Tre'Vaughn Craig, like every other wrestler, headed into last week's WIAA Division 1 state tournament with one goal in mind: to win a state championship.
His opportunity ended in the semifinals with a tough loss, but Craig persevered and went on to capture the next-highest honor available to him, winning two consolation matches to claim third place at 152 pounds.
The Greenfield senior won four of five state matches to boost his season mark to 47-3.
'Tre'Vaughn had himself a great tournament,' Greenfield coach Chris Otto said. 'Any time you can go with four wins and one loss, and when the one loss is to the eventual state champion, you have to be proud of your accomplishments.'
Worked hard in summer
Otto said Craig had the state tournament on his mind as early as last summer.
'Tre'Vaughn, entering the season, trained like a top performer in the off-season and always took each day as a building block toward the state tournament,' Otto said.
Craig enjoyed a fine senior campaign, going 37-1 in the regular season and winning, among many other honors, his first Woodland Conference championship.
He then took second in a sectional meet and went to Madison with a 43-2 mark.
'Going into the state tournament, my goal was to win a state title,' Craig said. 'It's what I have been training for my entire high school career. I knew going into the tournament that I had to wrestle aggressively and the same way I have all year in order to reach my goal.'
Craig opened with an 11-5 decision over Ryan McDevitt of Hudson (38-8) in the afternoon of Feb. 25 and then downed Jordan Boettcher of Wauwatosa (42-7) by a 5-1 count later that day to earn a spot in the semifinals.
'Getting to the semifinals was no small feat,' Otto said. 'Tre' defeated two great athletes from Hudson and Tosa with complete matches.'
Craig added, 'I had two tough opponents in back-to-back rounds leading up to the semifinals. What allowed me to come out on top was wrestling smart and not putting myself in risky positions.'
Falls in semifinals
In the semifinals, Craig faced Hayden Krein of Sparta (43-5) and was pinned in 3 minutes, 38 seconds.
Krein went on to win the championship with a 12-8 decision over Tyler Dow of Stoughton.
'Before the semifinals, the pressure started to build up because I was one match away from making it to the finals,' Craig said. 'In my semifinals match, I took an early lead by scoring the first takedown, which gave me confidence.
'I chose the down position at the beginning of the second period to get a one-point lead. Krein was tough on top, and that made me a little desperate to get away. I forced a move which landed me on my back, causing me to lose the match.'
The loss forced Craig to reevaluate his goals.
'This crushed my dream of a state title,' he said, 'but after talking to coach Otto, he helped me realize I needed to get the next-best thing, which was taking third.'
In consolation action on Feb. 27, Craig took on a familiar foe in Shane Gantz of Waukesha West (34-7), who had beaten him in the sectional the previous week, 6-4, in sudden victory.
Craig got his revenge, and a shot at third place, topping Gantz by the same score of 6-4.
'I knew coming back I had Gantz,' Craig said. 'This time around, I knew what I had to do to win. Coming into the third-place match, I had all the confidence I needed.'
Secures third place
Craig topped Joe Cliver of Hortonville (44-4) by a 9-4 count to capture third place.
'I went out and wrestled my way, taking all the opportunities I saw and I left everything on the mat,' Craig said. 'It was a great feeling when I won.'
Otto added, 'Tre' will take this whole experience as another building block to his next level of wrestling. Whatever path Tre' takes, I know that he will do everything it takes to be great.'
The Greenfield wrestlers enjoyed a fine season, winning five of seven Woodland Conference dual meets and then tying powerful Pewaukee for first place in the conference tournament. They were also first in a tournament at Plymouth and second at Kimberly.
The Hustlin' Hawks lose five seniors in Craig and fellow sectional qualifiers Nick Pollack and Sharan Preet Singh, along with Dylan Kumbera and Diego Arteaga, but will return a number of other varsity regulars next season.