KENOSHA — Minutes after producing a dominating pin with machine-like precision, Nate Crayton bared his emotions.
The senior wrestler for Burlington High School won the 182-pound weight class in the Kenosha Bradford/Reuther Regional Saturday afternoon, helping the surging Demons to the team championship. When he was asked for the source of his inspiration, Crayton’s voice started cracking as he mentioned a man he never met, a man whose first name he didn’t even know.
It was his grandfather.
James Crayton died at the age of 60 in March 1997 after drowning in the Burlington area while ice fishing. This was three years before Nate was born, but Ron Crayton, James’ son and Nate’s father, fostered a connection between the two.
“He always tells me, ‘Do it for grandpa,' " Nate said of his father. “I always wanted to meet him, but I never got to. So he always told me to do it for grandpa and I always have.”
Crayton, who is ranked fourth at 182 pounds by Wisconsin Wrestling Online, was just one of several wrestlers who helped the Demons win the eight-team competition (297.5 points) for the first time since 2015.
Joining Crayton at next Saturday’s WIAA Division 1 Park Sectional by placing among the top four were his 13 teammates, including champions Hayden Halter (103), Ben Stevenson (126), Zach Weiler (132), Max Ehlen (138), Jake Skrundz (145), Ben Kumprey (152) and Max Travis (220).
Other Racine County champions were Antonio Puentes of Horlick at 113 pounds and Tre Williams of Park at 285.
The top two wrestlers in each weight class at the Park Sectional next Saturday advance to the WIAA Individual Wrestling Championship Feb. 22-24 at the University of Wisconsin in Madison.
Burlington, which received an influx of three freshmen and two transfers prior to this season, returned to the top of the regional heap after finishing second to Bradford/Reuther last season. While Crayton’s pin of Union Grove’s Alex Rewolinski might have been the most dominating, it was a freshman who might have been the most impressive.
That was Halter, who pinned Cade Willis, Union Grove’s highly regarded freshman, in 5:29 at 106 pounds. Halter (41-2), who had moved down from 113 pounds for this tournament, came out aggressive against Willis (38-4), who is ranked fifth in the state at 106.
Was Halter surprised with his performance? Not at all, because this is a kid who overflows with confidence.
“I want to to win the state championship and not just win it but dominate the whole state tournament,” Halter said.
There is a basis for that confidence. He was raised to be a wrestler by his father, 1999 Waterford graduate Shawn Halter, since he was barely able to walk. So supportive was Shawn that he actually moved his family to Libertyville, Ill., for one year starting in 2016 so Hayden could compete for the elite Team Poeta Youth Wrestling Program (residency in Illinois is required to compete).
“It has all paid off,” said Shawn Halter, who regularly commuted to Wisconsin for his tree service business while his family lived in a Libertyville condominium. “His hard work to the sport definitely paid off.”
Union Grove coach Andy Weis knew Halter was going to be formidable challenge for Willis.
“We knew that Halter coming down from 113 was going to be a tough match,” Weis said. “He’s been wrestling at a high level all season long. I thought there were a couple of opportunities where we could have scored some points, but we ended up a little short.”
While Crayton and Halter were examples of domination for Burlington, Stevenson embodied perseverance. The sophomore, who transferred from Kenosha Indian Trail prior to this school year, hung on for 4-3 decision over Mason French of Kenosha Tremper at 126 pounds after French came through with a late escape.
French (39-5) is ranked ninth in the state at 126 pounds while Stevenson (36-8) is honorable mention. But Stevenson was able to win after doing his homework on French.
“He’s really good at duck-unders, so I just tried to block those and get off my own shots,” Stevenson said. “I’ve never really done anything like this in my high school career, so this is a big step for me.”
Another example of Burlington’s dominance was Skrundz, who scored a 13-4 major decision over Marco Infusino of Bradford/Reuther at 145 pounds, despite bleeding from his nose and from a cracked lip. Skrundz (31-4) is ranked ninth at 145 pounds and Infusino (37-4) 12th.
