NE Wrestle: You qualified for state in the 106B bracket and won 36 matches as a freshman. How did you evaluate your freshman season overall?
Grayon Fries: My freshman year went better than I expected. My original goal was to win 20 matches. By the time Christmas rolled around, I adjusted my goal to 30 wins. I also wanted to make it to state, which I did. I didn’t perform at my highest level at state which was a little disappointing.

You started wrestling at 3 years old. What is it about the sport of wrestling that grabbed your attention at an early age?
GF: Wrestling was a sport that allowed me to participate even though I couldn’t hear. I also loved being on the mat and wrestling with the other kids.

After having cochlear implant surgery at 5 years old, the doctors told your parents that you shouldn’t continue participating in contact sports. Do you remember how you felt when they told you that? How did you convince your parents to let you continue to wrestle?
GF: I was really upset that I might not be able to play contact sports. I loved flag football and wrestling and I didn’t want to give it up. I kept bugging my parents to let me participate, which thankfully they did. Once I was old enough for tackle football, they told me I shouldn’t play due to the risks. Luckily, they let me keep wrestling.

When you compete, you take your cochlear implants out, so you are unable to hear at all. What are some of the challenges you’ve overcome because of that?
GF: The biggest challenge is not being able to hear the coaches. I have to work extra hard in the wrestling room to get better and master all the positions that I can. Once a match starts, I have to rely on my sight to see the coaches and feeling as to what the other wrestler is doing.

Do you feel like aspects of your wrestling have improved because of the challenges you’ve faced?
GF: I definitely think I have become a better wrestler. I have to put in extra work, before and after practice, to make sure I’m ready to go.

What are your goals for your sophomore season?
GF: My goal is continue with the success I had as a freshman. Keep pushing the win total and getting on the medal stand at state.

What advice do you have for athletes who have unique challenges in their respective sport?
GF: First and foremost, don’t let your challenge hold you back. Find a sport that you love and never let anyone or anything stand in your way. Put in the work and they won’t even know what your challenge is.

Is there anything else you’d like to add?
GF: I just want to thank everyone who believed in me and has supported me. I owe a lot to my head coach Brian Sybrandts and my strength and conditioning coach Troy McNeil. They have pushed me and made me the wrestler I am today. And obviously a big thanks for my family- mom, dad and sister- for chasing me around the country to support me.

By Ross Bartachek (@rossbchek)

Lead Editor of IA Wrestle

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