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January 21, 2013

Graham gives Sooners mat example to follow



Sunday was a typical effort.

Graham never quit scoring, settling for a single takedown in the first period, but getting two more in the second and two more again in the third. Each of Prezzia’s three points came on escapes Graham willingly conceded.

Graham knows his grappling style isn’t the safest, that constant aggressiveness can open himself up to being scored upon, but he understands it as a small price for his aggressiveness.

“I don’t stop wrestling,” he said. “If it feels right, I do it.”

It’s the style Cody’s trying to foster in his second year running the Sooner program.

“We need them to keep attacking,” Cody said. “And I think that’s been the problem for some of our guys. We get to a point and then we stop.”

But not Graham.

“If he makes a mistake,” the coach said, “you know he’s going to come back.”

Sunday, there were a few signs the message might be getting through.

Kendric Maple, unbeaten and ranked No. 1 at 141 pounds, who probably doesn’t need to take a page out of anybody’s book, collected a 10-2 major decision over 14th-ranked Nathan Pennesi.

Nick Lester, however, seemed to offer a new aggressiveness in his 17-0 technical fall over Timothy Wheeling. Lester, ranked No. 11, entered just 7-5 over his previous 12 bouts, but scored early and often against his Mountaineer opponent.

“We really got on him,” Cody said of his communication with Lester following the 149-pounder’s underwhelming 5-0 victory at UNI two days earlier.

Then, at 157, the spot typically held down by 14th-ranked Matt Lester, Cody went with Justin DeAngelis instead. DeAngelis responded with an 18-2 technical fall over Jason Luster.

“That spot is still not set yet,” Cody said.

Time will tell if there’s room for turnover at any other spots, but one thing’s pretty certain. If the Sooners want to impress their coach, they’ve got a good senior role model at 165 pounds.

“So far,” Graham said, “I feel like I’m wrestling hard.”

Clay Horning

Follow me @clayhorning

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