The following was written by Lori Sokoll.
Michigan High School Athletic Association (MHSAA) Wrestling District Championships were held Saturday at Walled Lake Central High School. Adding to the tough field of wrestlers represented by KLAA schools were teams from Clarkston, Farmington Hills-Harrison, Farmington Hills-North, Farmington, Pontiac and West Bloomfield.
Lakeland Captain Tanner Graham continued his remarkable success this season, finishing in second place overall in the 215lb bracket. A first round bye was followed by a victory over North Farmington’s Nate Penny after Graham pinned his opponent fourteen seconds into the first period. Graham battled for the 8-6 semi-final win over Hartland’s Chad Maks who only a week earlier defeated Graham in the quarter-finals of the KLAA Championships. Waterford Kettering’s Matt Okaiye won the final round over Graham by decision. The second place finish earned Graham a February 16 trip to Saginaw to compete in the MHSAA Regional Championships.
While Graham is the only Lakeland wrestler to advance out of districts to regionals, other wrestlers continued to impress Coaches James Tippan and Chris Cokley. Wrestlers earning praise for their efforts Saturday included Donovan Carter Jr. 171lb, Jon Calma So. 103lb. and Cody Blackburn So. 152lb.
Graham often speaks of struggling on the mat as an underclassman and learning that while wrestlers face competition alone, success is found in the strength of teammates, guidance from coaches and support from the parents of the Lakeland Wrestling family.