It’s an illustrious club, and it now has 10 members.
Centennial senior Austin Kraisser, a two-time state champion who is ranked sixth in the country by Intermat, became just the 10th wrestler in county history to win four county tournament championships on Feb. 20 at River Hill High School.
He notched a 20-1 technical fall victory over Glenelg sophomore Max Sotka in the 160-pound final to earn the honor. His brother Nathan became the ninth to do so in 2012, and Glenelg assistant coach Dan Bichner, who graduated from Glenelg in 2008 and sat in Sotka's corner, was the eighth.
“It feels pretty good. Not a lot of people have done it, so it’s one of those things you should look up upon and say, ‘that’s a great feat,’ but there’s still more to come,” said Kraisser, who remained undefeated on the season. “I’m just one more step in the Kraisser ladder.”
Next in line in the Kraisser family is Jason, a 132-pound freshman for the Eagles. He won his first county title by pinning Glenelg’s Collin Silk in just 1 minute, 31 seconds with an arm-bar and half combination.
Counting Jason, Austin, Nathan, older brother Brian and father and coach Cliff, the Kraisser’s have won a combined 12 county titles.
“It feels great. Now I’m right up there with my brothers,” Jason said. “I was a little nervous going in with a lot on the line, but it was a good time to prove myself. I just feel like I need to make a name for myself. I’m not just in the shadows of my brothers. I’m not just another Kraisser – I’m Jason Kraisser.”
“That was really fun,” said Eagles coach and Kraisser father Cliff. “Brian and Nathan one it together once or twice, so having Jason step forward and win it with Austin, I’m really happy for him.”
Eagles teammate Ammar Narmouq upset the top two seeded wrestlers en route to a 9-2 decision over Glenelg’s Parker Griffie in the 145-pound championship bout to give Centennial a tournament-high three champs.
The Eagles were perhaps the biggest surprise of the tournament, as they finished in third place with 148.5 points, but it was regular season county champions Glenelg that earned the big team trophy at the end of the day. The Gladiators used a big semifinal round to take home the 2016 Howard County wrestling tournament team title with 232 points, ahead of last year's champion Oakland Mills (204.5 points)
“It feels great. A lot of hard work paid off,” said Gladiators coach Matt Bichner. “I’m glad the guys were ready to get it done and perform over the last two days.”
Atholton senior Willie Hampton, a county finalist a year ago, was named the tournament’s most outstanding wrestler by overcoming a 5-1 deficit to beat Oakland Mills’ state finalist Kyle Farace, 8-6, in overtime in the 120 pound championship.
Hampton said he heard his mom in the crows while he trailed by four, and it pushed him to make the comeback.
“I hear my mom screaming how bad do I want it and I realized I wanted it more,” Hampton said with his teeth coated with blood. “I’ve trained hard. This comes from taking no days off. Snow days, the whole time I stayed training, working with (Marriotts Ridge’s) Chris Spano going to Warhawks. ... It comes from working hard and working in the offseason.”
His teammate Jahmyrie Jones, also a returning county runner-up, won his first county title with a 3-2 decision over Scorpions’ Paul Johnson at 170 pounds. He broke a 1-1 tie early in the third period with a takedown, and held off Johnson’s late attempts at a winning score.
“Last year going into the county finals, I was nervous, intimidated a little bit,” Jones said, “but then I held my silver medal and said this won’t happen again next year. ... All I want to see is gold on my wall. ... It was always in my dreams to win a Howard County tournament title.”
Marriotts Ridge crowned two first-time champions, as 106-pounder Spano and 113-pounder Jacob Hejeebu both won as top-seeded grapplers.
Spano finished third at the same weight class and eventually placed third at the state tournament last year. This time he says his eyes set on bigger accomplishments.
“I’m not done yet. I haven’t achieved my goals,” he said. “Even though I’m a one-time county champ, I’m ready to be a three-time region champ and go for a state championship.”
Hejeebu, meanwhile, was wrestling at 106 pounds before Spano dropped in early January. Mustangs coach Jason Conley noted it couldn’t have worked out any better for Hejeebu.
