Generations of the Graham family have taken to wrestling, and the current group includes a world champion and Maryland standout

Family on the mat

wrestling

January 31, 2007|By Lem Satterfield | Lem Satterfield,sun reporter

Former Naval Academy wrestling coach Ed Peery has seen generations of the extensive Graham family grow into the sport since he first befriended Billie and Peggy Graham in 1959. A few details, however, may have escaped his notice.

Peery may have missed the post-Christmas family gathering where Patrick Graham, uncle of Annapolis High's Bubby Graham, dislocated his finger wrestling another relative. Nor did Peery hear Graham cousin Nicole Woody, of Arundel High, repeatedly warned during a Thanksgiving Day family affair about kicking the fireplace while teaching wrestling moves to her cousin, Dominique Graham, of Annapolis Area Christian.

And Peery missed the Christmas ornament Nicole's mother, Mary Woody, received from a 4-year-old cousin, decorated with a photograph showing the boy in oversized wrestling shoes.

Peery knew enough, however, to see that the late Billie and Peggy Graham and their 10 children took this stuff seriously.

"The Grahams were totally committed to wrestling," said Peery, 71. "Seems like all of their [Billie and Peggy] boys did it, and, now, it's like all of their grandkids are doing it generally to excellent levels of achievement."

Indeed. Bubby Graham (152 pounds) is on pace to win a second Class 4A-3A state title. Nicole Woody (103) is a female world champion who is attempting to become Maryland's first female county titlist after being Anne Arundel County runner-up last year, as well as the second female state place-winner, following Magruder of Montgomery County's Helen Maroulis, who was sixth last year.

Annapolis' home-schooled Logan and David Putnam, grandchildren of Billie and Peggy Graham, both placed fifth at last year's private schools state tournament. Logan is a 140-pound senior, and David a 119-pound sophomore.

Dominique Graham, a 130-pound sophomore, recently earned a starting role on the AACS varsity.

"The wrestling influence came from the Peerys. Three of us - myself and my brothers, Patrick and Andrew - wrestled at Messiah College," said David Graham, as he sat near his wife, Becky, and Woody's parents, Mary and Larry, at Annapolis High during a recent match against Arundel.

"The Peerys were church Bible study and youth leaders for us and our kids," Mary Woody said. "Everything we do, we try to represent Christ. Our kids have learned once you've made a commitment, you do not quit. I've seen their perseverance through wrestling."

During the Annapolis-Arundel matchup, Nicole and Bubby shook hands as rival team captains for the first time. "That [shaking hands as rivals] was weird - definitely a heightened intensity," said Bubby, who pinned Arundel's Matt Taglienti in 3:31. Nicole pinned Annapolis' Eric Levine in 3:34.

"Oh, man," Nicole later told her mother, "Bubby beat me by three seconds."

Nicole Woody said she has been around wrestling "since I was 6 months old." She started wrestling at age 9 and will graduate in June despite being in only her third year of high school.

Having become the first Maryland female to twice qualify for the state tournament, and, last year, the first girl to pin a boy at the state meet, Woody, in August, was the lone American, male or female, to win a junior world championship, at 97 pounds.

Woody, who has a 4.0 grade point average, is considering a scholarship offer from the United States Olympic Education Center in Marquett, Mich., where she would be able to continue studying while also training for a shot at a berth in either the 2008 or 2012 Games.

"Nicole wants to win states and a little extra. She's a world champion, and I'm definitely proud of her," Bubby Graham said of his cousin, who has twice been featured recently in Sports Illustrated. "For me, it's enough to win a state championship."

Woody has similar respect for Graham, who first recalled being around a mat as a first-grader watching his older brother, Ben. "Bubby's smart, always in good position no matter where he is," Woody said. "He's invented like five moves that I've never seen."

A student with a weighted 4.63 grade point average, Graham is on pace to surpass Ben, who was an All-Metro selection as an Annapolis senior in 2004 when he was a state champion.

Page Putnam, one of Billie and Peggy Graham's children, said of Logan: "He's been matside since he was 2 weeks old." By the age of 2, Logan was wearing head gear and carrying a wrestling bag containing a singlet, a knee pad and other items handed down from his older brother, Isaac, now 30.

"Everything Isaac gave Logan, he would put it into that bag, and he would take it everywhere he went - to the library, the grocery store ... " Page Putnam said. "Every night, before he went to bed, Logan would ask me if he was going to be old enough to wrestle when he wakes up the next morning."

Logan credits the Navy junior league coaching of Charlie Lewnes, Kelly Ward and Wayne Hicks as "better than a lot of college kids get."

Logan "was my drill partner in sixth and seventh grade. And it was great having Nicole there with me last year at states," Graham said. "It's nice to know that, whatever you're going through, you have a family member going through it, too."

lem.satterfield@baltsun.com

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