Trio of 2022 CGHS Wrestling State Champs Talk Past and Present Achievements

Writer / Kevin Conrad
Photography Provided

The 2022 Center Grove High School (CGHS) wrestling program had not one, not two, but a trio of state champions. Anna Krejsa, Hayden Watson and Drake Buchanan put in countless hours of hard work to achieve their high school dreams of being stateCGHS wrestling champions. These student-athletes also excelled in the classroom. Their wrestling and academic successes at CGHS helped catapult them into the next chapter of their lives.

Krejsa is attending Life University in Marietta, Georgia, arguably the best women’s college wrestling program in the nation. Watson is at The Citadel in Charleston, South Carolina, and Buchanan is at the U.S. Air Force Academy in El Paso County, Colorado.

Krejsa is the first and only female from CGHS to win a state title in wrestling. Is all the hard work and sacrifice worth it? Krejsa says it is.

“Winning state my senior year for Center Grove, for a program that appreciated me being there and wanted me to do well, meant everything to me,” Krejsa says. “I will never forget the night I won my state title, seeing everyone’s reactions and how proud everyone was. The practices are hard, the extra workouts are hard, and managing weight is super hard, but it’s 100% worth it. I will never, ever forget it.”

Krejsa hopes her legacy will encourage other girls to compete in wrestling.

“Hopefully it continues to grow,” Krejsa says. “I’m seeing more and more schools hosting tournaments. It’s just so much bigger since I competed in the state. I hope someday it’s sanctioned and Center Grove has a women’s team as well.”

Watson placed third in the state finals in his sophomore year and was runner-up in his junior season. Being so close motivated Watson to work even harder.

“Doing extra workouts and doing one-on-ones – it benefitted me a lot knowing I was so close,” Watson says. “I just had to push through in the last year to get to it.”

His extra work paid off in his senior season, going out as a state champion.

“That rush of feelings you get when you get your hand raised, knowing you just won the state finals match, seeing everyone in the crowd that’s been there from day one supporting you, your team that’s been there the past four years – being in that position is amazing,” Watson says.

After nearly winning state during his junior year, Buchanan says winning state in his senior year was the greatest moment of his wrestling career.

“It’s all the work and hours I put in all my life to have this [state championship] ring,” Buchanan says. “To be a part of a winning CGHS wrestlingculture – it’s been emotional to think about the journey of what this ring means. It’s a culmination of all the hours put in, all this time and all the sacrifice, to be able to wear it. It’s that moment when you have your hand raised at the state finals and have all the people who supported you, your teammates, everyone in the state, everyone who knows how much effort you put in and see it pay off.”

These three state champions are all in agreement – CGHS has prepared them for the rigors of college academics and wrestling.

“Center Grove has prepared me a lot,” Watson says. “When I’m sitting in class and they are teaching us something, I already know the material and the other students don’t know it. I see that a lot in my classes.”

“Center Grove teachers want you to succeed,” Buchanan says. “If you ask for help, they’ll give you help. Taking stressful AP classes and asking for help prepares you for college, to ask professors for help and talk to upperclassmen for help, asking them how they were successful in the core classes. The level of academics at Center Grove is really good. Classes are hard because they are teaching you the correct concepts and correct material to prepare you for college.”

The CGHS wrestling and weightlifting programs also prepared them for college athletics.

“High school wrestling prepared me to be aggressive,” Buchanan says. “Coach [Maurice] Swain really puts an emphasis on being on the attack rather than being on defense. In college, if you want to be successful you have to be using your offense. The more you’re on offense, the more likely you are going to win matches. You have to listen to everything your coach tells you. Having [Marty] Mills as a weightlifting coach, he knows what he’s talking about. He’s so knowledgeable. It also develops a foundation of trust between you and your weightlifting coach, and your coaches in general.”

Buchanan says the sport of wrestling has helped him in many ways.

“You become so mentally tough,” he says. “It’s all willpower. No one is going to stop you from missing weight. The only person who is going to stop you is you. The only person stopping you from getting a workout in is you. The only person stopping you from finishing an assignment is you. Wrestling teaches you that. I really think that has helped me be really successful at the academy.”

Krejsa, Watson and Buchanan have helped build a foundation within the CGHS wrestling program. This year’s CGHS wrestling team is ranked third in the state, and ranked nationally. They take great pride in seeing the program continue to grow and prosper.

“It’s really nice to see the success,” Buchanan says. “This is going to be the golden years for Center Grove wrestling. I’m excited to see what they do with it. This is the best all-around team Center Grove has had – a lot of depth for all the weight classes. No one wants to be on a team that wins one tournament out of 50. They want to be on a team that’s nationally ranked, winning titles.CGHS wrestling That’s exciting and fun, and people on the team can go far and do big things. You want to be a part of that.”

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