COLUMBIA — Travis Craig leaned forward intently, his left foot on the wrestling mat in front of him, eyes quickly darting back and forth between the scoreboard and the match. Shouts of motivation came from the third-year head coach as his Rock Bridge team faced off against Kirksville and Hickman.
Craig's tactical suggestions resonated throughout the gymnasium Tuesday night at Rock Bridge High School, despite the loud crowd. Rock Bridge went on to win the three-way match, beating Kirksville 57-21 and Hickman 57-22.
It's easy to see why the Rock Bridge wrestling team has seen the number of state qualifiers jump to four last season. Craig's intensity has helped improve the Bruins wrestling program during his three years as head coach.
Before that, Craig was an assistant coach for six years. He started coaching at Rock Bridge during his sophomore year of college at MU.
"It was just my time to hang it up, but I still wanted to be involved in wrestling," Craig said. "I know that a coach can have a huge impact on a kid's life, positive or negative."
Senior wrestler Tez Wells put Craig's style in simple terms.
"Very, very, very loud," Wells said.
That loud voice that Bruin wrestlers have grown accustomed to pushes his athletes to reach their maximum potential.
"Last year, he told us, 'If you're not bleeding, you're not trying,'" junior Harry Schauwecker said. "Inside the wrestling room, he's really intense."
Craig uses his motivational style to build his wrestlers into better people, too.
"We want them to wrestle with pride and class," Craig said. "Just work hard in every practice, and you will get what you earn."
The Rock Bridge wrestling returns to action Dec. 8 when it competes at Blue Springs.