In other championship matches involving Burlington, Weiler scored a 15-0 technical fall over Abel Castillo of Bradford/Reuther at 132 pounds, Ehlen had a 7-3 decision over Cole Nelson of Indian Trail at 138, Kumprey scored a 9-0 major decision over Park’s Austin Siegal at 152 and Travis pinned Nate Bowens of Bradford/Reuther in 1:56 at 220.
Horlick was led by Puentes (35-4), who had a 7-4 decision over Joseph Mendoza (35-8) at 113 pounds.
“My conditioning,” Puentes said when asked what the difference was for him in this match. “He shot on me, he was about to take me down and my defense was was what won the match for me.”
The other championship by a county wrestler was by Park’s Williams (21-7), who scored a 14-3 major decision over Wyatt Hayes (12-6) of Burlington.
“He dominated,” Park coach Jon Burdick said. “”He was just really aggressive. That was probably his best tournament of the year.”
Union Grove was led by three second-place finishers — Willis, Rewolinski and Keith Storm-Voltz at 195 pounds — and qualified seven wrestlers for the sectional. Park qualified 10 and Horlick two. Case had five fifth-place finishes.
WIAA Division 1 Bradford/Reuther Regional
At Kenosha Bradford H.S.
TEAM SCORES: 1. Burlington 297.5, 2. Kenosha Bradford/Reuther 229, 3. Park 152, 4. Union Grove 136.5, 5. Kenosha Tremper, 136, 6. Kenosha Indian Trail 60, 7. Horlick 58.5, 8. Case 52.
Burlington individual results
106 — Hayden Halter 3-0, first place, pinned Cade Willis, Union Grove, 5:29 in championship match. 113 — Grant Koenen, 2-2, third place, lost 14-2 to Joseph Mendoza, Park, second-place match. 120 — Cody Welker, 3-1, second place, won by rule over Isiah Culp, Park, second-place match. 126 — Ben Stevenson, 3-0, first place, dec. Mason French, Kenosha Tremper, 4-3, championship match. 132 — Zach Weiler, 3-0, first place, won by tech fall over Abel Castillo, Bradford/Reuther, 19-2 (5:06), championship match. 138 — Max Ehlen, 3-0, first place, dec. Cole Nelson, Kenosha Indian Trail, 7-3, championship match. 145 — Jake Skrundz, 3-0, first place, dec. Marco Infusino, Bradford/Reuther 13-4, championship match. 152 — Ben Kumphrey, 3-0, first place, dec. Austin Siegal, Park, 9-0, championship match. 160 — Qwade Gehring, 3-1, second place, dec. Tony Martin, Bradford/Reuther, 10-3, second-place match. 170 — Zach Wallace, 3-1, second place, won by rule over Tyler Griffin, Tremper, second-place match. 182 — Nate Crayton, 3-0, first place, pinned Alex Rewolinski, Union Grove, 0:36, championship match. 195 — Nathan Bousman, 2-2, third place, pinned by Keith Storm-Voltz, Union Grove, 3:15, second-place match. 220 — Max Travis, 3-0, first place, pinned Nate Bowens, Bradford/Reuther, 1:56, championship match. 285 — Wyatt Hayes, 2-2, third place, lost by injury default to Venicio Vasquez, Bradford/Reuther, second-place match.
Park individual results
106 — Angel Rodriguez, 202, fourth place, won by rule over Carlos Vega, Horlick, fourth-place match. 113 — Joseph Mendoza, 3-1, second place, dec. Grant Koenen, Burlington, 14-2, second-place match. 120 — Isiah Culp, 2-2, third place, lost by rule to Cody Welker, Burlington, second-place match. 132 — Dashawn Bolton, 2-2, third place, dec, by Abel Castillo, Bradford/Reuther, 6-5, second-place match. 138 — Marcellus Stills, 0-2. 145 — Ladainian Johnson, 1-2, sixth place, pinned by Dillon Pagels, Union Grove, 3:53, fifth-place match. 152 — Austin Siegal, 3-1, second place, pinned Dylan Scacco, Union Grove, 1:24, second-place match. 160 — Dominic Ford, 0-2. 170 — Anthony Nielsen, 2-2, fourth place, won by rule over Zach Mano, Case, fourth-place match. 182 — Jerrel Campbell, 2-2, third place, lost by rule to Alex Rewolinski, second-place match. 195 — Michael Nielsen, 2-2, fourth place, pinned Kishari Webster, Case, 3:16, fourth-place match. 220 — Conner Harris, 3-1, fourth place, dec. Mason Kochersperger, Indian Trail, 6-5, fourth-place match. 285 — Tre Williams, 3-0, first place, dec. Wyatt Hayes, Burlington, 14-3, championship match.
