Unable to have the formal award among others on Senior Awards Day at PHS, Graham Calhoun and Kyla Heckaman got their award “virtually”. Plymouth AD Michael Delp set up a meeting online with this year’s winners and the Kizer family.
“It was different we had a ZOOM call with the Kizer’s and I’m really glad that Mr. Delp set that up,” said Graham. “Just to give us a chance to show our appreciation for them and awarding us the award and scholarship but I would have much rather had it in person.”
Headed for the wrestling program at the University of Wisconsin Calhoun says things are uncertain currently for anything in the fall.
“I just got off a ZOOM call a couple of days ago and everything is up in the air right now,” said Calhoun. “They aren’t sure when we will be able to get on campus. They are trying out the football team in June and will see how that works out but everything is still pretty much by ear.”
He’s still been able to try to keep pace with workouts during the pandemic.
“In our garage, we have a wrestling mat so I’ve been able to wrestle with my brother Micah who’s been a great coach and training partner for me,” said Calhoun. “We’ve been getting as many workouts as we can in.”
“I’ve also been meeting with one of my club coaches about 30 minutes away,” he said. “We’ve been trying to get into the (wrestling) room as much as possible.”
The honor of winning the Kizer Award, named after legendary national sports figure Noble Kizer, was not lost on Graham.
“It was awesome to be honored like this,” he said. “Seeing that it takes in a lot more than just being successful in a sport but what you are doing outside of that. How you are affecting other people. I take more pride in that then the sport I was doing.”
Graham has a 3.4 GPA and while successful in high school academics he realizes the next level will be more challenging, given the schedule of a Division I athlete.
“I think it will be challenging,” he said. “For me, it will be about getting a degree. I can’t do what I want to do on the mat if I’m not eligible. I’ll find a way to do it.”
The challenge of getting the degree goes with the challenge of his college choice.
“Something that attracted me (to Wisconsin) is that they made it seem like they needed me on the team and that I would be a good fit at the weight I wanted to wrestle at,” he said. “The plan right now is that I’ll redshirt my freshman year and then be straight in the lineup next year.”
“It’ll be a year of transitioning and easing into the college lifestyle,” said Graham. “I’m looking forward to that and how much I can grow. I’m sure I’ll get homesick but I’ll get through it. I’ve already made some good relationships with my coaches and teammates but I’m looking forward to stepping out of my comfort zone.”
Part of a very close-knit family Graham knows that the aspect of being away from that safety net could be the toughest part, but something he wanted leaving high school.
“I’ve always wanted to leave Indiana for college,” he said. “I’ve been here all my life. I started out looking at Arizona and North Carolina but I realized being that far away it would be hard for my family to come to meets. (Wisconsin) is something that was the perfect distance for me, not super close, but not across the country.”
“A big factor is that the Big 10 is the best wrestling conference in the country and I’d always dreamed about being able to wrestle in the Big 10,” said Graham. “It’s probably more snow but that’s alright.”
The interesting part of the journey for Graham is that it almost didn’t even start.
“I started wrestling when I was four and I was really, really bad,” he said. “I would go to beginner tournaments and get pinned. I think I lost my first 25 matches by pin and my dad tried to get me to quit I was so bad. Something in me wanted to keep wrestling. I went to a tournament and I lost both my matches but they gave me a participation medal and my family told me I wore it to sleep like it was a gold medal. I loved what I was doing when I wasn’t doing it well and that’s kinda stayed with me.”
“I wanted to be out there,” said Graham. “My dad said I didn’t need to do it for him, it was something in me that I wanted to be successful and I wanted to be good. That’s stayed with me.”
Dad, Jim Calhoun, has been one of Graham’s coaches since the time he started, and not having him on the sidelines will also be a transition.
“That’s going to be the biggest change,” said Graham. “We’ve had an amazing relationship but I’m looking forward to him just being able to be a fan and not worry about all the other stressful things, just going and watching his son wrestle and enjoy that.”
The success for Graham is only part of what motivates him to be his best.
“I want to impact other people and it’s a little platform that I have,” he said. “I have a relationship with Jesus and wrestling is something secondary. I don’t want to be remembered as somebody that’s just a good wrestler. Having this platform is something that goes beyond wrestling it’s something that will let me have an impact on people’s lives.”
“I want the first thing they think of me to not be about wrestling,” said Graham. “I think it’s important to see that my identity is found in a lot more than just wrestling, it’s found in Christ. I want people to remember me for the impact that I had on people. It’s a mission that I have.”