“I knew I could beat him on my feet. Once we got to that third period, I got a little nervous on bottom, but I just did what my coach told me to do. It worked out in the end,” said Hejeebu, who won the final with a dominated 14-3 major decision over Oakland Mills’ Chase Williams. “I just got the takedowns and didn’t stop moving. I was good on my feet. ... It feels great. I’ve never felt this way before.”
Oakland Mills crowned two champions after advancing six to the finals, as both Johnny Rynn (126 pounds) and Dakota Thompson (138) won their second tournament titles.
Rynn, who pinned Hampton in last year’s county championship match, said he has recently stepped up his workouts to peak at the right time.
“It feels so good. I’ve been putting in a lot of work lately, so it definitely paid off,” said Rynn, who used a penalty point in the first period and an escape to beat Glenelg’s Sam Kraus, 2-1. “This one feel different, and it’s not as big because I have a lot to look forward to. I know I can do well at states.”
Thompson, who controlled No. 1 seed Glenelg freshman Jacob Jones in the championship, also said this one feels much sweeter than last year, especially when one considers his road back from a knee surgery in November.
“It was a better setting, under the lights. Last year we got stopped up because of the snow,” he said. “It just feels better. It’s my senior year. It just feels great. Every time he shot, I knew I was better on my feet and I could get the takedowns in neutral. On top ... I rolled him through for a tilt and racked up a five count early.”
Long Reach heavyweight Phil Watters earned a 4-1 victory over Glenelg’s Jamie Cooch to become the school’s first county champion since 1999. He earned a key reversal in the third period to break a scoreless tie, and earned two more stalling points to keep it just out of reach for Cooch.
“Oh, wow,” Watters said when he heard he was the first Lightning county champion in 17 years. “We’re moving forward. Before I came here, I understand there weren’t any real coaches here and they didn’t wrestle. It shows all the hard work from the summer – Orange Crush, Blue Claw – all the clubs, it all worked. You just got to want it. The team wants to get better and wants to fight up there. We had three placers and three guys move to regions. That’s never happened before. It’s history for this team. It’s really great.”
Reservoir 195-pound senior AJ Strott missed the vast majority of last season with a knee injury that required surgery, and he pounced at his opportunity to win a county title in his final attempt. He built a solid lead on Howard’s Ben Massey before securing the fall in 5:25.
“It feels awesome to come back and still wrestle up to the standards that I thought I was hoping I could achieve last year. Early in the season, it was a big bummer,” he said. “It’s nice to come back and be a county champion. I have a tough road ahead at regions and hopefully I can keep it up.”
River Hill senior Sean Guthier also won his second straight county championship with a commanding 9-3 decision over Glenelg freshman Sam Alsheimer. Numerous friends greeted Guthier after the victory in his own gym.
“The place was packed, all the teams are here, all my friends are here, it was a great win and a great day,” he said. “I said to myself that if I just do what I do and do my moves, everything will fall into place. I think that’s what I showed on the mat.”
Garrett Murray was Glenelg’s lone champion. The junior pinned Atholton freshman Sean Billups in 1:40 at 152 pounds by locking him up in a cradle.
“I’ve been working for it all year. Hard work pays off,” Murray said with a smile. “I cross-faced him and kind of lost it, went back to it, didn’t have the arm, but was still able to get the cradle. ... It felt good to get out of there quick. You get your name on the walls at practice, and that’s what you work for the whole time.”
Mt. Hebron sophomore Nick Nordhausen won an ultimate ride-out, 3-2 decision over Reservoir’s Shawn Hamilton to win the 220-pound title. Hamilton beat Nordhausen in similar fashion less than two weeks ago in a match that was also decided in multiple overtimes. He said he was “very” confident the two would meet again before the end of the season.
“I’ve been working all my life for this, man. This is the beginning of hopefully one day being a state champ,” said Nordhausen, who transferred from Loyola Blakefield before the season. “It comes down to the coin flip. When you get into these matches, it’s really just a coin flip.”
