By Thomas Sellers, Jr.
It was in her plans since February 2020 to have her high school wrestling career come to a fitting conclusion in the Williamson County Expo Arena.
Bartlett senior Maggie Graham reached her destination and on Feb. 24, 2023, she stood on center mat to take on Alyssa Adamo from a school she was familiar with.
Rossview’s Adamo put up the best challenge to Graham, but history would not be denied on this day. Graham earned her final victory at Lady Panther with a fall at the 3:10 mark.
Not only was Graham the TSSAA Girls 152-Division State champion, she left Franklin that day as a four-time overall winner.
“It’s honestly nerve racking,” Graham said of her achievement. “I can’t even lie. Being able to go to that stadium, this is the last high school tournament I’ll have. It was emotional. I took in the moment.
“I have had amazing support,” she added. “The community that has surrounded me is amazing.”
The 17-year-old returned back to Bartlett and BHS as a legend with four State titles in her career. The legacy of Graham began as a football player in middle school.
Then she had to pick a new sport once she entered high school. She chose to be a grappler.
“We had really good seniors and juniors that year,” Graham recalled. “I had a lot of people to help mold me. I was the only girl my freshman year. I have to admit it was stressful.
“They challenged me and got me ready,” she continued. “They were like, ‘You’re here and you’re not diligent. We’re going to push you.’ I won my first State championship and they were there cheering me on.”
Graham’s first State championship came prior to a global pandemic. In front of thousands of wrestling fans, she faced Rossview’s Brielle Bissonette.
The junior was using her length and veteran skills to gain a slight advantage over her freshman opponent. Graham dug deep and took the instructions from coaches Daniel Longo, Adrian Keley and Hunter Siler to pull off the upset that day.
“I was definitely scared going into that match,” Graham recalled “Honestly I didn’t know I won it until my hand was raised. So it was a shock. I was like, ‘Oh my God I did it.’
“I was like I am going to try my best to win the next three if I can,” she added. “But I know I can still have a path through wrestling even if I don’t.”
Graham was Bartlett High School’s first State Champion. She also became the first girl to earn a wrestling crown in Shelby County.
In between racking up nearly 100 wins as a Lady Panther with only 5 defeats, Graham has used wrestling to travel the country. The five time Most Outstanding Wrestler spends her time away from school doing freestyle. Freestyle is the Olympic and International style of wrestling.
She is only the fourth girl in Tennessee history to achieve four State titles. It has only been done by 16 boys in the state. She is also the only girl or boy in West Tennessee/Shelby County to do it.
She is also just the second girl to receive the coveted Tennessee Girls Most Outstanding Wrestler twice.
“It’s taken me to almost every single state,” she noted. “I’ll be going to Spokane, Wash., in April around the 16th for World Team Trials.”
In freestyle competitions, Graham was a nine time All-American, which meant she finished top 8 in those meets.
“I want to thank my mother Amanda for pushing me and saying ‘Hey you’re going to do this. You’re going to make it.’”
Graham also expressed gratitude to former Panther wrestlers like Cameron Oliver for inspiring her. And she said her development improved under the guidance of Head Coach Longo and Assistant Coach Siler.
The next chapter for the “Living Legend” is heading to Life University in Marietta, Ga., and competing for Head Coach Ashley Flavin.
“The coaches are amazing and my teammates are going to be just as amazing,” Graham said. “It’s a smaller school. I won’t have to deal with the giant rooms. It’s like 14 to 1. They have the programs I want. I wasn’t going to go to a school that doesn’t have the academics I want.”
Well-known in Bartlett for her achievements, Graham is a historic figure in the annals of TSSAA history. Now her focus is becoming world-known on the mat.
“I hope so, my end goal with wrestling is to go to the Olympics,” she said. “The possible earliest I can go is 2024. It would mean the world to me, even if I got to go as a training partner the first time.”
With the 2024 games still months away, Graham said her accomplishment of being a four-time State champion validated all the sacrifices she made the past four years.
“Takes heart,” she concluded. “It takes wanting to. You have to want it more than other people. I feel like wrestling is only 25 percent physical. The rest is mental. You have to get past the mental block involved in it.”
Bartlett senior wrestler Graham achieves rare feat of four State titles