COLLEGE PARK — The first day of the Maryland Public Secondary Schools Athletic Association state wrestling tournament had its share of surprises, but mostly it was the expected that ruled.
No. 2 ranked Winters Mill (54 points) led No. 8 Owings Mills (40), Oakland Mills (37.5) and Middletown (37.5) in the Class 2A-1A field at the end of the first day at Cole Field House, and No. 6 River Hill (48 points) held the advantage in the 4A-3A competition, ahead of Urbana (34). Tuscarora (31.5) is third in 4A-3A, followed by Wilde Lake (30).
Centennial's Nathan Kraisser (126 pounds, 4A-3A) and Oakland Mills' Tony Farace (120 pounds, 2A-1A) both continued their charge toward a rare fourth state titles. Kraisser had a 17-2 tech fall over his quarterfinal opponent, setting the stage for Saturday's semifinal against Parkdale senior Franklin Deogarcia, who reached the semis with an 8-6 win.
Farace pinned his quarterfinal opponent in 1:02 and will next face Tejon Anthony of Western.
"I feel like they're after me," Kraisser said. "I feel like there is a mark on my back and that they're all striving to beat me. I want to beat them up. I want to see how many points I can score in each match. I want to see how bad I can beat them. That's how I push myself. I respect each one and I try to treat each match the same way I did as a freshman."
So far, no one has come close to beating Kraisser. Through all four years the senior has won every one of his state tournament matches with by major decision, tech fall or pin.
"I'm a little nervous about the semifinal," Deogarcia said. "But I've worked hard. I'm good enough to be in the final, and I'm eager to face him. He's an amazing wrestler."
Farace, like Kraisser, feels the pressure.
"Definitely, everyone is trying to get us," Farace said. "You can see it when they come on the mat. Some come out very aggressive. I like the aggressive ones."
Unlike Kraisser, Farace said he is not looking to build scores.
"I like to win by the most points I can," he said. "A pin is nice, but a win is a win and it's still the win that counts."
That's how Sparrows Point's James Krug feels too. The junior is the last Pointer in the championship bracket, and this is his first trip to the state semifinals.
"I've been doing a lot of work to get here," said Krug, a two-time regional champion. "I worked through the summer with the Kolat Wrestling Club, and I learned so much. Tonight, I came out pumped up and ready to go."
Krug, a 4.0 student who hopes to get in the Naval Academy, is 42-1 heading into Saturday's final day of the tournament.
"Last year, he was happy just to be here," said Sparrows Point coach Mike Whisner, who like his team was sporting a Mohawk haircut. "This year he expects to win. He's been ranked fourth in the state all year, and if he continues to wrestle his best, he can do it. He'd be our first state champion since 2000."