Most rising high school sophomores might find the experience of walking into the vast Fargodome in North Dakota — site of the Asics Cadet and Junior National Wrestling Championships – overwhelming.
But when Centennial's Austin Kraisser, who was a county and regional champion and a state finalist last year as a freshman, entered the Fargodome earlier this month, all he could think about was what he wanted to accomplish before leaving.
"In Greco-Roman I wanted to place top four and in freestyle I wanted to win," he said.
Kraisser fell just a little short of his goal, placing fourth in the Cadet Greco-Roman tournament at 145 pounds and second in Cadet Freestyle, but his double All-American performance at what is widely considered the most difficult scholastic wrestling tournament in the country, was nothing to be disappointed about.
"This is the biggest accomplishment of my wrestling career. I did some big things in middle school, but becoming a two-time All-American is by far the biggest," he said.
Having wrestled at Fargo last year, and having watched older brother Nathan — who went 33-7 as a freshman at the University of North Carolina last winter — become a Fargo All-American himself, may have also helped Austin feel at ease in North Dakota.
"It definitely calmed my nerves. This year I felt more comfortable out there wrestling in a big arena," he said.
Austin Kraisser lost in the finals to New Jersey's Mason Manville.
"He's a really solid wrestler who waits for his chances to score," Kraisser said. "Hopefully I'll see him again at Fargo next year."
Kraisser wasn't the only local wrestler to shine in North Dakota.
River Hill rising junior Cory Daniel, a defending state champion, placed third at 220 pounds in Junior Greco-Roman to bring home All-American honors as well. Daniel's only loss was to the eventual champion, Utah's Roy Nash.
"This is a big deal for him. Last year he went out there and didn't place and didn't do as well as he had hoped," said River Hill wrestling coach Brandon Lauer. "He placed at FILA Junior Nationals (earlier this spring) which gave him a lot of confidence."
While Kraisser considers freestyle his stronger suit, Daniel used his height and long arms to thrive at Greco-Roman.
"He likes Greco, using his length and being able to use his leverage. He really has an advantage with his size," Lauer said.
Team Maryland placed fifth overall in Junior Greco-Roman and seventh in Cadet Freestyle out of 44 states.
River Hill's Michael Beck (120), Sean Guthier (132), Casey Guthier (170), Sebastian Ames (182) and Logan Kirby (195) also traveled out west for the tournament.
"You've got to do summer wrestling if you want to do well in the winter," Lauer said.