By BOB REDD
Bluefield Daily Telegraph
BLUEFIELD, Va. —
The 1972 Miami Dolphins. The 1988 Notre Dame football team. The 2011 Graham G-Men wrestling team. What do each of those squads have in common? They finished their season of competition undefeated.
Last year the GHS wrestling team fought its way to a 29-0 overall record, a 9-0 Mountain Empire District mark and a fourth place finish in the Region C tournament.
Wrestling is a tradition at Graham. This year marks the 50th season of competition and for 31 of those 50 years one person has been a part of the program, that being head coach Tim Woodward. Woodward wrestled for the G-Men from 1967-71, was an assistant coach for two seasons, and for the past 25 years has been calling the shots on the burgundy and gold mats that are rolled out this time of year in the GHS gymnasium.
The 2012-13 team has 29 wrestlers, 10 returning starters, eight seniors and one young lady.
Senior Jessi Lewis is the young lady who looks to start in the 106-pound weight class. She is not the first female to wrestle for Graham.
“I’ve had girls in the past, probably since I have been head coach I’ve had five or six girls,” Woodward said. One year I had three on the team at the same time. Girls wrestling are great. They realize they have to compete with the boys and they go for it.”
In the 113 weight class Dustin Hagerman returns. Hagerman won the MED championship, finished second in Region C and fifth at the state tournament. His record last year was 48-6 and he has a career mark of 126-21.
“Last year we went undefeated, did well, worked in practice, did well at regionals, I finished fifth at states. This year I think we’ll do similar to what we did last year.”
Hagerman’s brother Larry, was a key member of last year’s team lost to graduation.
Another brother combination will represent the G-Men at the 152 and 170 pound weight class. Hunter Cook (152) was MED champion and finished fifth in Region C. Younger brother Dylan (170) was a second place finisher in the district and also fifth in the region.
“It was awesome to win the district as a team and as an individual, a good accomplishment,” Hunter Cook said.
Dylan Cook likes wrestling on the same team with his sibling and talked about the challenges of the sport.
“In my opinion wrestling is the hardest sport there is,” Dylan Cook commented. “It’s a different type of conditioning. This is three periods of non-stop action, by yourself too, and the conditioning is crazy for wrestling. You’ve got to run, you’ve got to drill, you’ve got to go for all three period.”
Both of the Cook brothers are also on the G-Men football team.
Senior Robert Compton (195) finished second in the MED tournament last season echoed the comments of Dylan Cook and talked about the mental part of the sport.
“You have to have heart more than anything because you aren’t going to win every match,” Compton said. “You have to get better and you can’t give up. That’s one of the things I have learned the last four years, that you always get better, there is always room for improvement and you need to keep your head up and always give your best.”
Aaron Thompson wrestled last season at 170, but looks to compete at 160 this season. A senior, Thompson began wrestling when he was six years old and said commitment is necessary.
“It takes a lot of dedication and not everyone can come out here and do this,” Thompson said. “You’ve just got to come out here, if you can adapt to it quickly, you can do it. I tried it (wrestling) once. I liked it and I stuck with it and I just kept learning something new every day. That’s why I like it.”
Austin Miller, another senior, wrestled at 132 last year and captured second place in the district.
This year he remains at 132 and to him the team holds a special place in his life.
“It’s very special. It’s more of a family, I think,” Miller said. “We’ve got Coach (Ben) Fritz and Coach Woodward, amazing guys. I couldn’t ask for better coaches or better people to be around in general.
“There’s a lot of tradition here, it’s our 50th year of being a program. It’s really special this year, especially coming off an undefeated season. Everybody wants to see if we can continue to compete at that level.”
Miller said while being undefeated last year was great and it would be great to accomplish it again this year, he said winning isn’t everything.
“Coach (Woodward) always tells us it’s not about wins and losses, it’s about going out there and doing your best to compete. If we would have been 28-1 he would have been just as proud, or if we were 0-29, as long as we worked hard.”
The G-Men finished third out of 12 teams in their first match of the season last weekend at Carroll County. They return to the mats this weekend at the Chilhowie Duals where they will face five different squads. Their first home match is Jan. 3, and the annual Graham Invitational is set for Jan. 26.