Centennial’s Jason Kraisser had one major goal entering the year: win Mount Mat Madness.
The 145-pound junior has already won a pair of Howard County, 3A/4A East region and 3A/4A state titles, but the missing ‘MMM’ gold medal in the trophy case rubbed him the wrong way. In fact, he had yet to reach the finals in his first two seasons — finishing sixth as a freshman and third last year — and despite an 80-4 career record entering the year, all four losses have come in The Smith Center at Mount Saint Joseph High School.
“I just came in here thinking this is a tough tournament,” Kraisser said, “but it’s my time to do it.”
On Saturday, Kraisser wouldn’t be denied. The No. 1 seed pinned his first four opponents, and in the championship he knocked off Chase McCollum of Haverford School (Pa.), 4-2, with a third-period reversal proving to be the difference.
He now joins his older brothers Nathan and Austin, who combined to win seven state titles, as a ‘MMM’ champion.
“It means a lot. It’s my third year here and I came up short last year and freshman year, so I was really hoping I could accomplish this goal. It shows me that I’m up there now,” Kraisser said. “I’m really excited this year. I’m really looking forward to wrestling and I love being on the mat. I enjoy wrestling my heart out.”
Kraisser was one of seven Baltimore-area grapplers to win titles. Archbishop Curley’s Josh Laubach won the 152-pound championship and the Gaels crowned five champions — Chris Barnabae (113), Justin Henry (170), David Schultz (182), Keegan Rill (220) and Isaac Righter (285) — to win the team title with 298 points.
West Virginia’s East Fairmont (168 points), Pennsylvania’s St. Joseph’s Academy (158), Virginia’s Benedictine Prep (150.5) and Archbishop Spalding (137.5) rounded out the top five.
“I think the tournament was deep. We had some new teams here ... and it was really competitive,” Mount Saint Joseph coach Harry Barnabae said. “I’m really happy for our kids. They’ve worked hard and now we can celebrate this tonight before we look toward McDonogh next week.”
Laubach was taking the mat for the first time this season after battling an injury and knocked off Middletown’s Josh Paige, a third-place finisher at the 1A/2A state tournament last year, 3-1, in the final. He said Friday’s matches “killed” him because of his conditioning and rusty technique, but the three-time Maryland Independent State placer overcame the sluggishness to start his season 5-0.
“Every single kid in this tournament wants to win ... you’ve got to come out there off the walls and go-go-go non-stop,” he said. “This is special to me because it’s at Mount Saint Joe. Me and St. Joe have some rivalries.”
Chris Barnabae, who placed second last year, made quick work of Zach Spence of Salesianum (De.) in his finals match. The sophomore built a 7-0 lead in the first period before pinning Spence in 2 minutes, 26 seconds. The fall was the 50th of his young career and 17th this season, and he was named the tournament’s most outstanding wrestler for his efforts.
“Chris did an outstanding job. He had five pins and pinned his way through the tournament,” Harry Barnabae said. “I’m proud of him. He really focuses on the fall.”
Henry, who also finished runner-up a year ago, looked sharp in his first action of the season after an elbow injury sidelined him. The junior tied his championship match with Salesianum’s Logan Montgomery at 1 with a third-period escape and then won in overtime with a big double-leg takedown and two near-fall points.
“It feels good. It’s good to win it at my school,” said Henry, who placed fourth as a freshman.
Schultz also finished second last season and built an early lead to hang on and beat Sam Fisher of Fauquier (Va.), 8-6. Rill pinned Middletown’s Sean Herrmann, a 1A/2A state tournament place-winner, in 1:32 to capture his first ‘MMM’ title.
Righter, meanwhile, continued his breakout campaign by one-upping his teammates with a 58 second pin of Grant Abernathy of Brentsville District (Va.). The sophomore has 16 falls this season, including one at the Beast of the East tournament against McDonogh’s MIAA and MIS champion PJ Mustipher, who was the No. 1 seed.
“I don’t know where he came from but we’re thrilled he landed here,” Harry Barnabae said. “Isaac had one speed and it’s full speed ahead, and he’s still learning. He’s improving every week.”
Gaels’ Nathan Porter (126), Connor Strong (132) and Austin Stith (195) each finished second, as did Spalding’s PJ Truntich (120).
106: Amonn Ohl (St. Joseph’s Academy) pinned Brenden Barnes (Benedictine Prep), 5:22
113: Chris Barnabae (MSJ) pinned Zach Spence (Salesianum), 2:26
120: Cole Laya (East Fairmont) dec. PJ Truntich (Spalding), 2-0
126: Brock Whorton (East Fairmont) dec. Nathan Porter (MSJ), 5-3
132: Kyle Budd (Fauquier) dec. Connor Strong (MSJ), 6-4
138: Caleb Dowling (St. Joseph’s Academy) dec. Nick Novarnik (St. George’s), 3-0
145: Jason Kraisser (Centennial) dec. Chase McCollum (Haverford), 4-2
152: Josh Laubach (Curley) dec. Josh Paige (Middletown), 3-1
160: Christos Avgeros (Benedictine Prep) dec. Jordan Florence (Liberty), 12-6
170: Justin Henry (MSJ) dec. Logan Montgomery (Salesianum), 5-1 (OT)
182: David Schultz (MSJ) dec. Sam Fisher (Fauquier), 8-6
195: Chris Vasquez (Mountain View) dec. Austin Stith (MSJ), 3-2
220: Keegan Rill (MSJ) pinned Sean Herrmann (Middletown), 1:52
285: Isaac Righter (MSJ) pinned Grant Abernathy (Brentsville District), 0:58