Kyle Graham’s list of accomplishments reads like a character you’d create on a video game, just to give yourself an advantage: most wins in the history of Virginia high school wrestling; four-time state qualifier; three-time regional champion; four-time district champion.
But there’s one thing missing from that list of mosts and championships: an individual state title.
The Colonial Forge senior gets his final chance at the missing piece, starting this morning at the Group AAA championships at Oscar Smith High School in Chesapeake.
High school has been a breeze for Graham, as the list of achievements testifies. He started as a freshman at Gar-Field and then began again at Colonial Forge when the school opened three years ago.
But before high school, things weren’t so easy.
Graham got into the sport in sixth grade after friends convinced him he would be good at the sport. Their predictions, at least initially, were way off: Graham said he didn’t win a match at all that first season.
A bit of doubt crept into the picture. Maybe wrestling wasn’t the sport best suited to him.
“I couldn’t say [wrestling was the best sport] at the time,” Graham said. “But by eighth grade, I knew.”
The next year, Graham got more involved with the sport, wrestling with a club team. With more experience and the better coaching that Graham said he received that year, a stellar career began to take shape.
That was middle school, though. Everything in high school is a little bit harder, and wrestling is no different. Graham said he got warnings of just that: the competition was better, the stage was bigger.
So what did he do for his opening act? Rolled up a 41-7 record and made it to the state finals.
“I shocked everybody, including myself, by making it to the state finals,” Graham explained.
Since then, not much has changed. Graham made appearances in the state tournament in each of his four years, and his career record has just 17 losses on it. And looking ahead a bit, Graham’s wrestling journey will go from Stafford to Blacksburg, where he’ll wrestle for Virginia Tech next year.
But there’s that issue of winning the state title between now and then.
“I know I’ve got the skill to do it, I know I can win,” Graham said. “Now, it’s just going out and winning it. … It’s my last shot at a title.”
“There are some real good kids at that weight class,” said Eagles’ head coach Bill Swink. “[Western Branch’s Brandon] Hardy is second in the country as a junior [Graham is eighth]. Two of the top 10 kids in the country will be there. Normally, if you’re in the top 10, you don’t have to worry about whether you’ll win a state title. But Virginia’s got a lot of good lightweights now.”
Hardy has already beaten Graham twice this season. But there’s a lot that can happen before Hardy-Graham matchup materializes. Graham, after all, is the most notable figures on one of the best programs in Northern Virginia.
He’s already got the record for most wins. That would make all the sweeter for someone who’s relatively unknown to knock off the all-time wins leader.
Accomplishments, after all, don’t mean a thing when it comes to the state tournament.
“Pretty much everybody knows who’s who [at states],” Graham said. “I think people will be gunning for me, since I’m ranked second in the state to Hardy. I think he’ll be a little overconfident. I know I can beat him, I just have to make sure I do it this time.”