Team scores: 1. Glenelg, 232 points; 2. Oakland Mills, 204.5; 3. Centennial, 148.5; 4. Reservoir, 143; 5. Marriotts Ridge, 141.5; 6. Atholton, 118; 7. River Hill, 114; 8. Mt. Hebron, 93; 9. Hammond, 62.5; 10. Howard, 61; 11. Long Reach, 58; 12. Wilde Lake, 29
106 lb championship: Chris Spano (MR) pinned Daiquan Anderson (OM), 3:32
Semifinals: No. 1 seed Chris Spano (MR) pinned No. 4 Logan Gwin (G), 3:42
No. 2 Daiquan Anderson (OM) tech fall No. 3 Reese Kilcarr (Re), 20-5
Other place winners: 3rd place: Logan Gwin (G) pinned Reese Kilcarr (Re), 2:29; 5th place: Ryan Keeley (Ho) dec. Drew Pruett (A), 10-3; 7th place: Eddie Zavala (MH) pinned Eric Robinson (RH), 1:56
113 lb championship: Jacob Hejeebu (MR) major dec. Chase Williams (OM), 14-3
Semifinals: No. 1 Jacob Hejeebu (MR) dec. No. 4 Yahir Lemus (MH), 5-2
No. 6 Chase Williams (OM) major dec. No. 2 Cameron Neilon (C), 13-2
Other place winners: 3rd place: Cameron Neilon (C) major dec. Kevin Hansberger (G), 11-2; 5th place: Yahir Lemus (MH) dec. Derek Noppinger (A), 3-1; 7th place: Brad Foote (Ho) dec. Kam Thang (Ha), 9-2
120 lb championship: Willie Hampton (A) dec. Kyle Farace (OM), 8-6 OT
Semifinals: No. 1 Willie Hampton (A) pinned No. 5 Gabe Vineyard (RH), 1:36
No. 2 Kyle Farace (OM) major dec. No. 3 Jacob Blyukher (C), 10-1
Other place winners: 3rd place: Jacob Blyukher (C) pinned Gabe Vineyard (RH), 1:48; 5th place: Brandon Reese (G) dec. Tristan Larsen (Ho), 1-0; 7th place: John Lian (Ha) fft.
126 lb championship: Johnny Rynn (OM) dec. Sam Kraus (G), 2-1
Semifinals: No. 1 Johnny Rynn (OM) pinned No. 4 Kyle Williamson (Ho), 5:02
No. 2 Sam Kraus (G) pinned No. 3 Dalton Kleinhen (Re), 3:01
Other place winners: 3rd place: Kyle Williamson (Ho) dec. Dalton Kleinhen (Re), 9-3; 5th place: Stephen Frazier (A) dec. Jamison Hulbert (MH), 11-4; 7th place: Osman Ali (Ha) tech fall Jacob Mallo (WL), 20-5
132 lb championship: Jason Kraisser (C) pinned Collin Silk (G), 1:31
Semifinals: No. 1 Jason Kraisser (C) major dec. No. 5 Nick Epstein (LR), 14-1
No. 2 Collin Silk (G) dec. No. 3 Justin Gatewood (OM), 3-0
Other place winners: 3rd place: Justin Gatewood (OM) dec. Nick Epstein (LR), 11-5; 5th place: Hayoung Park (Re) dec. Ali Pender (MH), 2-1; 7th place: Jack Island (RH) dec. Kyle Wiggins (MR)
138 lb championship: Dakota Thompson (OM) dec. Jacob Jones (G), 7-0
Semifinals: No. 1 Jacob Jones (G) dec. No. 5 Jimmy Hayden (MH), 5-4
No. 2 Dakota Thompson (OM) dec. No. 3 Romtin Habibi (MR), 5-1
Other place winners: 3rd place: Jimmy Hayden (MH) pinned Cale McMurdy (Ha), 2:39; 5th place: Romtin Habibi (MR) dec. Jairo Dumas (Re), 6-5; 7th place: Savya Konkalmatt (C) dec. Kenny Dustin (RH), 6-4
145 lb championship: Ammar Narmouq (C) dec. Parker Griffie (G), 9-2
Semifinals: No. 1 Parker Griffie (G) wbf. No. 4 Brad Smith (RH)
No. 3 Ammar Narmouq (C) dec. No. 2 Todd Del Tufo (Re), 4-2 OT
