Sutton (Churchill) each took their second titles in as many tries.
Llopez — a 152-pounder — ripped through the field with four bonus-point wins, including a technical fall in the final. Sutton withstood a late push from DuVal junior Antwan Reddick in the 138-pound final to grab a 10-6 decision.
“I wasn’t as nervous as last year because I already have a state title,” Sutton said. “I didn’t feel that much pressure. I tried to enjoy it.”
Tuscarora 160-pound senior Austin Wenzlaff and Thomas Stone 170-pound junior Garrett Lineburger capped undefeated seasons with state titles.
North County senior Brandon Ballard (195), Walter Johnson senior Elad Covaliu (182), Chesapeake senior Alex Rice (145), Arundel senior Tyler Goodwin (132), Broadneck freshman Cameron Harrell (120) and junior Brant Leadbeter (113) also won state titles.
Patuxent sophomore Matthew Gancayo and Glenelg junior Sean Twigg won the area’s only 2A/1A individual titles, at 145 and 285, respectively.
Earlier in the day, Oakland Mills senior 120-pounder Tony Farace came up short of his fourth 2A/1A title when he dropped a 5-4 semifinal decision to Western Tech sophomore Tejon Anthony. He wrestled back to finish third, ending his career with a 16-1 record in the state tournament.