Skowhegan freshman Jake Craig gets a takedown during a match earlier this season. JASON GENDRON PHOTOGRAPHY

Skowhegan freshman Jake Craig gets a takedown during a match earlier this season. JASON GENDRON PHOTOGRAPHY

SKOWHEGAN — The jump from middle school to high school can be tough for any wrestler. When you have the last name Craig and you are in the same weight class as your older brother who just won four straight state championships, there’s even more pressure to be successful right away.
Jake Craig has not let the lofty expectations bring him down and will head into the Class A state tournament as the favorite to win the 106-pound championship.
“It’s definitely a new experience,” said Craig on making the jump to high school. “It’s a step up from middle school definitely, but I’ve been training very hard for this season and it’s weird being in this new level where you’re facing sophomores, juniors and seniors whereas I had only faced people in a grade above me or in my grade (in middle school).”
While some freshman may have crumbled under the weight of taking over for four-time champ Cody Craig at 106, the younger Craig refused to let it bother him.
“Coming in with Cody’s last name I definitely had a lot of pressure on my shoulders, but I think just going in with confidence really helped me out,” Craig said.
One thing that has helped Craig out is having someone like Cody around to train with.
“Cody and I drill a lot together all the time. It helped me a lot,” said Craig. “Having a ranked kid as my own brother to help me out is amazing. He pushed me all the time. He brought me to practices that I didn’t want to go to, which actually helped me in the long run. It definitely helped me out, especially since he’s my own size so I had basically my own practice partner living at my house.”
Craig is no stranger to wrestling in tough tournaments as the freshman traveled around the country to face better competition as a youth wrestler — although he did take a small break from all the travel prior to his high school career.
“I wouldn’t say I took a huge break, but I stopped going to huge events. In third and fourth grade I traveled around the country going to like Ohio and Colorado. I just started going to just local stuff, but I still practiced all the time. I just stopped going to those huge events,” said Craig, who returned to out-of-state competition last summer. “I started going all around again. I went to Pennsylvania and Virginia Beach and stuff like that.”
Getting tough competition out of state has clearly helped prepare Craig for high school as the freshman hasn’t lost a match yet and pinned his way to a regional title a week ago.
Despite all of the success this year, Craig knows he will be in for a battle on Saturday.
“I know it’s going to be hard and I shouldn’t be overconfident about it. I’m definitely going to train hard this week and keep my composure,” Craig said.
One wrestler who will likely be standing in his way as he tries to claim gold is Bonny Eagle freshman Colby Frost, who won the Class A South regional last weekend.
“Frost is really tough. I’m not going to be going in overconfident just because I’ve beaten him before,” said Craig. “I’m going to train hard just like I’ve always done because if I go in overconfident, who knows? He’s training hard, I know that, so why should I go in overconfident and not train as hard as I usually do. That would just be really dumb.”
If the freshman can capture gold this week it will be the fifth straight year a Craig will win the 106-pound title — and it will prove to Jake that he belongs in the conversation with the state’s best wrestlers.
“It would be an amazing feeling. Being the best kid in the state and just thinking about that — just being the best actual 106 (pound) kid in the state of Maine is a pretty high accomplishment,” Craig said.
— Sports Editor Pat McDonald can be reached at [email protected] or at 282-1535 ext. 322. Follow the Journal Tribune Sports Department on Twitter @JournalTsports.


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