Wrestler of the Year Nathan Kraisser

Centennial senior Nathan Kraisser has been named Wrestler of the Year for the fourth time. (Staff photo by Jen Rynda, Patuxent Publishing / April 11, 2012)

Imagine growing up in the Kraisser household in Ellicott City. You have four brothers who all wrestle, even 6-year-old Calvin, and two sisters. Your father, Cliff, was a state champion wrestler at nearby Centennial High School in 1983. Your mother, Kerri, keeps the show running smoothly. You have a wrestling mat in the basement, but the wrestling is not always confined to that designated area.

Impromptu sparring matches break out "all the time. There have been broken (lamps), broken windows and it wasn't just us. It was our dad, too," said Nathan Kraisser, who has one older brother, three younger brothers and two younger sisters. "Everything is a competition. Grades, football, basketball."

Sounds like fun, doesn't it? It also sounds like the perfect environment to create one of the greatest wrestlers in Maryland history.

And that's exactly what happened.

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Nathan Kraisser, who admits that he and his brothers don't have wrestling matches in the kitchen as often as they used to, won his fourth state title last month. He is only the fifth wrestler in history to win four Maryland public school titles, and the first from Howard County.

Not surprisingly, he is the Columbia Flier/Howard County Times Wrestler of the Year for the fourth straight year as well.

"Nathan is as steady as they come, as focused as they come," said River Hill coach Brandon Lauer, who himself was 111-0 in high school with three state titles before going onto become an All-American at West Virginia University. "His preparation is unmatched. He'll do whatever it takes to get the job done ... Nathan is incredible."

Kraisser, who earned an athletic scholarship to wrestle at the University of North Carolina next year, didn't get to where he is just by growing up in a wrestling environment. He entered high school as a freshman having already been tested against the top youth wrestlers in the country and having already spent endless hours honing his craft.

"One of his goals as a freshman was to be a four-time state champ, and I don't know many freshmen who come in realistically with that goal," Centennial coach Dave Roogow said. "And then to see it all the way through..."

But it's not like Kraisser just walked to the top of the podium at every tournament he entered.

Each of his first two seasons he lost to Wyoming Seminary's Dominick Malone at the Mount Mat Madness tournament. As a junior he finally defeated Malone at MMM and completed his first undefeated season. But this year, always seeking a more difficult challenge, he competed in the Walsh Ironman tournament in Ohio. There, he lost three times — doubling his career loss total — and placed sixth. His weight class included six of the top 10 ranked wrestlers in the nation.

Kraisser said that when he reflects back on his high school career, "The things that stand out the most are the losses ... I was angry at the time, but I'm not angry about them anymore."

That's because each of those six losses taught him more than most of his 152 victories.

After his undefeated sophomore season, Kraisser worked hard to become a better scrambler — or better when his opponent had an advantageous position from neutral — and that helped him win his first Mount Mat Madness title. This season, Kraisser worked on his takedowns, something that he noticed he needed to be more aggressive with after his experience at the Walsh Ironman.

While Kraisser has always been a dominant wrestler from the top position, he knows that he is far from done when it comes to improving.

"I need to work on bottom for college, and you've always got to keep working on your feet (neutral)," he said.

Don't be mistaken. While Kraisser has room for improvement, he is one of the best wrestlers to ever compete in the state of Maryland. This season he pinned 21 of his opponents and defeated six more by tech fall. He might have scored more than his 58 takedowns except when he took an opponent down, they usually didn't get back up.

Since winning his fourth state title in early March, Kraisser hasn't really slowed down.

After winning both of his matches at the Maryland State Wrestling Association All-Star Classic just a few days after the state tournament, Kraisser represented Team Maryland at the prestigious Dapper Dan Wrestling Classic in Pittsburgh on March 25. His win helped the Marylanders to a convincing win over the formidable Western Pennsylvania team, 34-10, and he was named Outstanding Wrestler for his efforts.

"To be able to go up there and wrestle that well against them was great for Maryland," he said.