#MondayMatness: Plymouth's Calhoun getting better everyday
By STEVE KRAH
There’s only so much time to prepare.
That is one of many lessons sophomore Graham Calhoun has learned while competing for veteran head coach Bob Read and his staff as part of the Plymouth High School wrestling program.
After going 44-5 and placing seventh at the IHSAA State Finals as a freshman 138-pounder in 2016-17, Calhoun is off to a strong start to the 2017-18 season.
“We don’t want to waste a second of practice,” says Read, an Indiana High School Wrestling Coaches Association Hall of Famer and Billy Thom Award winner who has produced 33 state qualifiers. He was hired at his alma mater in 1978 as a science teacher and wrestling assistant. He took over the Rockies matmen in 1981 and has been in that post ever since.
Calhoun is the most recent of Read’s 14 state meet placers and an athlete driven to improve.
“Graham is the kind of kid who looks to get better,” says Reed. “If he wants to stand on the top of the podium, he’s got to get better than what he is right now. Senior Gavin Banks (Graham’s drill partner) knows the same thing.”
Tim Roahrig (1987), Josh Hutchens (1993 and 1994) have won state titles with Read in their corners. Hutchens was also third in 1992.
Other state placers on Read’s watch include David Shook (second in 1983), Gabe Lopez (fourth in 1983), Jason Rudd (sixth in 1992), Kyle Condon (eighth in 1994), Matt Arvesen (fifth in 1999 and second in 2000), Dan Denaut (second in 1998), Damon Howe (fifth in 2010 and second in 2011) followed by Graham Calhoun in 2017.
Says Graham of his daily workouts this season with Banks, “We go pretty hard in the room. We make each other better.”
Graham has gotten bigger since last season and is certified at 152.
“I’ve filled out and grew a couple inches to 5-foot-9 1/2,” says Graham, who is focused this season on “trusting the process.” That means listening to his coaches as they push all Plymouth wrestlers toward constant improvement.
“If it’s a or a and I’m four or five pounds over, I can’t just use that practice to cut weight. I’ve got to get better.”
Read, who was a state qualifier in his senior year at Plymouth (1973) and grappled four years at Western Michigan University, sees in Graham Calhoun a young man who is learning to operate with controlled intensity.
“He’s a pretty even-keeled kid — win or lose,” says Read. “He doesn’t like to lose. But the last two years when he gets a chance to face someone who beat him before he usually turns the tide.”
Graham did just that against Munster’s Cody Crary last season. He lost to Crary at the Plymouth Super Dual then bested him in the East Chicago Semistate “ticket” round.
“He’s a competitor,” says Read. “Sometimes it’s difficult to teach that to somebody. He doesn’t fear the fact that the kid has beaten him. He absorbs that challenge. It’s fun to watch him. He can get pretty intense in the midst of a match.”
Curbing his emotions is something Graham has been working on.
“I’ve been working on keeping composure the mat,” says Calhoun, who carries a 3.6 grade-point average on a 4.0 scale. “That’s helped a lot. I watch these college guys and no matter what the score is, no matter what the position is they’re always composed and in-control.
“In wrestling, there’s a lot to get prepared for mentally and physically. Before a match, I put headphones on and clear everything out. I stay calm. I don’t get too fired up. I want to stay ready and mentally prepared. Sometimes I find myself getting too pumped up for a match. I look to find a good balance.”
Graham has been in the sport since age 4.
“My dad tried to get me to quit when I first started I was so bad,” says Graham, the youngest of Jim and Cammie Calhoun’s four sons (Kyle, Josh and Micah are older). “I got pinned every time I went on the mat. But I didn’t quit and I still liked it.
So Graham just stayed with it and kept getting better and did let the fact he was born with one kidney stop him.
“It doesn’t really bother me,” says Graham. “I just can’t drink any dark pop or caffeine. I go for annual check-ups.”
