Junior grappler silent, but deadly

first_imgUWBadgers.comTucked away beneath the composed, relaxed stare of grappler Craig Henning’s icy blue eyes is a blazing confidence and impassioned fire that makes him the competitor he is.Henning, a junior from Chippewa Falls, probably won’t cause a stir in a crowd or elicit a commotion in a public setting. Heck, probably no one would notice his presence at all. He is shy. He is quiet. He is reserved. Put Henning out on the mat for seven minutes under the soft glow of the stadium lights where nothing but his opponent at hand matters, and it’s a different story. He will captivate the entire audience with an unbeknownst tenacity and grit. “I work at going hard in all seven minutes — always moving, always making him move — getting him tired and just going all out,” Henning said.No matter the score, Henning remains in control — something Wisconsin head coach Barry Davis says is a unique trait to have. “He wrestles so relaxed, people don’t understand,” Davis said. “I never see him panic out [on the mat] in tough situations, he’s always relaxed, always in control. If the match is close or tight, he [has the] same facial expressions. So he’s fun to watch in that regard.” While Henning may not let his coaches or teammates know what he’s thinking, his lead-by-example attitude in both practice and matches is why the Wisconsin coaching staff named him co-captain. “[Henning] comes into the room prepared, ready to work hard and compete,” Davis said. “I mean the other guys say ‘hey, look at this guy, [he] doesn’t say a whole lot, but when you watch him compete, he rises to the occasion.’ That’s leadership.”You don’t have to be outspoken to be a great leader.”Even Henning admits that public speaking, let alone speaking at all, isn’t his forte. “Yeah, I’m more of a quiet guy, but I lead by more as an example, not necessarily by my words, so in that way I just kind of hope that people see the way I’m working and doing on the side and hopefully they catch onto it,” he said. “I don’t push anyone per se, but I always get into the back of their head that they should be doing extra stuff.”Wanting a head start on some sort of extra-curricular activity, and because his dad’s sport of choice, basketball, didn’t begin until the fifth grade, a young and impatient Henning opted to try one that was offered to first graders. The sport, of course, was wrestling. Unlike a team sport such as basketball, wrestling is solely about the individual and his opponent. That’s the reason why Henning loves the sport so much and has continued with it since first grade. “I like how when you get out on the mat, it’s just you against one other guy,” Henning said. “You can’t look at somebody else and say ‘ah, well if he would have done something, then maybe we could have won.’ It’s all about you once you’re on that mat. You don’t have to worry about anybody else. If you lose, there’s only one person that you can really blame and that’s yourself.” Despite a strong sophomore campaign where he earned All-American honors at 157 lbs. for his eighth-place finish at nationals while leading the team in wins with a 29-10 overall records, Henning felt like he should have done better. In both the Big Ten Championships and the NCAA Championships, Henning failed to finish higher than his pre-seeding, and in the case of the Big Ten Tournament, he finished three slots lower than his No. 2 pre-rank. But the soft-spoken Henning knows the experience gained from last season will propel him to new heights this year with the extra motivation to forget last season’s slip-up.”I didn’t exactly do as well as I had hoped to do,” Henning said. “Now I have wrestled, like, the top three guys all over the country, so I’m feeling confident in what I need to do in order to get to that next level and be on top of the stand.”Never one to pass up an opportunity to improve, Henning, who is ranked No. 4 heading into this year, puts in the extra work and hours lifting and training with the quiet confidence that his efforts will reap rewards. “Every day I try to come and be prepared and I try to take every day like it’s a match” Henning said. “Obviously I don’t want to lose any matches so I don’t try to take any time off and stuff. I just try to come to practice with the right frame of mind and ready to go. Get the right amount of sleep, right amount of nutrition — do all I can to wrestle as hard as I can every day.”If I can do that, I don’t think that there’s anyone in the nation that can touch me.”last_img

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