At the start of the season, nearly every high school wrestler sets one main goal – winning a state championship.
Time usually brings about a change in goals and winnows down the contenders.
But being a state-title contender is a reality for Hough High sophomore Caleb Kreitter, who is ranked among the top wrestlers in the state in his weight class.
It just took a move away from North Carolina to one of the nation’s wrestling hotbeds for a few years to make that happen.
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“Moving back here, that was definitely my goal,” Kreitter said. “Of course, that’s everybody’s goal, no matter who you are. But I felt I could make it happen, considering the level I was at last year.
“Coming back here, I wanted first (place) bad, no matter where it was. I want to win so bad, and I knew I could make it happen if I do what I know how to do.”
Kreitter is ranked second in the 113-pound weight class among 4A schools by North Carolina high school wrestling website RetroRankings.com. He took a 40-3 record into the MECKA 4A conference tournament, held Saturday at Mallard Creek High.
But Kreitter could find himself as the top seed when the pairings for the N.C. High School Athletic Association 4A Western Regionals are set.
He recently beat Winston-Salem Glenn’s Jeremy Gonzalez – the state’s top-ranked 113-pound wrestler, who had taken two wins over Kreitter earlier this season – in a tournament match, and also avenged an earlier loss to Hopewell’s Esco Walker, ranked No. 3 in the state.
“When he smells blood in the water, he attacks,” Huskies coach Tripp Rogers said about Kreitter. “He’s beaten everybody in the top five, and ... every match he’s lost he’s avenged. It’s absolutely realistic that he can do it (win a state title).”
Kreitter, who began wrestling at age 4, competed with and against many of Hough’s current wrestlers at the Titan Wrestling Academy, a club-level program in Huntersville.
But three years ago, just before Kreitter entered seventh grade, his family relocated to Crosby, Minn., after his father Robert took a job at a medical center there.
However, the move didn’t set back Caleb Kreitter’s wrestling career; if anything, it was a jump start.
In Minnesota – like many of the Midwestern states – wrestling is a highly-popular sport at the high school level, easily more popular than basketball in many states.
It also engenders a different approach to wrestling – one that Kreitter had never experienced before.
“The styles are so much different, the way people do things,” Kreitter said. “The Midwest is much more aggressive, a higher caliber. It’s a big deal up there, and the competition level generally is higher there.”
Yet Kreitter thrived in that environment – as a freshman, he went 37-5 and finished fourth in the 106-pound weight class at the Minnesota State High School League’s 1A state championships.
With Kreitter’s return to North Carolina over the summer, he’s used the lessons learned in Minnesota on the wrestling mat this season.
“I have another level of intensity,” Kreitter said. “They’re more aggressive up there, and that’s something a lot of kids don’t see down here – that level of physicalness and intensity – that gives me an edge over a lot of people.
“A lot of times, when it comes late in the match and kids are about to break, if I get a little more physical with them … they start to go down, and I can get a pin on them or a major (decision). That makes the score better for the team.”