All his work helped Graham explode onto the high school wrestling scene a year ago and followed brother Micah’s lead all the way to the big stage in Indianapolis. Micah Calhoun was 43-4 and a state qualifier in 2017 as senior 160-pounder.
“I’ve learned everything from him — spiritually, mentally, physically, wrestling-wise,” says Graham of Micah.
The mat means a great deal to Graham. But it’s not the thing. There is his faith and his family.
“Wrestling is a big part of my life, but Jesus is definitely the biggest part of my life,” says Graham. “I’m a Christian and I love Jesus with all my heart. I do everything to glorify Him.”
Jim Calhoun, a Rochester native, attended Central Bible College in Missouri and wrestled for the University of Missouri, is senior pastor at Word of Truth Plymouth.
Read counts Jim and Micah Calhoun as volunteers on a coaching staff that features former Bremen High School head coach and former Bremen grappler Travis Meister.
“I don’t even need to be in the room, I know the kids are going hard,” says Read. “Those guys have made it easy for me.
“I seek that wise counsel that the Bible talks about. I try to surround myself with those guys and it’s paid off over the years.
“I wish I could tell you every decision I’ve made wrestling-wise is a correct decision and that every kid I’ve coach I’ve treated fairly and uprightly. I’ve made mistakes all over the place. But I hope that in the years that I’ve coached I’ve poured into more people in a positive way.”
In his decades of coaching, Read has had wrestlers live with him and his family, which includes wife Karen, daughters Lane and Cari and son Matt, a state qualifier wrestler for Plymouth in 2003. Read’s bailed wrestlers out of jail. He’s helped them deal with divorce and the loss of loved ones.
“As a coach, it’s more than wrestling,” says Read. “For me and my staff, it’s a ministry. That’s why we get along so well.
“My faith is really important to me.”
Read keeps a list of people who have qualities or characteristics that he seeks when he needs help in life.
Using examples from the Bible, he looks for those who are like Paul (“somebody who is going to pour into you and teach you what it’s like to be the man of character”), Barnabas (“a guy who walks with people because they are in the same season in life”) and Timothy (“someone who you pour into”).
His father James is one of those people on his list.
“Not many men don’t have cracks some place,” says Read. “My dad is a man that doesn’t have cracks.”
James Read, 89, are partners in a business — J.B. Fish. When Bob retired from the class room in 2014, he and his father started raising fish in a 14,000-gallon tank. At first, it was striped bass and now it’s tilapia.
“We raise our own brood — from eggs to selling them live,” says Read. “They start out in aquariums, we move them along and they finish in larger tanks. We sell them at a pound 3/4 or bigger. It takes about 11 months to finish them out.”
Read and his coaches show their wrestlers plenty of finishing moves and insist that everybody develops go-to maneuvers that they trust and can execute.
“When you’ve been at the sport as long as I have what happens is you see a go-to move for a bunch of kids,” says Read. “Then they develop counters and everybody is looking for that (move). They starred to fade away from that. That sits the archives for years then — all of a sudden — it starts coming back.
“I’ll say ‘this is what we did years and years ago’ and bring out some old moves.”
Why is it important to have a “bag of tricks”?
“Not everybody has quick feet,” says Read. “I wrestled after college in a number of big tournaments and learned that I couldn’t move my feet fast enough to sprawl. But I could change levels and bump with my hips.”
It’s a matter of identifying the wrestler’s capabilities.
“I have a kid who’s extremely explosive so we’re going to give him stuff he can use,” says Read. “Most of are kids aren’t so we’ve got to come in tight and control things.
“Our off-season and in-season weight program is important to us. We want to be strong enough that we can compete with people. We believe that if we’re not in great shape that we’re going to struggle so we work on being in great shape. Our kids know it and they work hard at it.”
Like many teams are the state, Plymouth’s number are down a little bit.
“I think it has something to do with where we’re at in society and it’s sad,” says Read. “It’s a great sport and there’s so many lessons to be learned.”
Graham Calhoun continues to learn those learning those lessons.