NORTHBOROUGH – Algonquin junior Rafael Knapp entered this year’s National High School Coaches Association wrestling tournament ranked thirteenth overall.
Yet, despite staring down a line of higher-ranked opponents, Knapp strung together a series of upsets on his way to a fourth place finish in the Junior 160-pound division at the Virginia Beach-based tournament on March 27.
“That was definitely the best feeling of my life, I’d say,” Knapp said in a recent interview with the Community Advocate. “I didn’t think when I went into it that I was going to do that well.”
Family history inspires wrestling interest
Knapp became interested in wrestling through his father Matt Knapp, who wrestled at the collegiate level at SUNY Potsdam.
Years later, Knapp is a co-captain for the Algonquin wrestling team.
Before competing in the Coaches Association tournament, which is seen as the top high school wrestling tournament in the country, he navigated the high school season alongside that Titans squad.
Knapp individually finished the high school season with a 38-4 record, with third-place finishes at both the All-State Wrestling Tournament and the New England Championship.
Head Coach Brian Kramer celebrated Knapp back in December, noting his goals while highlighting his growth since his freshman year.
“He’s wrestling really well,” Kramer said of Knapp at the time.
While, overall, Knapp thought he had a great season, he said he could have performed even better at these two major tournaments.
“I don’t think they were my best performances,” Knapp said.
“I think I did good,” he continued, before adding that he did lose to an opponent who he had already beaten twice.
That athlete, Knapp noted, went on to win the New England Championship.
Wrestler relishes leadership role
This year was Knapp’s first as a co-captain for the Algonquin team. He said he loved being in a mentorship role leading the team.
“I felt like I was actually helping a lot of the kids on my team get better,” he said.
The team finished its year with 6-10 overall record. Knapp noted that many of this year’s team members were younger.
He said he has encouraged a lot of the freshman and first-year wrestlers on the team to continue wrestling in clubs during off-season so they can gain experience and more practice in preparation for next year’s season.
With this Coaches Association triumph now capping a strong personal season, Knapp is eyeing next year’s slate of competitions, where he will look to end his high school career on a high note, both individually and in a team role.
“I think we’re going to be much better next year,” Knapp said of the Algonquin program as a whole.