Other place winners: 3rd place: Todd Del Tufo (Re) dec. Eloy Flores (MH), 5-4; 5th place: Luis Altamarino (A) major dec. Brad Smith (RH), 9-1; 7th place: Keanu Gibson (OM) dec. Jordan Davis (Ha), 7-2
152 lb championship: Garrett Murray (G) pinned Sean Billups (A), 1:40
Semifinals: No. 1 Garrett Murray (G) pinned No. 4 Nathan Dustin (RH), 1:11
No. 2 Sean Billups (A) dec. No. 3 Amr Narmouq (C), 7-4
Other place winners: 3rd place: Thomas Olson (MR) dec. Nathan Dustin (RH), 6-2; 5th place: Amr Narmouq (C) pinned Salomon Ulysses (OM), 1:31; 7th place: Garrett Bowman (LR) pinned Connor Harvey (Re), 4:51
160 lb championship: Austin Kraisser (C) tech fall Max Sotka (G), 20-1
Semifinals: No. 1 Austin Kraisser (C) pinned No. 4 Anthony Morales (OM), 2:40
No. 3 Max Sotka (G) pinned No. 2 Jack Connolly (RH), 5:01
Other place winners: 3rd place: Jack Connolly (RH) pinned Amennu McGruder (WL), 1:33; 5th place: Anthony Morales (OM) dec. Austin Cestone (MR), 8-2; 7th place: Will Riley (Ha) dec. Mark Bailey (A), 7-6
170 lb championship: Jahmyrie Jones (A) dec. Paul Johnson (OM), 3-2
Semifinals: No. 1 Jahmyrie Jones (A) dec. No. 4 Michael Hurd (MR), 5-3
No. 2 Paul Johnson (OM) dec. No. 3 Christian Wright (LR), 8-5
Other place winners: 3rd place: Michal Hurd (MR) pinned Christian Wright (LR), 2:34; 5th place: Nathan Rand (Re) pinned Nasim Sanders (Ha), 2:52; 7th place: Andrew Murray (RH) wbf. Zach Wilhelm (MH)
182 lb championship: Sean Guthier (RH) dec. Sam Alsheimer (G), 9-3
Semifinals: No. 1 Sean Guthier (RH) pinned No. 4 Clinton Azagba (Ha), 2:41
No. 2 Sam Alsheimer (G) dec. No. 3 Solomon Barnes (OM), 9-2
Other place winners: 3rd place: Clinton Azagba (Ha) dec. Solomon Barnes (OM), 4-3; 5th place: Luke Anderson (Ho) dec. Wes Norton (MH), 8-1; 7th place: N/A
195 lb championship: AJ Strott (Re) pinned Ben Massey (Ho), 5:25
Semifinals: No. 1 AJ Strott (Re) pinned No. 4 Joe Lazzari (A), 1:31
No. 6 Ben Massey (Ho) dec. No. 2 Lucas Shapiro (C), 3-2
Other place winners: 3rd place: Joe Lazzari (A) dec. Lucas Shapiro (C), 3-1; 5th place: Taylor Brosnan (WL) dec. Robbie Baxter (G), 6-0; 7th place: Darrell Wade (OM) dec. Tyler Walters (Ha), 7-6 UTB
220 lb championship: Nick Nordhausen (MH) dec. Shawn Hamilton (Re), 3-2 UTB
Semifinals: No. 1 Shawn Hamilton (Re) pinned No. 4 Joey Naidu (MR), 2:44
No. 2 Nick Nordhausen (MH) dec. No. 3 Nick Palaganas (G), 3-0
Other place winners: 3rd place: Nick Palaganas (G) dec. Joey Naidu (MR), 3-1; 5th place: Loic Tueguo (Ha) DQ Kai Uecker (RH); 7th place: N/A
285 lb championship: Phil Watters (LR) dec. Jamie Cooch (G), 4-1
Semifinals: No. 1 Phil Watters (LR) dec. No. 5 Kevin Rockwell (OM), 5-0
No. 2 Jamie Cooch (G) pinned No. 3 Tyler Ecker (Re), 4:55
Other place winners: 3rd place: Kevin Rockwell (OM) pinned Tyler Ecker (Re), 2:25; 5th place: Nick Rosen (MR) pinned Brett Schwab (RH), 2:36; 7th place: Ryan Soop (Ho) pinned Justin Andrews (Ha), 2:02