Graham’s Jeffrey Thomas (front) won the 113-pound final of the GMVWA Holiday Wrestling Tournament at WSU’s Nutter Center as a freshman. MARC PENDLETON / STAFF
Photo: MARC PENDLETON / STAFF
Photo: MARC PENDLETON / STAFF

New Graham wrestling coach: ‘It’s a blast and I’m loving it’

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.”

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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.

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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.”

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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.”

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• Joining Graham at the holiday tournament are Bellefontaine, Greeneview, Kenton Ridge, Springfield, Tecumseh and Urbana.

Springfield’s best bets are Cole Yost (120, 7-2 record, five pins), Hayden Cochran (170, 6-4, 5 pins) and Tressel Cochran (220, 10-3, nine pins).

Greenon is sitting out the holiday season after winning the 19-team Xenia Invitational on Dec. 15. Unbeaten Evan Davis (132, 13-0, seven pins) was the Knights’ only individual champion at Xenia.

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Other members of the Knights’ lineup who have great season starts are Chase Trainer (138, 11-1, seven pins), Levi Morrison (195, 12-1, seven pins), Josh Johnson (220, 11-1, nine pins) and Tyler Jenkins (285, 9-2, six pins).

• 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.

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