Union Grove individual results
106 — Cade Willis, 3-1, second place, won by rule over Santiago Castillo, Bradford, Reuther, second-place match. 113 — Thomas Cook, 2-2, fifth place, lost by rule to Riley Dutton, fourth-place match. 126 — Jon Sackman, 202, fourth place, pinned Tanner Ewings, Indian Trail, 1:22, fourth-place match. 138 — Drayton Doberstein, 1-2, sixth place, dec. by Jullian Contron, Case, 8-0, fifth-place match. 145 — Dillon Pagels, 2-2, fifth place, lost by rule to Nick Cihler, fourth-place match. 152 — Dylan Scacco, 2-2, third place, pinned by Austin Siegal, Park, 1:24, second-place match. 182 — Alex Rewolinski, 2-1, second place, won by rule over Jerrel Campbell, Park, second-place match. 195 — Keith Storm-Voltz, 3-1, second place, pinned Nathan Bousman, Burlington, 3:15, second-place match. 220 — Barron Masi, 2-2, third place, dec. by Nate Bowens, Bradford/Reuther, 17-11, second-place match. 285 — Cameron Storbeck, 2-2, fourth place, pinned Connor Rosko, Tremper, 5:52, fourth-place match.
Horlick individual results
106 — Carlos Vega, 2-2, fifth place, lost by rule to Angel Rodriguez, Park, fourth-place match. 113 — Antonio Puentes, 3-0, first place, dec. Joseph Mendoza, Park, 7-4, championship match. 120 — Donte Roberts, 0-2. 126 — Elias Martinez, 0-2, sixth place, pinned by Tanner Ewings, Indian Trail, 1:13, fifth place match. 132 — Lorenzo Paez, 0-2, sixth place, dec. by Josiah Aguilar, Case, 6-2, fifth-place match. 145 — Nich Cihler, 2-2, fourth place, won by rule over Dillon Pagels, Union Grove, fourth-place match. 152 — Ethan Gegare, 1-2, sixth place, pinned by Cristian Servantez, Case, 5:08, fifth-place match. 160 — Ryan Kickland, 1-2, sixth place, pinned by Kyle Guillien, Case, 6:00, fifth-place match.
Case individual results
106 — Kenneth Leon, 0-2. 120 — Joshua Leonard, 1-2, sixth place, dec. by Mario Plunkett, Indian Trail, 12-10, fifth-place match. 126 — Caden Desantiago, 0-2. 132 — Josiah Aguilar, 2-2, fifth place, lost by rule to Avry Nichols, Tremper, fourth-place match. 138 — Jullian Cintron, 2-2, fifth place, dec. by Jordan Lattimore, Bradford/Reuther, 9-4, fourth-place match. 145 — Diego Fientes 0-2. 152 — Cristian Servantez, 2-2, fifth place, lost by rule to Zauhnteen Jackson, Bradford, Reuther, fouth-place match. 160 — Kyle Guillien, 2-2, fifth place, dec. by Leonardo Kiser, Indian Trail, 9-1, fourth-place match. 170 — Zacho Mano, 2-2, fifth place, lost by rule to Anthony Nielsen, Park, fourth-place match. 195 — Koshari Webster, 1-2, fifth place, pinned by Michael Nielsen, Park, 3:16, fourth-place match. 220 — Perriontae Foggs, 0-2, sixth place, pinned by Conner Harris, Park, 1:42, fifth-place match. 285 — Jay Shelmidine, 0-2, sixth place, pinned by Connor Rosko, Tremper, 0:37, sixth-place match.