By TOM BONE
Bluefield Daily Telegraph
BLUEFIELD, Va. —
Another year, another first-place finish for the wrestlers of Graham High School in the Graham Invitational Duals Tournament.
The G-Men finished 5-0 on Saturday in their own gym, winning the four-school Black Division of the annual meet and improving to 22-3 as a team this season.
Honaker High School, in its first year fielding a team, captured the four-team Blue Division with a 4-1 record for the day.
Graham wrestling coach Tim Woodward, the tournament director, said, “It was a good, competitive tournament. All the kids wrestled well. There were some outstanding matches. ... Some of the matches were very, very close, just a point or two between the teams.”
“The tournament went very smoothly. My parent volunteers, the students, the hospitality room crew, they did a great job.”
Assistant coach Ben Fritz said several Graham wrestlers “did well on the ‘B’ team” as well. “There was a lot of good talent out here.”
He said about the G-Men, “Everybody always looks forward to the Graham Invitational.”
That was especially true for junior Kyshon Lee and senior Hunter Cook, who recorded their 100th varsity wins on Saturday.
“I’m ecstatic right now,” Lee said. His 101st victory came against Honaker wrestler Chase Johnson in the 170-pound finals. Lee pinned him in 17 seconds, the third-fastest of the day.
Lee said, “I already knew that they were strong. I was expecting the kid to try to lock up with me and kind of throw me. Instead, he came out and he took a shot (reaching for Lee’s legs). When he took that shot, I took it as a time to capitalize. I just used it, and I pinned him.”
“It was instinct,” he said. “When he shot, my instinct was just to grab his head and his arm and roll him over. And that’s how it worked.”
Cook (160 pounds) improved to 29-4 this season in his final appearance before the postseason starts.
“Me and Kyshon both were trying to hit the 100 mark today, before we went to the regionals, and not have that messing with us when we got down there,” he said.
His final match of the day, coming after two forfeit wins, “was the mark for 100,” he said. “It was a pretty big match. There was competition for every weight class today; my weight class was pretty good competition today.”
“It was a first-round pin, but he was definitely a tough kid.”
Because of injuries, Cook said, “I’ve never had a full season of wrestling. ... I’m glad to hit it as a senior, instead of not being able to hit it.”
Woodward said, “I’m very proud of them. I’m tickled to death.”
Graham’s Jon Jennings (220) had first-round pins in all three of his matches and shared the most outstanding wrestler of the day award with Chad Harkleroad of Union High.
Jennings said he was surprised to learn about the honor. “There was a lot better wrestlers than me,” he said. “I didn’t expect it. ... I felt like I was on point, for the most part, today.”
Jennings said, “It means a lot for me. I’m a senior. I’ve been here a majority of the time. I’ve gotten to see a lot of it; I just never thought I’d win it, as a senior. It’s a great thing.”
Woodward noted, “My kids wrestled great today. To go 5-0 in this tournament is an accomplishment.”
Honaker coach Jim Horn said of his team, “They’ve worked really hard. I’m very proud of them. They all spent a lot of time in the wrestling room. Being our first year, we continue to get better every day, and that’s all I can ask of them.”
“I’ve got some really good kids — young men, I should say.”
Asked about leaders on his squad, Horn said, “Austin Smith and McKenzie Phillips and Chase Johnson and Jake Taylor, they’ve all done really well. They keep going as a team and keep getting stronger as individuals. We’ve got good leadership out of those guys.”
Johnson also had a win Saturday with a pin in less than a minute. The junior said that during his first year of varsity wrestling, he has learned, “Not to rush things, to take your time. Be physical, get aggressive.”
Lee said, “Honaker had some really strong wrestlers. It’s their first year of having a wrestling team, but all of their wrestlers are strong, and that’s going to go a long way in wrestling.”
The quickest pin award went to Jeremy Mullins (220) of Eastside, with an 11-second pin, and Dylan Cook of Graham (195) who finished off an opponent in 13 seconds.
Dylan Cook said his strategy was simple. “I just try to wrestle smart and keep from doing stupid moves,” he said.
Three encounters shared the award for “best match of the day.”
Among wrestlers from 152 pounds and over, the top bout was judged to be Justin Davis of Mingo Central against Union’s Dakota Lewis. A tie took place in the category of 148 pounds and lower — Graham’s Austin Byrd vs. Colton King of Fort Chiswell, and Matt Thornsberry of River View vs. Eastside’s Jordan Page.
River View finished 2-3 for the day, and Tazewell was 1-4. The Bulldogs produced one individual champion, Garrett Jessee in the heavyweight class.
Woodward said that for the G-Men, “It was a good tune-up, a good day of wrestling so we can get started looking toward the sub-region, next Saturday.”
“We finish on a good, positive note, and now we can spend this next week preparing for the postseason tournaments. And everybody came out today healthy. We didn’t have any injuries. It was a good day for the kids.”
Lee said, “I felt our team did great. There were some kids I’ve seen all year, they didn’t win the match. But today, they went out and they wrestled hard and they came out and they won their match. They showed a lot of fundamentals. They’ve learned.”
With the regular season over, there are new goals.
Hunter Cook said, “I want to go to state, and have others of us on the team go to state, too.”
Jennings said, “We’re ready — as ready as we can ever be. We’ve got some things we can work on, but we can fix that in practice, though.”
— Contact Tom Bone at
Graham Invitational Duals Tournament
Black Division — Graham (5-0), Ft. Chiswell (3-2), River View (2-3), Union (0-5). Blue Division — Honaker (4-1), Mingo Central (3-2), Eastside (2-3), Tazewell (1-4).
Team Summary (selected matches)
Graham — def. Union 66-18, def. Ft. Chiswell 70-12, def. River View 72-12, def. Tazewell 72-9, def. Honaker 78-6. Honaker — def. Mingo Central 30-24, def. Eastside 54-18, def. Tazewell 42-23, def. River View 54-18. River View — def. Union 39-24, def. Eastside 36-15.
Graham Top Individual Finishes
Dakota Byrd (152 pounds) 5-0, Hunter Cook (160) 5-0, Kyshon Lee (170) 5-0, Levi Stroupe (182) 5-0, Dylan Cook (195) 5-0, Jon Jennings (220) 5-0, Colin Beavers (285) 4-1, Gabe Collins (106) 4-1, Sam Steele (126) 4-1, Cliff McClanahan (132) 4-1, Tristan Evans (145) 4-1, Chandler Asbury (113) 3-2, Austin Holbrook (138) 3-2.