This is a new wrestling era at Graham High School. That’s a big deal in the Champaign County village of St. Paris and all other points throughout the state where six minutes on a mat defines an individual.
“It’s a blast and I’m loving it,” admitted Travis McIntosh, who inherited the coveted position of Graham’s head coach following Jeff Jordan’s retirement last fall. “I went from being the guy who wrestles and grinds with them every day to the guy who now hands out the orders.”
Graham will make its first area appearance in the annual Greater Miami Valley Wrestling Association Holiday Tournament at Vandalia’s Student Activity Center on Thursday and Friday. The Falcons have swept the overall and combined Divisions II and III holiday team titles since returning to the event in 2014.
“Graham is the favorite until somebody beats them,” said host Butler coach Mark Peck.
The tourney will draw 48 teams, many from the Dayton area, and five mostly northern Kentucky teams. Wrestling begins at 11 a.m. Thursday and Friday. The championship finals are targeted for 5 p.m. Friday.
A former standout at Miami Trace and Cambellsville (Ky.) University, it’s on McIntosh to keep Graham’s wrestling machine in high gear. He was groomed for the takeover as Jordan’s go-to assistant the previous four seasons. They still huddle every day because McIntosh works for Jordan and his renowned year-round wrestling camp.
“This never stops,” McIntosh said. “I see all our wrestlers in the spring, summer and fall. I still see Jeff every day. We still have those hard conversations. It’s nice to get that kind of wisdom.”
It’s also a bonus to have Jeffrey Thomas back in the Falcons’ lineup. He was a state runner-up (113 pounds) as a freshman and third as a sophomore (126) but missed last season while recovering from a torn ACL. “He’s no joke,” McIntosh said. “People tend to forget about him.”
Graham’s loaded lineup also features sophomores Alek Martin and Nick Moore, both of whom were state runners-up as freshmen.
As usual, the spotlight will be on Graham. The Falcons have mounted a streak of 18 consecutive D-II state individual championships and haven’t lost a state team title since that was introduced in 2013.
Graham traditionally spends much of the regular season competing against northern Ohio teams, especially from the Cleveland area. This will be Graham’s only area appearance until the first round of the state team duals, then Central Buckeye Conference meet.
“It’ll be good to see the area wrestlers,” said McIntosh, 26. “Usually, we don’t really wrestle around here too often.”
• Butler (D-I) and Versailles (Divisions II and III) both placed third in their respective divisions last season and should contend for high places again. Butler features Logan Hoskins (126, 11-1, 11 pins) and senior brothers Bailey Suddeth (113, 11-1, eight pins) and Josh Suddeth (120, 9-3, seven pins) for a strong light-weight core.
Last season Butler was without two regulars due to injury.
“In this tournament we’ll be better, but overall, we’re about the same as last year,” Peck said. “It’ll be Graham and all the rest of us.”
• Fairmont’s Ali Salih (182, 13-0, 10 pins) owns the best record among participants with double-digit matches. Teammate Nevan Snodgrass also is favored at 170 (17-1, eight pins.
• Northmont junior Andrew Knick (152, 15-2, eight pins) needs five wins to reach 100 for his career.
• The annual two-pound weight increase for the remainder of the season kicked in on Christmas Day. The weight classes remain the same, but all participants are allowed two extra pounds.