Caleb Kreitter, Hough Wrestling: Caleb Kreitter went into the 2016 NCHSAA 4A state championship match (120-pound weight class) with a perfect 54-0 record.
But in matter of minutes, all of that seemed to be gone, when he lost a 9-8 decision to McDowell’s Toney McGee, and finished as 4A state runner-up.
Fast forward to this year, and Hough senior was in the same position Feb. 18, when he entered, the 126-pound, 4A state championship match against the same in McGee, with a perfect 41-0 record.
This time, Kreitter flipped the script, and beat McGee in a 5-4 decision, to win the 4A state championship and complete a perfect 42-0 season.
Kreitter added to a championship resume this season that also included wins at Holy Angels tournament, Tiger Classic, Phillip Reed Invitational and the 4A West Regional championships.
“To go 42-0 is very satisfying, especially winning some of the toughest tournaments in the state,” Kreitter said. “But, it is really nice to check that state championship win off my list. To be so close, and not have won it in the past was tough. ...
“To come back and win it all this year, in my final (high school) season felt great.”
Hough wrestling coach Tripp Rogers agreed.
“You can’t ask for much more than to get vengeance the way Caleb did to win the state championship,” said Rogers, who won the 2001 state championship himself as an East Gaston sophomore.
Kreitter also won the state championship in front of a huge contingent of family from his parents to extended family from his native Minnesota, many of whom had not seen him wrestle in high school.
“It was definitely a surreal feeling to win it all this time around,” Kreitter said. “Having my whole family there to celebrate was even better. …
“After I celebrated a bit with everyone, I came back down on the floor and just sort of sat alone and watched other matches and let it soak in. I realized then that (his state championship) had just really happened.”
While Kreitter’s Hough wrestling career is over, he turns his attention to his future, where he hopes to attend and wrestle at the United States’ Merchant Marine Academy in New York.
Kreitter expects to learn if he will be accepted to United States’ Merchant Marine Academy in the next few weeks.
But no matter where his future takes him, his wrestling career has taught him life lessons go far beyond that mat.
“This whole journey in my wrestling career has taught me that everything I’ve worked for has eventually worked out the way it was supposed to,” Kreitter said. “It didn’t happened the way I wanted it to all the time, but I kept working and working to change the final outcome (state championship). I’ve learned in that sense that dreams do come true if keep working toward your goals.”
Xavier Lenear, Independence Wrestling: Independence senior completed a perfect 47-0 season with a 4A state championship in the 220-pound weight class.
Lenear defeated Cardinal Gibbons’ Jalen Brooks in a 2-1 decision, in the championship match.
Lenear, who finished 4th at states last year, also won the 4A West Regional title earlier this month.
Silas Shaw, Mooresville Wrestling: Mooresville sophomore, Silas Shaw, won the 4A state title in the 132-pound weight class, completing a 57-2 season on Feb. 18.
Shaw beat Southeast Guilford’s Austin Robinson in a 4-1 decision in the championship match.
Shaw also became the first, Mooresville wrestler to earn All-American status last summer, by finishing fifth in the nation in the 126-pound freshman bracket of the National High School Wrestling’ Coaches Association Wrestling Tournament in Virginia Beach.
Charlotte Latin Wrestling Team: Longtime Charlotte Latin wrestling assistant coach, David Paige, guided the Hawks to their sixth straight NCISAA state wrestling championship Feb. 18 at Cary Academy, in his first official year as the head coach.
Paige had two individual state champions, led by senior, Michael McClelland, who won his third straight, NCISAA state title at 115 pounds.
McClelland, a Davidson College signee, was 42-4 this season.
Meanwhile, Latin senior Jack Sobel also won the NCISAA individual state title in the 154-pound weight class. Sobel was 25-3 this season.
Donnie Coleman, Daniel and Jacob Hattaway, Metrolina Christian Wrestling: Coach Brad Aceta and his Metrolina Christian wrestling team had three individual, NCISAA state champion, Feb. 18 at Cary Academy.
Warriors’ seniors, Daniel Hattaway and Donnie Coleman both repeated as NCISAA state champions. Hattaway (25-4) won the 162-pound weight class, while Coleman won the 172-pound class.
Metrolina Christian sophomore, Jacob Hattaway, won his first NCISAA state championship in the 134-pound weight class, after being state runner-up the past two seasons.
Butler Basketball Defense: The Butler basketball finished the regular a perfect 26-0, with a convincing 62-37 win over archrival, Independence, in the Southwestern 4A conference tournament championship Feb. 17.
But while the Bulldogs’ offense gets a lot of the attention, it’s their defense that is going to help them win more championships this season, according to Butler basketball coach Myron Lowery.
The Butler defense has played at a championship level this season, as they allow only 52 points per game.
Butler has held 10 opponents to 50 points or less, with five of those teams scoring less than 40 points.
“We know that defense is going to win championships,” Lowery said. “But in the playoffs, everything gets more intense, we have to better with each game. The way we look at it, is that we have six more state championship games, starting right now.”
Butler hosts R.J. Reynolds in the first round of the 4A state playoffs Feb. 21.
