Jared Krattiger ended his high school wrestling career with an exclamation point Saturday night.
Hayden Halter started his the same way.
Krattiger, a Waterford senior, and Halter, a Burlington freshman, each won championships at the WIAA Division 1 State Individual Tournament in the Kohl Center at Madison.
Krattiger, who had been denied a championship in three previous trips to the state tournament, completed his 50-1 season with a 14-6 major decision over Isaac Lahr of Holmen at 182 pounds.
Halter (48-2) celebrated his 15th birthday Sunday a day early by defeating Stevens Point sophomore Justin Groshek (43-2) in the championship at 106 pounds. Halter won 5-1.
Five other county wrestlers also brought home state medals. Waterford’s Jack Trautman III (47-4) was second at 195 pounds), Park’s Tre Williams (27-9 at 285) and Burlington’s Nate Crayton (46-7 at 182) were fourth, Union Grove’s Cade Willis (44-7) was fifth at 106 and Burlington’s Jake Skrundz (37-7) was sixth at 145.
It was a long journey for Krattiger, who finished fifth at state as a freshman and third as a sophomore and junior. Last year was especially heartbreaking and Krattiger knew he only had one more chance to realize his dream.
“It’s just crazy because I worked so hard for this,” said Krattiger, a University of Wisconsin signee.
Krattiger had a simple strategy against Lahr (49-4): Concentrate on steadily building points and let the rest take care of itself. And that’s exactly what happened in this match, which Krattiger led the entire way.
“You don’t have any idea how happy I am for him because I know the weight of the world was on this young man’s shoulders,” Waterford coach Tom Fitzpatrick said. “That’s a tough thing to do to go out there and win when you know you could have been a three-time state champion and you still don’t have one yet.”
Halter reached the championship match with a pin at 1:21 over Sam Lorenz of Waunakee (46-7).
Groshek was ranked second while Halter was third. But Halter was in control of the entire match, taking a 4-0 lead going into the third period with a takedown in each of the first two periods.
He increased his lead to 5-0 with a stalling point before Groshek scored his only point on Halter’s stall.
“A lot of pressure has been released and now it’s just time to have fun,” said Halter, who becomes the first county freshman to win a state championship since Josh Bird of Burlington won at 120 pounds in 2013. “My birthday is (Sunday), so I’m going to have some fun with my family.”
“I would definitely say he’s real calm under tough situations,” Burlington coach Jade Gribble. “It was nice to see him express himself after winning a state title. He just got really excited and he doesn’t do a lot of that.”
Trautman said conditioning is what might have cost him a state championship. With the score tied 4-4 against Beau Yineman (45-0) of Neenah with 15 seconds left, Trautman allowed himself to be put into a cradle that ended the match.
“In the first period, I was going, going, going at 120 percent,” said Trautman, who led 2-0 after the first period. “He wasn’t really wrestling the first period. When I got to the third period, everything got super heavy. I just need to be more conditioned. No excuses.”
For Williams (27-9), it was a fulfilling finish after a rough journey. After wrestling at Davenport North High School in Iowa as a freshman and sophomore, he transferred to Park prior for his junior year. But at the semester break, the native of Rock Island Ill., left for Kenosha because of a personal issue, only to return to Park as a senior.
Williams opened Saturday with a 4-2 decision over Charlie Covert of Slinger. In the third-place match, he was edged 3-2 by Mitchell Williamson (43-2) of River Falls.
It was the first time a Park wrestler medaled at state since Matt Hermes placed sixth at 285 pounds in 2009.
Williamson was ranked second at 285 pounds. Williams was 15th.
Crayton took Bryson Alsteen (47-4) of Kaukauna to the limit in the third-place match at 182 pounds before losing 11-9. Crayton opened Saturday’s competition with a 4-3 decision over Sam Mitchell (46-4) of Marshfield after scoring a takedown near the end of the match.
It was the first time Crayton earned a medal in three trips to the state tournament.
“He wrestled some great matches up here,” Gribble said.
Willis (44-7) became the first Union Grove wrestler to earn a state medal since Cole Ryan placed fifth at 220 pounds in 2014. After overcoming a 6-0 loss to eventual-third place finisher Cody Minor of Ashwaubenon Saturday, Willis recovered for a 9-2 decision over Sam Lorenz of Waunakee in the fifth-place match.
Minor was ranked first at 106 pounds among Division 1 wrestlers by Wisconsin Wrestling Online while Lorenz was sixth. Willis was seventh.
The freshman scored a takedown for a 2-0 lead in the first period, extended that to 7-0 with two near-falls in the second period and then took a 9-0 advantage with a near-fall in the third.
“Coming off the semifinal loss (9-2 to Groshek Friday night) and then a tough match against Minor, he went out there and really took care of his business,” Union Grove coach Andy Weis said.
Skrundz (37-7) suffered a heartbreaking 2-1 loss to Brandon Lucht of Antigo in his first match at 145 pounds. And then he was pinned in 2:47 by fourth-ranked Brett Von Ruden (43-5) of Sparta in the fifth-place match.
Including when he was pinned by Max Bruss of DePere in the semifinals Friday night, Skrundz led in each of his three matches of the tournament. He had a 3-0 lead against Lucht in the second period and a 2-0 advantage over Von Ruden, also in the second period.
“He was just looking to score,” Gribble said of Skrundz. “That’s a great thing with Jake, but that’s something we have to work on. There’s a time to do that (making a high-risk move) and a time not to.”