Q&A with Tech wrestling's Tyler Graff

BLACKSBURG – Tyler Graff’s resume is decorated and speaks for itself.

A four-time All-American at Wisconsin, a four-time top four placer at the Big Ten Championships and a two-time third place finisher at U.S Olympic Team Trials in 2012 and 2016. For what it’s worth, FloWrestling recently ranked Graff first on a list of the best collegiate wrestlers that never won an NCAA title at 133 pounds.

While Graff appreciated the sentiment, it’s something that still motivates him to this day. Graff’s goals haven’t changed on his journey from Loveland, Colorado, where he won a state title in each of his four years of high school, to Madison, to Rutgers and the Scarlet Knights Wrestling Club, and now to Blacksburg. He wants to win medals and world championships.

Graff’s hiring as director of performance-wrestling was announced in August and he has officially settled into his new role with the Hokies. He’s already started training as a resident athlete with the Southeast Regional Training Center with his eye on making the Olympic Team in 2020. He recently sat down with HokieSports.com to talk about his new opportunity at Virginia Tech, training with assistant coach Frank Molinaro and more.

Walk us through how you ended up here in Blacksburg.

“After the World Team Trials this past summer, I ran into [assistant coach] Jared [Frayer] at the airport. He used to be my college coach at Wisconsin for, I believe the 2009, ‘10 and ‘11 seasons. I always had a good relationship with him and we actually talked about training opportunities, coming out and working with him, told him I was interested in coaching too and was going to be looking into doing that. That’s kind of what got the initial ball rolling. As soon as I got the call from [head coach] Tony [Robie] I was pretty excited and let my wife know that this is something we should look into. It helped even more when she got a teaching opportunity as well, so, when you put those two together it was a no-brainer.”

Where did she get a teaching job?

“Here at Virginia Tech. She’s going to be a part of the staff for this year at the engineering school. She had been working for the past few years as a civil engineer in Columbus, Ohio. It’s good, we’re pretty excited. It was kind of meant to be.”

You were a four-time All-American at Wisconsin, placed second in 2014, what was your experience like in Madison?

“I felt like since the day I made the commitment to go to Wisconsin, even before then, my goals and aspirations were always to win world and Olympic championships. The Olympics being the pinnacle of the sport, I knew I had to put myself in an environment that was going to help me get there. At the time, the coaches were Donny Pritzlaff and Barry Davis. I redshirted my freshman year and then Frayer came in the following year. It was awesome to train with him every day. It was a great environment and I learned a lot through all of my years at Wisconsin. Didn’t quite get what I was after in my collegiate career but I’ve used that as a motivator to continue to learn and better myself, not let it be something that’s going to dictate the rest of my career.”

Was the opportunity here more enticing knowing that Jared Frayer and Frank Molinaro were on the staff?

“Definitely. Frank and I are close enough in weight range where we could be workout partners in the room. He can push me. It’s good to have a partner where you know you’re going to be challenged every day and put in situations that are probably harder than what I would find at matches. That’s the exciting part, is the opportunity. The way Frayer wrestles, he’s got a very unique ability to hit moves that most guys can’t and I think there’s a lot to take from that. Wrestling guys with that type of European style, they’re good things to know and help take my wrestling to another level. I’m sure I can talk all day about the benefits of getting coached by Frayer and working with Frank. Wouldn’t even know where to end or begin.”

You haven’t been here long but have you seen from the Hokies thus far?

“Overall, I just see a good culture. There’s never a Sunday or period of time where the room is empty. And that to me right there says that these guys are hungry. I like that. A lot of titles and championships are won just based on that and having that will and guys putting in the work and time with some continued intelligent training from coaches and instruction it’ll be interesting to see where this will go.”

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