He Did It (Zack Newman)

On March 3, 2012, at Cole Field House on the University of Maryland Campus at College Park campus, for the 158th time in his high school career, Nathan Kraisser tied his wrestling shoes and clipped on his head gear, and prepared himself for the Maryland Public School System Athletic Association (MPSSAA) 3A/4A State Championship 126 pound weight division finale. This was the last time in his success-strewn career that he would step on the mat as a Centennial High School Eagle, regardless of the outcome.Nathan could be seen prior to the championship match bouncing on the balls of his feet and nervously pacing. “Before the match, in my mind, I visualize what I can do, what moves I think that I can hit. As soon as the whistle blows, my mind almost becomes blank; it all becomes reaction and second nature,” he explained.
As the match began, the Centennial faithful began to feel the need to nervously pace up and down the aisle themselves. The anxiety increased as word spread that minutes earlier, three-time state champion Tony Farace, of Oakland Mills High School, was upset 5-4 in the semifinals. The score at the conclusion of the first period was 2-0 in Nathan’s favor, an indication of the fight that can be found in junior Colin Alley. In the second period, Nathan found some breathing room and extended his lead to seven, 10-3. Two minutes later, Nathan was victorious and earned a major decision, 14-4. Centennial Assistant Coach Tommy Vigliotti stated that “He [Nathan] wrestles like he always does: Great.”

A raucous roar infiltrated the crowded stadium as Nathan’s supporters, comprised of family, friends, and former teammates (donning t-shirts supporting him), as well as those interested in witnessing history for themselves, bellowed their approval. The support did not go unnoticed for Nathan. “I love the support my family and my friends give me, I would not be where are I am today without them. They supported me throughout my entire career. Throughout every practice, every match, they always try to support me, and it’s really helped me along,” he remarked.

As his hand was raised for the 152nd time in his high school career by the referee, Kraisser only raised his other arm to the ceiling to acknowledge that anything unique had just occurred seconds prior. Just as he was about to leave the mat, he sprinted back to the middle, performing a perfect back flip. He stuck the landing, of course. “I had to do something a little special for number four,” he exclaimed. Head Jayvee Coach Cliff Kraisser (Nathan’s father) explained that “you see him [Nathan] do that in the practice room every once in a while.” “He [Nathan] does it in practice every single day!” exaggerated Vigliotti.
With an ear-to-ear grin slowly spreading across his face, Nathan stepped onto the number one spot on the podium, among the joyful cries of his supporters, to receive his first place medal.

He did it. Those seemingly endless, grueling hours in the practice and weight room paid off for a fourth time. He did what no one in Centennial history had ever done before, and the first since 2007 to join a prestigious quartet that had achieved this remarkable accolade in the history of the MPSSA. After catching his breath, Kraisser explained that “it’s a great feeling, I’m really excited, and it’s an honor to join the other four-time state champions. It’s a big deal…to come in year in and year out and be able to get it done.”

Nathan’s path to this season’s 3A/4A State Championship included the titles of Howard County Champion, and the 3A/4A East Regional Champion. It intersected with Alley’s before, most notably in the finals of this season’s 3A/4A East Regional Championship. Nathan expounded that “he had great defense, I really had to work to get in on my stuff. It was really a tough match for me.”

Although Nathan is ecstatic to win four state championships, it has not sunk it yet that flight time as an Eagle had come to a close. “I try not to think about that, it hasn’t really hit me until now, after the match. It’ll probably really hit me later on in the year, later on in the week, that was my last match at Centennial. It’s a new chapter in my life,” Nathan replied.

Due to Nathan’s actions, the future of the wrestling program at Centennial is also assisted immensely. “The numbers may have gone down while he’s been here, but he’s made all of the kids around him better,” Head Centennial Varsity Coach David Roogow elaborated.

While most people following a fourth state championship would be perfectly content to never come close to another wrestling mat for the duration of their life, Nathan is not, and will seemingly never be. “I’m happy with it, but I have to be ready to move onto the college level next. I have to get ready and start training for that, and for nationals. I’ll enjoy it for a couple days, and then I have to get refocused for my new competition,” stated Nathan. His goal is to “keep improving.”  If that is not the definition of a true competitor and champion, it does not exist.

Nathan is undecided about which national tournament he will attend, either the National High School Coaches Association National High School Wrestling Championships (Senior Division), or the Flo Nationals Wrestling Tournament.