Wrestling year round
TERRY AHNER/TIMES NEWS Palmerton Area High School junior wrestler Zachary Graver proudly wears the medal he earned in the Cadet National Team Duals in Daytona, FL, where the Freestyle Wrestling Team PA finished second out of 40 teams.
Just call him Mr. No Days Off.
One look at his jam-packed schedule shows Palmerton Area High School grappler Zachary Graver has been beyond busy this summer wrestling on mats across the country.
As a sophomore last season, Graver, 16, compiled a gaudy 31-9 record as he competed at 170, 160, and 152 pounds for the PAHS wrestling team under coach Dave Lavin.
Along the way, he placed third at districts, fourth at regionals, and was a State qualifier. In addition, he was ranked sixth in PA Power Wrestling at 152 pounds.
Rather than rest on his laurels after such a fine season, Graver decided to take his passion for the sport to a whole nother level.
Immediately after his high school season was over, Graver continued to wrestle year-round while he trained for freestyle.
Graver trains with Peak Performance, Lehigh Valley Wrestling Club, Todd Kindig of Team Attack, and Rat Pack Fighting Systems in Palmerton. In addition, he works out year-round at the Rat Pack Heavy Metal Gym.
"Wrestling year-round is a lot harder," said Graver, of Kunkletown. "You have to do everything on your own because you usually don't have your team with you."
This summer, Graver was invited to be on the PA National Cadet Freestyle/Greco Wrestling Team for 15-16-year-olds, at which time he went on to go undefeated, 15-0, no less, in four qualifiers.
He then went on to place second at the Northeast Regional Qualifier held at East Stroudsburg University this past May, which then qualified him for the Cadet National Championships in Fargo, ND, which guaranteed him a spot on the PA National Cadet Team.
Graver then participated in the PA Cadet National Duals Team Training Camp, held in June at the University of Pittsburgh, in Johnstown, Pa.
From there, Graver participated in the Cadet National Team Duals in Daytona, FL, at which time he was coached by Cam Plocis and Kindig.
Team PA placed second out of 35 teams in Greco Wresting, while the Freestyle Wrestling Team PA placed second out of 40 teams. They lost to a team from Illinois in both.
While there, Graver wrestled at 152 and 160 pounds, and was one of three students from the area to represent Team PA.
Next up for Graver was the 2013 ASICS/Vaughn Junior & Cadet National Championships Individual Cadet Freestyle National Championships, where he participated in the PA Cadet Freestyle Training Camp in July at the University of Pittsburgh, where he was the No. 1 ranked 160-pound Cadet Freestyle Wrestler in PA.
If all that wasn't enough, Graver then went on to the 2013 ASICS/Vaughn Junior & Cadet National Championships at the Fargo Dome, North Dakota University, in Fargo, ND, where he was one of 1,007 participants from 45 states at the Cadet Nationals.
Competing at 160 pounds, Graver went 4-2, and in the process, just missed placing in the Top 8 to make All American, instead, ending up ninth. Overall, Team PA came in second to Team Illinois.
His overall tournament record was an impressive 27-8.
Graver said he believes the experience against top-flight competitors will serve him well come this season.
"I think it will help me a lot," he said. "It's made me a smarter wrestler, and taught me when to use a different move and when not to, and when to be more aggressive and when not to."
But, Graver wouldn't have been able to maintain his schedule if not for the help of many, such as his father, former PAHS grappler Harry Graver, whom he said has been instrumental in his success.
Besides his father, who was part of the school's first-ever wrestling team, Graver has three uncles and two cousins who also wrestled. One of those uncles, Billy Graver, was a two-time state qualifier for Palmerton.
"I enjoy that you never know what's going to happen, and one move can change the whole match," he said. "I also enjoy how mentally tough it is."
Graver said he's at his best when wrestling on his feet for takedowns. He believes he can improve from the top position, where he said he needs to work on getting more pins.
As he approaches his junior year at Palmerton, Graver said he'd like to again reach 30-plus wins; finish in the Top 2 at districts and the Top 3 at regionals, and make it to states and place.
He gave some advice to younger wrestlers.
"Just keep working at it," he said. "Constantly drill to get better."