During a break in the action at the Franklin Invitational on Saturday afternoon, Centennial freshman Austin Kraisser moved in close to his father’s smartphone for a look at the wrestling action on the screen. Through the wonder of technology, Kraisser watched in real-time as his brother Nathan, the All-Met lower weight wrestler of the year last winter and now a freshman at North Carolina, upset Virginia Tech’s Jarrod Garnett in a dual meet.
In the midst of a breakout showing at the event, Austin Kraisser once again turned to his four-time state champion brother for motivation. The younger Kraisser won the 138-pound title and claimed outstanding lightweight wrestler honors after recording two pins, a major decision and a technical fall.
“I feel like I want to carry on the family tradition of tough, good, smart wrestlers that want to win a lot and are hard working,” said Kraisser, who improved to 23-3 this season.
Kraisser said he doesn’t feel the weight of following Nathan, who last March became the first area wrestler to win four Maryland public school titles, on the mat at the Ellicott City school. Kraisser’s father, Cliff, serves as an assistant coach, and the freshman has been watching the Eagles closely for years — first attending the matches of his oldest brother Brian — and counting down the months until he could get his chance.
Just like Nathan, Kraisser began his high school career with an impressive junior league pedigree and high expectations. He finished runner-up at 135 pounds against top competition in the prestigious Tulsa Nationals wrestling tournament last year.
“He wants to do everything Nathan did,” Centennial Coach Dave Roogow said. “He doesn’t feel the pressure. It’s more motivation. He idolizes Nathan and to be filling his shoes is a great thing for him.”
Austin Kraisser’s path to those lofty goals will be tougher than Nathan faced as he’s already bigger than his brother, who has a 24-4 record wrestling at 125 pounds for the Tar Heels.
While Nathan faced mostly other young wrestlers when he won his first state title at 103 pounds in 2009, Kraisser is often matched up with upperclassmen who are stronger and more physically mature, requiring an adjustment from his style in the junior leagues.
On the season’s opening weekend, Kraisser learned that lesson the hard way at the War on the Shore tournament in Salisbury where he won three matches on Friday before dropping three close decisions on Saturday to finish sixth.
Since then, Kraisser has recorded 20 straight bonus point victories for the Eagles. He entered last weekend’s tournament as the No. 3 seed and closed out the title by beating top-seeded Liam St. John, a senior from Towson, by technical fall, 16-0.
Off the mat, Kraisser, who also has two younger brothers and two sisters, has already blazed his own path at Centennial. In the fall, he earned a promotion to the varsity football team early in the season and started the second half of the year at linebacker, and he plans to play lacrosse in the spring.
During the winter, he’s happy to follow the blueprint for success set out by his brother.
“Nathan is really good, but I want to show people he’s not the only one,” Kraisser said. “I can be just as good if I work just as hard and practice as much as he did.”
Seventh-ranked River Hill captured the team title at the Franklin Invitational with 220.5 points, edging second-place Owings Mills. Junior Michael Beck (106 pounds), senior Lee Carter (132), sophomore Brian Kirby (170), junior Cory Daniel (195) and junior Logan Kirby (220) all won their weight classes for the Hawks.
Bruins senior Rory Renzi — a three-time state placer — moved up in weight class and earned an impressive win this weekend at the USMC Ultimate Challenge at Colonial Forge.
Renzi had struggled to make weight at 152, but has found a fit at 160, where he defeated Robinson senior Zak DePasquale in a 9-4 decision in the championship match.
Lake Braddock Coach Scott Matheny said Renzi will remain at 160 for the remainder of the season, and Renzi will be among the favorites in the Virginia AAA Northern Region along with DePasquale and Westfield senior Stephen Aiello in what now may be the region’s toughest weight class.
“He wrestled half the year at 152 but he didn’t want to cut weight so we talked and he went up,” Matheny said. “He’s wrestling a lot more comfortable at 160, and he has a great shot at winning in the region and at the state level.”
Robinson had four individual champions at the USMC event, as Austin Riggs (126), Dallas Smith (138), Jack Bass (152) and Cole DePasquale (170) won titles.
Colonial Forge won the team title, while Robinson placed third and Lake Braddock finished seventh at the 15-team event.
Elsewhere, Forest Park’s three state title contenders had another impressive weekend at the Escape the Rock event in Pennsylvania.
Tommy Aloi (106), Dennis Gustafson (132) and Brett Stein (170) all won championships, leading the Bruins to a fourth-place finish in the 32-team event with several of the top programs in Pennsylvania.
Related: Rankings: Individual, team