A Pathway to Maturity
(SB) – Easton Graff, the son of Lance Rawson and Teri Steck of Sergeant Bluff, finished his wrestling career at SBL at the State wrestling tournament held at Wells Fargo Arena, Des Moines, Feb-21-23, 2019. It was the second year in a row Graff qualified for a State run.
He called his youth, junior high and high school mat run “Unbelievable!”
“I’ve had the best coaches I could ever ask for and the best teammates anyone could have. Guys like Braden Curry, Blake Liebe, -- honestly, one of my favorite teammates. He works so hard,” he said of Liebe. They’re the reason I’ve gotten to where I am today,” Easton said.
A lot of things, people, events.
His freshman and sophomore years, he said, “was a lot of growing up for me. I learned that you can lose everything you’ve worked for in the blink of an eye. That fast. Everything. I realized I needed to become more mature and not take anything for granted. Braden Curry had a lot to do with that. He was one of the most mature wrestlers I came to know. Always focused, always ready.”
Easton said the maturity level he sought evolved in his junior year. He placed fifth at State.
“So many things happen that are out of your control,” he noted. “It’s about putting your best foot forward. The very moment I realized that – about things you have no control over --was in last season’s quarterfinals in Des Moines,” he said. “Going up against Michael Blockhus of New Hampton [138-pound, three-time State champion]. He was just so much better than me. I gave it all I could and lost 5-2.” Nevertheless, Easton said, he tried as hard as he could.
He moved from 138 to 152 this year. The adjustment moving up, The said “…was very hard to adjust to. Most of the opponents I faced were a lot stronger than me. At 138, I was able muscle opponents around, and pretty much throw people all over the mat. This year it was more about finesse, taking good shots, about not giving up points,” he said of the weight class differential.
“I believe the experience this season made me grow as a wrestler. The sport is so much more than strength,” he said.
In wrestling, you sometimes meet up with an opponent over the years. In Easton’s case, that occurred with Spirit Lake’s Kyler Rieck. During the regular season, at the sectionals, Graff won over Rieck in what turned out to be a tremendous battle. “In that match,” Easton said, “neither of us could get anything going in the first period.” Graff took advantage of the situation and won by one. “At State,” he said, “the difference was he came out firing from the start. He got the first take-down. The night before, I talked to people from Sergeant Bluff and said that I believed whoever got the first take-down would win the match. It didn’t matter what else took place in that match, I felt would the first take-down would be critical.”
“We have wrestled each other for a long time,” Graff said of Rieck. Because of that, “We got to know each other’s moves so well over ten years that we both know each other’s moves. So, it came down to that first take-down.”
The highlight of his career, he said, was last season during his junior year. During that period, Easton had defeated no less than a half-dozen ranked wrestlers. At State, he said, his parents called him to say that the broadcasters at the State tournament had talked about Graff. “They [parents] told me that one of the broadcasters said that ‘if there’s one kid who should have been in the finals is Easton. We’re surprised he didn’t make it.’ They were referring to my entire season. Making the semis this year was very big for me, too.”
Another instance in his career has meant a lot to Graff.
Returning from State, he said, “Coach [Clint] Koedam came over to me, sat down, and said something I’ll never forget.” Looking back, he recounted, wrestling was really trying. “I’m surprised I made it this far,” Easton recounted. It was Coach Koedam “who saved me from quitting along the way. Every time I had a speck of doubt about myself, he picked up on it and had me in his office to talk to me.”
“It takes a lot of maturity – really a lot of maturity – to be a good wrestler,” he continued. “And it was on the way back that Koedam sat next to me and said, ‘Easton, I want you to know that you have developed so much… you’ve matured so much, and are one of the most mature wrestlers I’ve ever worked with.’ That meant a lot to me,” Easton said. “That told me I had achieved what I aspired to achieve and take with me in life.”
He said that next season’s wrestling team will have a number of returnees back on the mat: Braden Graff, Nate Curry, Jack Gaukel, Issac Bryan, and Blake Liebe to name five off the top of his head. There’s a number of other wrestlers returning, he said, who will need to step up. “Those sophomores and juniors coming back,” he noted, “will need to reach up into the next level to continue the Warrior tradition. If they do that,” he said, “I believe they will be remembered as some of the best wrestlers ever as a team. As it stands now, they’re going to go in to 2019-2020 as underdogs.”
Now, after a great career at SBL, Easton is hanging up his wrestling gear. He intends to enroll at Kirkwood CC, where he plans on earning his associate degree, then heading to a four-year school. There, he said, he will enroll in ROTC and seek a commission as a 2nd Lieutenant in the Army.
He's ready… and being a former Army officer, retired after 24 years, I can tell you that Easton will make an outstanding officer. He’s articulate, thoughtful, decisive, and a leader. He’s going to do very well in life.