Freshman North Carolina wrestler Nathan Kraisser is tenacious. He’s feisty. He’s a ball of hurt packed neatly into 125 pounds.
He’s also highly caffeinated.
“Sometimes I’ll get one and drink some of it,” Kraisser said. “I don’t usually drink the whole thing, but I’ll usually drink some of it to get a boost of energy.
“I wouldn’t say I’m addicted to caffeine, but I do drink coffee when I can.”
The burst of coffee-induced vigor Kraisser provides to his team is strong enough, sophomore teammate Frank Abbondanza said, to dub him the group’s “Energizer Bunny.”
True to form, Kraisser’s opening three-point decision spurred the Tar Heels to an early lead Friday night in their 30-6 romp of N.C. State.
“I enjoy starting off. I want to get my team fired up,” Kraisser said. “I like going out there and setting the tone for how the rest of the team is going to wrestle and send a message to the other team that North Carolina is not here to play around.”
Kraisser’s win Friday night was his eighth consecutive. He’s won 12 of his last 13 bouts as part of a 27-4 record, a stellar feat in a season of disappointment for the Tar Heels.
He might be making things look as easy as a sip of coffee, but Kraisser says the demands of college wrestling — both physical and mental — present a tough task.
The four-time Maryland state champion needed nearly the full seven minutes to edge away from his N.C. State foe Friday night.
“In college, I got to work for all my points,” Kraisser said. “Every match is a grind. I got to be ready every time for matches to go three periods.”
There aren’t many 125-pound teenagers willing to wrestle — it’s a grueling chore. But Kraisser’s rise is part of a nationwide wrestling trend in which freshmen compete immediately, associate coach Cary Kolat said.
His seamless adjustment to the NCAA mat comes as little surprise to Kolat, who recruited Kraisser to Chapel Hill.
“I knew what kind of kid we were getting,” Kolat said. “He’s been in national championship matches before at all levels. He’s been in competitive environments, hostile environments.
“He came here to be a national champion. He wants to win now.”
Abbondanza, who competes in the 197-pound class, idles on the sidelines for seven rounds after Kraisser sprints to the center of the mat to invigorate his teammates.
“It’s just fun to see that little spark light up in a little 125-pounder,” Abbondanza said. “It’s just awesome — he just tears into kids. It just motivates everyone — everyone just gets excited and wants to go out and wrestle.”
The key to success for Kraisser might be his beverage of choice, Abbondanza said. It’s the power of the frappuccino.
“No matter how much weight he’s cutting, he’s always energized when he gets out there.
“That must be his secret.”
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