It was a day when a weary warrior who wanted something so badly that it hurt finally got it done on his last opportunity.
And it was a day when an upstart set the stage for a potentially memorable career of his own.
Jared Krattiger, a Waterford High School senior, and Hayden Halter, a Burlington freshman, both won gold medals last Feb. 24 during the WIAA Division 1 State Individual Wrestling Tournament at the Kohl center in Madison.
Of the top 10 local stories of the year as selected by The Journal Times sports staff, the championships won by Krattiger and Halter were ranked No. 4. The stories were chosen based on news value and impact on the community.
It was a fitting finale for Krattiger, who had piled up so many victories during his four-year varsity career, yet had no gold medals to show for his success prior to that final match. And during his long senior season, Krattiger concedes that being down to one last chance of getting it done started to wear on him.
“It was an anxiety that would pick at me,” said Krattiger, who had finished fifth at the state tournament as a freshman and third as a sophomore and junior. “I wish I didn’t have that to worry about. I always thought I could have won more state championships and I was thinking, ‘Oh, this is bugging me! Why can’t it just be gone?’
His moment finally arrived and Krattiger entered the championship match at 182 pounds with a 49-1 record. Standing between him and that elusive championship was Isaac Lahr of Holman, no slouch himself with a 49-3 record.
And then Krattiger went to work.
“I was more calm when I went out there,” Krattiger said. “I was thinking, ‘There’s no way I’m going to let someone take this away from me now.’ It was more, ‘All right, let’s go out there and dominate. This is your time.’ “
Focusing on nothing other than accumulating points, Krattiger did just that, scoring a 14-6 major decision. The weight was finally lifted off his shoulders and Krattiger, now a freshman in the University of Wisconsin wrestling program, had a state championship to go with his 192-5 career record at Waterford.
Also that day, Halter completed a 48-2 season with a 5-1 decision over Justin Groshek (43-2) of Stevens Point in the championship match at 106 pounds. Halter was leading 5-0 before Groshek scored his only point on a stall by Halter.
And when it was over, Halter shared the relief Krattiger also earned that day.
“A lot of pressure has been released and now it’s just time to have fun,” said Halter, who became the first Racine County wrestler to win a state championship as a freshman since Burlington’s Josh Bird in 2013.
Ironically, Halter transferred to Waterford after his freshman season, giving the Wolverines another state contender.
“I think that’s really cool,” Krattiger said. “He could be the next four-time (state champion). I give him a lot of props.”