Graham will be looking to claim its 17th straight Division II state wrestling championship this weekend in Columbus. That standard of excellence is what’s driving the Falcons to maintain or improve the school’s rich tradition.
“If we win the state title this year, this will be our 17th in a row. This has never been done before in the state of Ohio in any sport,” GHS Coach Jeff Jordan said. “This drives my guys to go out and compete with intensity and pride to show the fans why Graham is Graham.”
The Falcons take 11 wrestlers to the tournament, with nine of those guys experiencing the podium last year. Mitch Moore and Rocky Jordan will be returning as champions and looking to repeat.
“The individual’s goal is to try and win the state which in turn will help the team win the state,” Jordan said.
That team mentality is something that a lot of athletes don’t get to experience this late in the season, as many teams simply don’t qualify enough kids.
Champaign County has another exception to that rule besides Graham, though. Mechanicsburg will be sending seven grapplers to the tournament – half of a squad.
With the Indians working to build a culture of togetherness and a family-like atmosphere over the past several seasons, that many guys making the trip is nothing but an advantage for the boys in purple.
“Our goals are to stay healthy and make minor adjustments. We are always trying to promote our kids to realize their potential and to push,” M’burg Coach Cameron Doggett said.
That being said, Doggett knows that there’s going to be a nervous energy in the room leading up to the biggest stage in the sport.
“I try to keep the atmosphere in the room calm. Kids are anxious and amped up for the state meet so I try to be calm, cool and collected,” he said. “We treat it like every other week. We stay consistent and talk to each kid to keep them calm.”
Triad’s Zack Zizzo is also wrestling at the state meet, but THS Coach Tyler Graff doesn’t think that anxiety is going to affect how he wrestles.
“I don’t think Zack is a head case. For him, he brings his best performance and he has the right approach. He’s excited about this. He’s enjoying it all,” Graff said. “That’s something that’s everyday. By the day, he’s getting more motivated and more passionate. And I think part of that is seeing the light at the end of the tunnel. There’s no reason to hold back. Just go for it.”
The Cardinals have qualified an athlete for the state meet for the second consecutive season, something that may help grow a program that has seen low participation in the recent past. Graff doesn’t see it that way. He’s not out to recruit or promote. He’s about growth.
“I look at it as I’m just helping kids accomplish their goal any way I can. This isn’t about me. You give them the best advice you can give them, but it comes down to the guy doing the work. And (Zack)’s done that. I’m proud of him. He’s got every reason to hold his head up.”
Reach Justin Miller at 652-1331 (ext. 1776) or on Twitter @UDC_Miller.