Vaud Worthy, North Mecklenburg Basketball: The North Mecklenburg junior point guard led the Vikings to a MECKA 4A conference title with wins over Hough and Vance last week.
Worthy, the MECKA 4A conference tournament MVP, had 16 points in a 58-54 semifinal win over Hough on Feb. 15.
Two nights later, the 6-foot-2 guard had 11 points and seven assists to lead the North Meck to a 71-60 win over Vance in the MECKA 4A conference championship game.
Worthy, who has college interest from schools like College of Charleston, New Orleans, UNC Wilmington and Winthrop, is the nephew of former Ashbrook High and Los Angeles’ Lakers’ forward James Worthy.
North Meck (22-3) hosts East Forsyth in the first round of the 4A state playoffs, Feb. 21.
Troy Cracknell, Lake Norman Charter Basketball: The 6-foot-5, Lake Norman Charter senior guard averaged 28.6 points per contest this week to lead the Knights to a Big South conference tournament championship.
Cracknell scored 27 points in a first round win over Forestviewon Feb. 13, and had 26 points in the semifinal victory over Ashbrook on Feb. 15.
But Cracknell saved his best for the Big South Championship game against South Point at Lake Norman Charter, pouring in a school-record and career-high, 33 points.
Lake Norman Charter (19-7) hosts North Rowan in the first round of the 2A state playoffs, Feb. 21.
Cameron Dollar, East Lincoln Basketball: The East Lincoln senior guard had another monster week, averaging 32.3 points and 10.7 rebounds per game to lead the Mustangs to Southern District 7 tournament championship game.
Dollar, who averages 23 points per game, started his week with 30 points and 11 rebounds in a first round win over Bandys, Feb. 14.
Two nights later, the 6-foot-4 guard had 32 points and 12 rebounds in a 70-67 overtime win over West Caldwell.
Dollar, a Charlotte 49ers’ football signee, was even better in the SD7 tournament championship game against archrival, Lincolnton, pouring in a career-high 35 points, while grabbing nine rebounds, and dishing out six assists.
But, East Lincoln came up just short losing 93-91 in overtime to Lincolnton.
The Mustangs resume play in the first round of the 2A state playoffs at West Stokes on Feb. 21.
Devon Dotson, Providence Day Basketball: The 6-foot-2 Providence Day junior point guard scored 21 points, dished out seven assists and had five rebounds in the Chargers’ 63-57 win over Christ School on Feb. 17.
The Providence Day (23-10) victory puts the NCISAA 3A defending state champions in the state semifinals for the third straight season.
Dotson, who had more than 20, Division I basketball offers according to Providence Day coach, Brian Field, leads the Chargers in points (24.2), rebounds (6.9), and assists (5.1) and steals (1.8) per game this season.
Providence Day takes on Wesleyan Christian (27-4) in the NCISAA 3A state semifinals Feb. 24 at Charlotte Country Day.
Cedric McGriff, Providence Indoor Track: The Providence senior ran a personal-best 7.39 seconds to win the 4A state title in the 55-meter hurdles, Feb. 11.
McGriff’s run was the second-best in the state this winter, and the tied for the No. 5 time in the nation indoors.
McGriff is getting college attention from several schools, including ASA College Miami (FL) and St. Augustine’s University (NC).
Akira Rhodes, Mallard Creek Girls’ Indoor Track: The Mallard Creek junior broke the 14-year old state (indoor) record in 55-meter hurdles to win the 4A state indoor title in 8.03 seconds, Feb. 11.
Rhodes’ state championship run was the No. 2 time in the state this winter, and the No. 7 time run in the nation.
She tied the state indoor record in the 55-meter hurdles’ state championship preliminaries with 8.07 earlier in the meet.
Kenya Livingston, Rocky River Indoor Track: The Rocky River junior continued her record-setting performances in the high jump, winning the 4A state indoor championship with an indoor personal-best 5-9, Feb. 11.
The 5-9 jump was the best in the state this indoor season, and tied for the No. 2 (jump) in the nation.
Livingston showed her versatility on the track and in the field with three more top seven finishes at the 4A indoor state meet, including 7th in the long jump and 4th in both the triple jump and 4 X 400-meter relay with teammates D’Amani Bryant, Aureilya Harris and Mariah Atwater.
Kate Eiselt, Myers Park Girls’ Indoor Track: The Myers Park senior ran a personal-best 5:08.26 to finish as the 4A indoor state runner-up in the 1600-meter dash.
Eiselt also finished 11th at the 4A indoor state meet in the 3200-meter run.
Eiselt, who is getting college cross country and track interest, also won the prestigious, David Oliver Classic (Jan. 28) in the mile run with a 5:06.14.
Jay Edwards is a freelance writer: firstname.lastname@example.org.
HELP US FIND THE ATHLETES
This season’s finest highlights high school athletes with outstanding performances. Information published today includes statistics through Feb 19. In most cases, the athletes featured will come from sports that don’t get a lot of recognition. However, the goal is to recognize excellence. If you want to suggest someone to be included in This Season’s Finest column, send email to Jay Edwards at email@example.com. Please include the athletes’ name, school, class and applicable game performance statistics. Coaches must be willing to verify information.